In Gowan Ring,
Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home
(Lune, 2002)

After looking at the website, I conclude that there must surely be folk out there aplenty who appreciate this style of music, but, sad to relate, I am not of that number. From the moment I put the CD in the player, I wanted to skip through each song; but I was persistent and made myself sit through the entire album; its enervating effect soon caused me to lack the impetus to switch off anyway.

Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home provides a psuedo-medieval/new age sound, like Leonard Cohen on Valium or some time-traveling minstrel on a bad acid trip. Do not listen to this while operating machinery, it may cause drowsiness! I read the lyrics, hoping to gain some insight denied to me by the somnolent format of the music, but remained unenlightened. I browsed the muddy-looking website and was equally bored and bemused. I am of poetic mind and appreciate most musical styles, but In Gowan Ring leaves me cold. The words do have a certain beauty, but the language seemed artificially intellectual -- an exercise to impress; the images they conjured did not linger, and the tales they told did not appeal.

The vocals are quiet, but very clear, slightly sibilant and totally lacking in emotion, no matter what the words. Almost, you can hear the stifled yawns from the singers.

The whole thing is as drab and colourless as the "oh so natural" CD cover. I hate to pen such a negative review, but I cannot find much good to say about this group or this album. The musicians playing violin, viola, cello, bodhran and sackbuts, harp, guitar and cittern appear competent enough, but I doubt the mournful and meditative aura provides much of a challenge. The whole composition smacks of artifice, of trying to prove some esoteric point that is certainly lost on me. This is aural sackcloth and ashes, musical gruel whose uniformity slops over from one track to another so you are barely aware of the changeover. It should carry a warning disclaimer -- not to be played by those in a despairing or unstable frame of mind -- as the consequences could be equally depressing.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 8 March 2003

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