31 May 2016
Rev Galen - S/T
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & the Moon)
From the ever reliable and superb Okraina label comes this fascinating and evocative new 10” vinyl and download recording from Rev Galen. A collection of poems by Pastor and farmer Galen E. Hershey set to music by his granddaughter Catherine and fellow composer Gilles Poizat, this is a unique and highly personal release that also transforms into a hugely affecting and atmospheric musical work.
The album begins with 'Irony', bowed guitar humming darkly beneath plucked strings to create an ominous and almost soundtrack style opener. Catherine Hershey's voice enters, creating a haunted but beautiful ambience with her crystalline vocals, reciting her grandfathers poetry in song form. Essentially folk in style but also free-form and filled with atmosphere and moments of both tension and sheer loveliness this is a heartstoppingly intimate recording. 'Warm August Wind' is a thing of beauty; deeply emotive and immersive words are sung with a stately grace and melancholy that serves as a tribute and yet also brings the poems utterly to life. 'Heart Lyric' is sung by Poizat who also adds a mournful trumpet to the simple but effective keyboard lines, the cumulative effect reminding this listener of Robert Wyatt's otherworldly 'Rock Bottom' (itself a tone poem of sorts). 'Do You Hear', with its finger picked guitar and interwoven dual vocals, is a timeless slice of acidic folk that both bewitches and entrances. Fans of Bonnie Prince Billy's 'The Letting Go' and of the work of Dawn (Faun Fables) McCarthy will adore this. Next, 'Lullaby' is gorgeous trumpet led lament that send shivers up the spine; special mention must go to Hershey's vocals which are equally utterly heartbreaking and spellbinding. 'Dilemma And Decision' adds an element of tonal performance in its frantic tumbling guitar and tense delivery whilst 'Dreams' is a gentle, ethereal, glistening slice of psych folk with echoes of Joanna Newsom's delicate delivery. Solitary woodwind accompanies Hershey on the finale 'To Whisper', a chanson number of quiet dignity and power that leaves the listener both breathless and captivated.
A short album perhaps but one with a quiet mastery and strength evoked by its sheer beauty and easy grace, 'Rev Galen' is a thing of wonder. This is the kind of music that ploughs its own furrow and is at risk of passing an audience by; do not let this happen. Immerse yourself in this unique world of words and song.
Available now as a beautifully packaged 10” vinyl release as well as a download.