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In Gowan Ring -
1999 - Abend the Knurled Stitch O'er the Glinting Spade


1. Two Wax Dolls
2. To Thrum a Glassy Stem
3. Cipher's String on the Tree in the Dream of the Queen
4. Bow Star
5. A Bee at the Dolmen's Dell
6. Arrowsmith's Fire
7. Milk Star

In Gowan Ring is one of those bands that I first read about a long time ago in the Soleilmoon catalog. That was back during my "World Serpent" phase, when I was first getting to know the works of David Tibet, Douglas P, Steven Stapleton, et al. Now, listening to "The Glinting Spade" several years later, I've come to the conclusion that I don't need to be any sort of phase to enjoy this album.

Immediate comparisons to Current 93 (in their "apocalyptic folk" mode) come to mind, but In Gowan Ring is much more listenable. Granted, the two bands share a lot of musical common ground. Gently strummed acoustic guitars, odd percussion, and a sort of hazy, droning psychedelia that just hovers in the background. The most striking difference between the two groups are the vocals. Even if you think that David Tibet is a lyrical genius, you must admit that his voice is definitely an acquired taste. On the other hand, the vocals of B'eirth are downright lovely. Soft and lulling, his wispy vocals flow right along with the music. Often layered behind walls of droning, shifting sounds and gentle acoustic guitars, he sounds as if he's coming from some far-off dreamland, or from some perpetual state of half-sleeping, half-waking.

Lyrically, the album reads like some sort of bizarre waking dream. On "Two Wax Dolls", B'eirth sings "Two wax dolls, blue-yellow braided/wrapped up in scrolls, splayed into folds/with limbs two and four, face within faces/that scatter in hews of gleaming gambol". On paper, it sounds mighty awkward. But listening to it sung by B'eirth, the lyrics sound perfectly natural, as if they were the only words that could go with his voice and the music.

In Gowan Ring weaves a lovely sound throughout the album. It's psychedelic and folksy, but in all the right ways. Some of the tracks tend to go a bit too long, such as the meandering, aimless "Milk Star", but for the most part, the album is an enchanting journey. And for an album with such New Age-y titles as "In The Dream Of The Queen Bow Star", there's absolutely no such nonsense. There's a fragility throughout many of the songs, helped, no doubt, by B'eirth's gentle vocals. At times, it sounds like Nick Drake if he was found wandering around a Renaissance Fair as an astral projection ("A Bee At The Dolmen's Bell". At other times, it sounds like The Verve if they'd been a madrigal choir.

If you're normally put off by words like "psychedelic" and "trippy", associating them with bands whose music consists of 15 minute organ solos, pseudo-mystical references, and an overwhelming need to be taken more seriously than they should be, relax. There's no such pretension on "The Glinting Spade". Even the trippiest, shroomiest sections of the album have a warmth and humanity about them. On songs such as "Two Wax Dolls" and "A Bee At The Dolmen's Bell" In Gowan Ring's music becomes truly otherworldly. ~Opus

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6.7.08 12:37

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boyi / Website (23.12.11 08:09)
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