28 May 2016
David Colohan - Hill Of The Moon
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
The ambitious and expansive 'Hill Of The Moon' is a new download and double cassette from the prolific David Colohan, known for several musical guises such as Agitated Radio Pilot and Raising Holy Sparks and well as being a central part of psych folk masters United Bible Studies. There is a strong argument for Colohan to be recognised as one our most important contemporary composers, his work ranges from the Popol Vuh-esque widescreen beauty of Raising Holy Sparks 'Sadhu' to the sublime chamber folk melancholy of his collaborations with Richard Moult such as 'Hexameron'. With this new release that argument grows ever stronger; this is a collection of hugely moving and transcendent passages that transport the listener to another time and space altogether, a place of stillness and eerie wonder that reverberates long after the album itself has finished.
Opening with the elegiac harmonium of 'Hill Of The Moon (Four Divinations)' it is immediately clear that the strong and immersive atmospheres that Colohan is known for are fully present, the track drifts in stately sorrowfulness before picking up pace, cascades of organ notes falling endlessly into each other. Both hypnotic and evocative, this solemn and hymnal approach reminds this listener of Nico's 'Desertshore' and Current 93's 'Sleep Has His House' with its melancholic grace. Angelic choirs then join, adding an unearthly yet sacred feel until the sound of crows and wild nature summon the ending of the piece. Next, 'Pinnacles' merges bowed strings with a cittern and sombre organ drones to create a lonely, ambient folk that conjures images of gulls and storm racked ocean skies. 'The Ritual Landscape' is well named, an epic musical illustration of a barren, winter scorched earth described by graceful and processionary organ and keyboard notes and drones. The track builds, layering and developing not unlike Brian Eno's 'On Land' in its view of the landscape as both ancient and spiritual. 'Medb's Cairn' ebbs and flows, harmonium notes curling around each other like low hanging rainclouds as the track processes down some anointed and symbolic pathway; if Alan Garner's Stone Book series had a recommended soundtrack this would be it. 'Rock's Fall, Raven's Circle' is a more ominous portent, the cittern re-emerging to provide icy slices of stringed tension amongst the birdsong and swirling keyboards. 'The Ritual Starscape' is a quieter, more reflective piece that utilises some of Colohan's collection of vintage synths to stunning effect, notes wails and ascend like shooting stars across an ink black sky, conjuring a new kind of folk music altogether; one hinted at by Coil's 'Moon Music' period and whispered by the likes of Richard Skelton, Nico and Fovea Hex. This is followed by 'I Sit Near The Moon', the cry of crows summoning in haunted strings and pipes, a ghost lament for the night shrouded countryside. 'Fourth Divination (Above The Radiant Lake)' is an expansive twenty minute work that is truly a thing of wonder. Voices and choirs cry out against the star filled expanse, church organ pierces the shadows and the sense of the liminal becomes ever more present; this music is almost religious in its intensity and wintry beauty and is hugely emotionally charged and connective. The slight 'Knocknarea' is a small but perfectly formed interlude of loveliness before album closer 'The Ritual Seascape' swells and foams into view. As circling and systematic as the tide, the omnipresent organ rises and falls to be met at different points by plaintive pipes, woodwind and the distant chatter of echoing voices, recalling Nurse With Wound's similarly nautically themed 'Salt Marie Celeste'. Sad yet defiant piano notes declare the closing of the album and the silence afterwards feels deafening, such are the immersive qualities of this incredible piece of work.
Colohan recorded this on the night of the Blood Moon Eclipse back in September 2015 and something of the magic and unearthliness of that occasion has clearly bled into this release. Quite unlike anything else and steadfastly existing in its own world with no concession to rules or musical conformity, 'Hill Of The Moon' is quite simply a modern masterpiece. Atmospheric, evocative and drenched in an earthy beauty this is an album that is best listened to in the dark, with your eyes shut or when gazing out across a moonlit and vast horizon. Haste ye there; this is not to be missed.
Available as a beautiful double cassette package from Was Ist Das or to stream on Colohan's Bandcamp page.