Ireland's United Bible Studies have consistently releasing great music over the past few years on their own Deserted Village imprint and various other labels. "The Shore That Fears the Sea," also on Deserted Village, is their first proper CD. I'd been hearing about this album for over a year before it finally made its way across the Atlantic, but the wait was well worth it. These nine tracks are painted in gold, soaring like a flock of magic birds.
One thing that's always struck me about United Bible Studies is how organic their sound is. It's like everything is inspired by naturally occurring objects. I feel like an archaeologist, unearthing mystic artifact after mystic artifact underneath the terrestrial plane. As main vocalist Dave Colohan's voice haunts the tiniest cracks in the dirt, this music feels truly paganesque.
The thing that is most striking about "The Shore That Fears the Sea" compared to previous United Bible Studies releases is Colohan's vocals. Most of the earlier material has been instrumental, though with a very similar feeling to this. However, UBS's decision to experiment within somewhat more traditional song structures pays off in spades. The album's title track is a simple folk gem. Acoustic guitars and wind instruments dance together in the glen while Colohan's multiple vocal tracks provide the perfect harmony.
On tracks like "Watching the Rain Reshape Gelway" and "Crofts of Copeland," the free-floating instrumental passages of past UBS recordings returns. It's a wonderful diversion of bowed strings and hypnotic drones. On the former track, Colohan adds some minimal vocal work that soars, but it's the seething concoction of loose instrumentation that offers so much.
United Bible Studies has emerged as the true flagship of the budding Deserted Village empire. "The Shore That Fears the Sea" contains all the best elements from all of the collective's best groups (Murmansk, The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, etc). This is the true definition of what has to be considered forest folk. United Bible Studies really do live amongst the trees. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (27 June, 2006)