In Gowan Ring
Hazel Steps Through A Weathered Home
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
In Gowan Ring is the musical vision of a lone composer/conductor that calls himself B’eirth and “Hazel Steps Through A Weathered Home” is his latest and fourth release. I have long heard about this project, but have only now had the pleasure to finally hear one of his releases. With frequent comparisons to Backworld, Sol Invictus, and Current 93, In Gowan Ring has long been of interest to fans of apocalyptic folk music. While I am not sure what B’eirth’s earlier releases sounded like, this particular CD is much mellower and not quite as dark as the aforementioned bands. The resultant style is still deeply moody and quite fulfilling, and because of its stronger similarities with traditional folk music, it achieves a much broader appeal.
B’eirth’s delicate compositions are quiet and tranquil pieces of minimalist folk, revolving around lightly finger picked acoustic guitars and soft, fragile male vocals that slightly recall Roger Waters during the very early stages of Pink Floyd. Lush passages of violin and cello are coupled with mournful horns and airy flute segments to create a gorgeous chamber orchestra on many of the album’s tracks. Light percussion underlies a few of the songs, demonstrated best in the unique rolling drums that propel the lilting title track forward, while waves of brooding cello weave in beautifully between slithering slide guitars and hypnotic arpeggios. The poignant “Kingdom of the Shades” has an almost lullaby-ish quality to it, as a hypnotic synthesis of plucked harp, spidery guitar picking, and descending flute scales swirl in a downward spiral of melodious sound. A steadier dirge-like rhythm and stark pangs of cittern lie at the heart of “A Poet’s Lyre,” my personal favourite track on this disc. Hypnotic back-up vocal work and eerie harmonies appear throughout “Wind That Cracks The Leaves,” helping the song standout with a more textured and multi-layered effect. And finally, B’eirth is accompanied by sweetly languid piano for the album’s closing piece, coincidentally entitled “Two Towers” (however, the song’s composition pre-dated the tragedies of September 11th).
The intensely personal music of In Gowan Ring has an unmistakably timeless quality to it. These songs are rich with simple yet highly affective melodies and striking arrangements that spirit the listener to a solemn Renaissance court or to the lonely wood of a traveling minstrel and his band of heavy-hearted wanderers. This is an eloquent and refined release, marked by class and genuine musicianship. Charming and emotionally stirring, “Hazel Steps Through A Weathered Home” is a remarkably affective collection of organic music that is a must for fans of folk, ethereal, and the direct, soul-bearing honesty of singer-songwriters.
In Gowan Ring is:
In Gowan Ring – Official Site (not updated):
In Gowan Ring – Info:
Blue Sanct Records: