Friday, 21 May 2010

Tea in the Sidhe - Reviewed by the One True Dead Angel

Book of Shadows -- TEA IN THE SIDHE [Sonic Oyster Records]

More whole-grain psychedelic drone goodness, this time featuring two lengthy workouts and three shorter ones. "Terrastock Tea Party," clocking in at over 31 minutes, is one of their more chaotic offerings -- the bedrock drone and ghostlike, wailing vocals are present as always, but there's a lot more activity happening in the background, in the form of springy guitar lines that come and go, erratic bursts of percussion, and a plethora of strange, usually unidentifiable noises that point the song perilously close to the land of improv free jazz... except this is the slowest and most sporadic free jazz you'll ever hear. Some of it sounds like a free jazz combo workout that's been slowed down to half speed and swaddled in gauzy sheets of drone. Screeching, wailing noises that might be a saxophone or something sampled from a keyboard rise up through the fog now and then as well. The density of sound ebbs and flows over time, as does the intensity. The considerably shorter five-minute title track is one of the most peculiar tracks I've heard from the band -- what sounds like a kazoo or wheezing keyboard provides a sawtooth drone over which discordant voices babble while squeaks and skronks abound. "Midsummer w / Verdi" is another long one (over 27 minutes), and this is closer to what most would expect from the band -- long, swirling drones, beatific disembodied vocals, and pulsing waves of cosmic sound. The volume increases as the piece goes on and the playing activity grows more restless as well, but eventually gives way to a more languid sensibility that continues to the end, with a sound that's still heavy on the cosmic vibe but far more spacious and restrained, at least up until the end (where there's a brief burst of electronic frippery designed to roust you from your tranced-out bliss). "Ion" is another short one -- just four minutes exactly -- and one of the more esoteric ones, filled with bass-heavy rumble and sci-fi noises, like a snippet from a soundtrack to an obscure science fiction B-movie; the twelve-minute "Major Cerridwen" continues the sci-fi theme, sort of, with the occasional bits that sound like alpha waves bouncing off satellites, but this is rooted more in their traditional affinity for dreamy, floating dronescapes. This is certainly one of their more enigmatic and unusual albums, but fans of the band (and of cosmic drone-rock in general) will nevertheless find this a worthy addition to their album collections.

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