Gaia Consort,
Gaia Circles
(Suddenly Naked Arts Collective, 1999)

Gaia Circles claims itself to be "a celebration of the neo-pagan world view, the cycles of life and death that make up the living world. Some of the lyrics and many of the ideas behind them are taken directly from the chants often heard in ritual and what liturgy we have." Christopher Bingham plays guitar and provides lead vocals, often with an unfortunate harsh burr; in my opinion, it is a shame that no female singers were ever given lead vocals. His fellow musicians provide equally competent accompaniment on violin, keyboards, drums, percussion and fretless bass, and others provide backing chants and choruses.

Gaia Consort seems to be experimenting with various musical forms, while superimposing their "pagan" lyrics. The album demonstrates a mix of tunes, some based in country, some more predominantly folk, others influenced by rock (particularly Clapton or Seger) and one or two employ moody atmospherics reminiscent of Cohen. As a European, I consider the repetitive parts of certain songs more indicative of monastic chants as the words and chorus alter frequently, and "Gathering" also employs a moderately complex layered round. The repetitive chorus in "Ravens" evokes a Native Indian aspect rather than the straightforward Celtic chant the sleeve notes led me to expect.

"Pagan" covers a multitude of non-Book (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) beliefs, and as I understand Gaia is the Earth spirit, goddess of the world, it may be appropriate that the album incorporates many styles and changes of pace, but I find the overall result lacks definition. Some declarations on the cover also seem at odds with the all-embracing spirit and balance that the lyrics should invoke.

Despite listening several times to the CD, and although I enjoy some of the guitar work, not one tune or chorus has embedded itself into my subconscious. I am not converted to the music of Gaia Consort, finding it too easily forgettable.

"Move to the Country" was my least favourite track. Despite the rich inclusion of a Hammond M3, its uninventive lyrics and abrasive vocals always made me want to skip forward. The title track has an interesting accompaniment, utilizing percussion and strings in a sympathetic manner, much as the lead vocals are echoed and reverberate with the female chorus. "The Rede" has a pleasant enough folk beat, an easy vocal range and chorus. There is a discordant corollary unlisted on the CD; after several minutes silence is a brief rendition of "After the Ball," then "Thanks Mom!" -- this despite extensive lists of thanks on the cover! For me, this familiar little ditty negates the whole concept of "neo-pagan celebration," and would instantly destroy any deeper mood attained by listeners influenced by the previous lyrics.

I'm sure that Gaia Circles will be embraced by many as a worthy work of art and love, but it is not for me.

[ by Jenny Ivor ]
Rambles: 3 August 2002

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