IN GOWAN RING
Centred around founder B'ee (also known as B'eirth), with a revolving cast of guest musicians, In Gowan Ring are to be counted among the pioneering bands of the psych-folk revival. Latest album Visions of Shadows that Shine is packaged within beautiful full colour artwork by Andrea Lange and B'ee, and is released on B'ee's own label Lune Musick. B'ee is a highly talented songwriter in his own right, but with this album he has chosen to pay homage to an assortment of other songwriters whose work is important to him, ranging from underground artists like Timothy Renner of Stone Breath to megastars like John Lennon. Timothy Renner's The Vision of the Face in the Well is darkly beautiful, with recorder adding a medieval touch. Pied Piper, written by Brian O'Reily, is atmospheric and moving, an underlying nature-mysticism contained within the lyrics. John Lennon's Across the Universe is reinvented as delicate, stripped-down psych-folk with nice use of bells and choral-esque harmony vocals all adding to the spiritual feel of the song. Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia's Attics of My Life, featuring guest vocalists Emma Skemp and Sarah Pakosch, resembles an American folk song, ornamented with an ethereal, resonant instrument I can't quite place - a singing bowl perhaps? - and the soothing sounds of a babbling brook. Garden of Love, written by Adrian Freedman, is a beautiful mystical song in the form of a prayer, its resonating harmony vocals, drones, gongs, rhythmic ethnic percussion, and intense psychedelic guitar creating a heady effect.
In Gowan Ring's previous album, The Serpent and the Dove, was released by Les Disques du 7ème Ciel in 2015. The album is bookended by the closely connected instrumental pieces The Serpent and The Dove, combining neoclassical with a tinge of world music in a manner that is plaintive and darkly atmospheric. Sial at Play sets a poem by Shaun Johnson to an amazing medieval-inspired psych-folk arrangement, incorporating bowed bells which provide an eerie yet warm drone, alongside oboe, baroque flute, dulcimer and guitar. The piece has a strong, memorable melody and is definitely one of the most beautiful examples of this genre that I've heard in a long while. Julia Willow is poetic and evocative, with a very lovely minimalistic arrangement based on Spanish guitar and viola. Field of Dreams combines psychedelic surrealism with poetic beauty, and incorporates some highly effective use of ethnic percussion and rainforest nature sounds. A truly superb album that shows B'ee to be quite honestly one of the most talented songwriters and musicians to be found in the underground music world.
Also available is the Sial at Play 7", released on Lune Musick, and packaged in the classic underground way with wraparound sleeve and outer plastic bag. This pairs an alternative version of Sial at Play with a very lovely orchestrated baroque folk song called The Serpent and the Dove, which despite its title does not appear on the album of the same name.
Find out more at www.ingowanring.com and www.7ciel.net
UPDATE - Since writing the above article, a new In Gowan Ring album has been released, B'ee's Pent Pouch. This exists in three beautifully presented editions: a pentagon-shaped vinyl LP in a cloth pouch with card insert (limited to 150 copies), a CD in pentagonal cloth pouch with three card inserts (limited to 150 copies), or an ultra-limited CD in a handmade pentagonal box, of which just 5 copies were made. The music here was recorded in a building constructed by B'ee, which he describes as a "5 sided cogitation/audio recording/dwelling and dreaming domicile", specifically built for the purpose of producing this "5 sided sound project". The building, known as the Pent Tent, was built in a forest in the Massif Central, the recording equipment powered by solar-rechargeable batteries. Originally released in a limited edition of 55 copies five years ago, B'ee has now thankfully decided to make the album more widely available.
The album opens with the dark surrealism of Dream, an instrumental with wordless vocals, based on a Chris Thompson song but without the lyrics. Next up is a truly lovely adaptation of W B Yeats' poem Wandering Aengus, set to a minimalistic folk arrangement. Blossom Friend is Nick Drake's words with a new melody written by B'ee before he'd heard the original. The tune is a good match for the lyrics, much in keeping with the spirit of Nick Drake's music. The Open Door of the Grand Invitation is a fine slice of optimistic and celebratory 1960s-tinged folk. The Half-Lumined Path is a collage of field recordings made by B'ee in the Pent Tent or its surrounding area; footsteps through gravel and fallen leaves, birdsong and crackling fire appear alongside the resonant hum of a singing bowl in this atmospheric, evocative piece, showing how Nature itself produces its own ambient music. The Moon is Shining on My Guitar is beautiful psych-folk, B'ee's voice and acoustic guitar accompanied by raindrops falling on the tent and the soaring, dancing sounds of a wooden flute. The album comes full circle with an alternative version of Dream, based around eerie and hypnotic drones and wordless voices. Superb stuff as always from B'ee.
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