REVIEW – The Stone Tapes `Avebury’

avebury

The Stone Tapes – `Avebury’

 

 

Both a genuine curio and a substantial investigation into ‘held’ or ‘contained’ sound, The Stone Tapes début release ‘Avebury’ is an understated yet atmosphere drenched excursion into haunted electronics. Following the dictum of the Stone Tape theory which holds ‘that the impressions of emotional or traumatic events can be recorded into rock and replayed under certain conditions’ the group ‘have been tirelessly investigating this phenomenon’, resulting in this rather beautiful and unique cassette and download.
This recording began with a chance encounter with a box of dusty, electromagnetic tapes that were gifted to the band by one George Albert Wilberforce, an elderly neighbour who had wandered the British Isles with equipment designed to retrieve EMF and sound recordings from the stone and rock of the land itself; indeed, these old spools and reels were found to be filled with a multitude of mysterious and uncanny forms and noises. These howls from deep within the landscape were then converted and constructed into digital audio by The Stone Tapes members K. Beem and M. Peach by feeding the signals from the EMF and atmosphere recordings into a multitude of analogue and studio equipment (witness the extensive description on their Bandcamp page, it’s a veritable synth enthusiast’s wish list). This is a recording that has a connection and likeness to Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape script and film in both theme and masterful control of mood and tension; one suspects many Folk Horror revivalists will immediately have recognised and have been drawn to the project’s name. However this is also an album that stands on its own and tells its singular, engraved and hidden story. There are very particular ghosts in the machine to be found here, impressed upon not just the stone and rock that have held these long lost voices and sounds but also in the resulting playback and transmission; allowing something or someone that has perhaps been released after years of containment to take form and substance once again.
The album begins with ‘Kat Calls The Vicar’, a self-explanatory title that features said conversation about the shadowy Mr Wilberforce and the uncanny and ancient forces that are centred around Avebury. However the voices are slightly distorted and out of step, blurring our sense of reality, with an ominous tone pulsating ever louder before the call rings off with a considered, dire warning to ‘be careful’. ‘A Page From John Britten’ follows, a text excerpt on the standing stones read over a steady drumbeat and a Tangerine Dream-esque wash of hazy synths and reverberated guitar lines. Both hypnotic and utterly captivating, this is a carefully constructed and unsettling work that brings to mind The Legendary Pink Dots at their finest. Next, ‘Red Lion Interlude’ is a delicate and sepia tinged piece of acoustic wyrd-folk, the chatter and din from the patrons of the inn a shimmer of background noise against the Bert Jansch-like refrain of the guitar. A calm before the storm, this merges into the disturbing collage of ‘Faces On 19B’, analogue wails and wraithlike whispers emanating from the massed banks of electronics.This followed by ‘West Kennet Ritual’ which rasps and oscillates into view on waves of growling electronica and flanged guitar, a maelstrom of processed and unhinged sound that evokes a deep sense of diabolic and dangerous forces starting to awaken from a long held slumber. ‘The Owl And The Druid’ chatters synthetically into life with multiple layers of incantations and muttered chants, a solitary processional drumbeat sounding behind the crescendo of deranged voices and echoed howls. This is either musick to play in the dark because of its disquieting power or to always listen to with the lights on, depending on your dispensation and nerve. Next, ‘Petrosomatoglyphs’ follows, vintage electronics creeping stealthily under the crackle and sound of the rock and stone itself, the recorded and trapped voices of the ghosts of the past unleashed in waves of haunting, analogue synth. With a palpable sense of tension rising, ‘Incident On The Herepath’ creates a world of snarling synth lines and a cacophonous and nightmarish choir of twisted chatter and inhuman, forgotten languages until the fate of our protagonists becomes all too clear. The album closes with the dread and drone of ‘Sound 23’, a fitting finale to what is a truly inspired, bone chilling and breathtaking tale.
‘Avebury’ is a haunted house of an album; there is an almost tangible sense of something preternatural or not quite human living and waiting within this tape reel. Aficionados of the hauntological musings of Jon Brooks, The Caretaker and The Heartwood Institute and of the thread of electronica pursued by artists such as Belbury Poly, The Focus Group and other Ghost Box label acts will find much to admire here. Followers of Hawthonn and The Psychogeographical Commission will also doubtless wish to investigate. There are now but a small number of ‘Avebury’ cassettes left though the album is also available for download at The Stone Tapes Bandcamp page.
Highly recommended, as are Wandering Elder, another spectral and ghost filled project by the duo that covers similar ancient ground but adds a veneer of eerie folk for good measure.

(Review by Grey Malkin – The Hare & The Moon)

https://thestonetapes.bandcamp.com/album/the-stone-tapes-avebury http://www.wanderingeldar.com/the-stone-tapes/

REVIEW – Rusalnaia `Time Takes Away ‘

time-takes-away

Rusalnaia – `Time Takes Away’

 

 

Rusalnaia combines the significant talents of both Sharron Kraus (who has already had a prolific run of essential albums in the last year with the gorgeous ‘Friends And Enemies; Lovers And Strangers’, its sister album ‘Hen Llan Recordings’ and most recently the poetry/music of ‘If You Put Out Your Hand’) and Ex Reverie’s Gillian Chadwick (if you haven’t encountered 2008’s ‘The Door Into Summer’ then I recommend you do so immediately). The previous Rusalnaia outing, their self-titled début, was a psych folk gem recorded with various members of Espers that left the listener spellbound, eagerly awaiting its follow up. ‘Time Takes Away’ may be eight years in the making but it is well worth any wait, indeed it surpasses the already high expectations held by those who follow the music of both Kraus, Chadwick and their work together.

The album begins with the creeping dread of ‘Cast A Spell’, a looping acoustic motif merging with hand drums and ever increasing chants to conjure a truly sacrificial Summerisle mood before scattering into a full blown psych guitar and violin dervish. At once both hugely powerful and hypnotic it is a shiver inducing opening to an album that then maintains its spellbinding hold upon the listener until the final fade out. ‘Take Me Back’ follows, Chadwick and Kraus’s vocals mingling and weaving in and out of the others amidst the most unsettling array of analogue synths and pounding, ritualistic drums. Equal parts acid folk and full blown gothic psych (in the sense of such forerunners as Mellow Candle and Stone Angel) Rusalnaia display an (un)easy mastery of the wyrder angles and corners of folk; this music is in their blood, these incantations come from their very beings and are all the more affecting and alluring for this. ‘Driving’ is a case in point, its deceptively simple rhythmic pace is both beautiful and unsettling, a minor key entering and tilting the song into the darker shadows and more hidden, unusual places. Aficionados of Faun Fables, Espers and UK psych folkers Sproatly Smith and The Rowan Amber Mill will find much to love here.

The Pentangle-esque ‘The Love I Want’ introduces woodwind to its call and response folk majesty and is breathtaking in its steady but dramatic building and layering towards a bucolic and Bacchanalian finale. Next, ‘The Beast’ is transported on an intense and fiery flow of fuzz guitar and organ, both vocalist’s lines intertwining as if recounting some twisted, unearthly nursery rhyme. Rusalnaia are no fey, rustic folk act, these songs scream, howl and haunt with intent; think early PJ Harvey meets the black hearted acid folk stylings of Comus. And when they quieten, they do so in a manner that gets under your skin to just the same extent, if not more so. ‘The Honeymoon Is Over’ is by turn a spectral and ghostly lament, solitary drumbeats punctuating a delicate but driven slice of melancholy perfection. ‘Bright Things’ casts its (book of) shadows gently but with a circling and cackling sense of expertly pitched melodrama. ‘Lullaby (For A Future Generation)’ meanwhile allows some sunlight in, organ and vocal harmonies combining to create a work of genuine emotive impact and beauty. All too soon the album reaches its finale with the title track, a recorder and organ filled wonder that stays with the listener long after the song has finished.

In short, ‘Time Takes Away’ is a triumph. It is no leap of the imagination to picture this album being played and revered in twenty years’ time in the same manner that we do with our copies of ‘Basket Of Light’, ‘Swaddling Songs’ or ‘Commoners Crown’. This is a hugely accomplished and truly special recording; trust me, you need this album.

Available now on download from the band’s Bandcamp page and as a digipack CD from Cambrian Records.

(Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon) – With thanks to The Active Listener blog at which this review was first published)

https://rusalnaia.bandcamp.com/album/time-takes-away

 

 

REVIEW – The Mortlake Bookclub `Exquisite Corpse’

The Mortlake Bookclub – `Exquisite Corpse’

The Mortlake Bookclub are a shadowy collective whose first release on the brilliant Reverb Worship label is “inspired and directed by the surrealist parlour game Exquisite Corpse” wherein each collaborator adds to the previous person’s output. One of these members is Melmoth the Wanderer. Add to the mix a reading group centred around Dr. Dee’s library and surrealism, and you won’t be surprised to hear I was hooked immediately.

Opener, ‘The Sexton’s Dream’ sets the phantasmagoric tone beautifully: hazed and throbbed electrics, distanciated plucking and a spoken sample that is as threatening as it is cautionary. And it’s this sample that places the Exquisite Corpse squarely in a spectral rurality, where half-glimpsed simulacrums spook and uncanny survivals pervade.

‘Live Deliciously’ has ritual purpose. And I say this in a the same way an archaeologist digs into the land, finds something that can only be surmised as significant, and deems it a ritual object. Here this translates into a vague sense and aural awareness of a ceremonial performance whose importance and meaning is both enlivened and obscured by a resonant dissonance and distant chants. Only a tolling bell gives some clarity that a ritual is happening or has happened here. And no amount of polishing your obsidian stone will allow a clearer view.

With its swirling strings and baritone spoken word, ‘Exquisite Corpse’ could not be more haunting. The reversed voices, the shards of whispered narration, the funereal atmosphere – it’s definitively one of the heart-rending and poignant pieces of music I’ve heard in years. In short, it’s incredible.

With samples from this documentary the final piece ‘The Trial of Margaret Brown’, tells of witchcraft and cunning folk, and brilliantly envelopes and haunts like its predecessors.

Exquisite Corpse is available here in a limited and desirable edition. It’s on its second run so be quick.

`This review was originally posted on the `Both Bars On’ blog in November 2016 and is reposted with their kind permisssion (https://bothbarson.wordpress.com)’