This new 3? cdr from United Bible Studies must be the most concise example of their unique aesthetics. It combines ? with new unpredictable results ? many of their various musical approaches : the vocal and instrumental sections (however pointless this distinction may be), the use of different sources (segments of concerts, studio recordings), the fruitful tensions between song and more extended forms as well as those existing between the presence of more ?traditional? elements and a more modal/ droning type of sound.
In addition, it also offers a synthesis of their thematic and lyrical concerns as the songs (6 tracks in total) continue to explore the intersecting paths ? especially valued by the band ? between reality and mythology; the drawing of a Mayan astronaut on the cover thus seems quite appropriate.
Whatever the actual nature of these connections, I think that they are always made with the MUSIC in mind, because if there?s one thing that truly characterizes UBS, it is their ability ? as an ensemble ? to tie all the pieces together without any pre-planned aesthetic or philosophical motto.
The music is SO rich and detailed... and focused that it can be seen as a series of responding musical gestures, none of which can ever be approached as isolated entities. As Gavin Prior (one of the core members of the group along with Dave Colohan and James Rider) said: ?The aim is to make a song feel like a world in itself not several styles/parts shoehorned together which is what they often start out as.?
Consequently, what follows will only be an attempt at making you want to listen... just by catching your eyes, if I can !
The first track ?Bubble of Earth? features delicate layers of manipulated vocal sounds (voice fragments, flutes) over which very subtle percussive patterns (cymbals, bells) are being added. Enters a simple electric guitar line, then a banjo, while the whole thing starts to hint at a more ?structured? melody whose ?traditional? charm may recall something familiar.
However, this ends as soon as it begins to take shape and next is ?Pictures of Katia? ? the only actual song on the album (and one of the band?s oldest). Here, Dave Collohan?s beautiful voice is supported by particularly colorful arrangements (voice, accordion, flute, tin whistle, harp) which are able to bring out a certain melancholy from the piece with great simplicity.
As brilliant as it is short, it is immediately followed by the more improv-oriented (in a ?dronesome? kind of way) ?Note of Hope? which starts off with a harmonium drone before giving way to a set of intertwining wordless vocals (complete with harmonic singing). The second part of this piece features a more ?post-rock? instrumentation as two laid-back guitar and bass lines enter a more melodic dialogue that is also sustained by the presence of some very sparse, yet assured drums. A tin whistle can be heard in the background.
The much shorter ?Hedge School Drop Out? mainly consists of repeated acoustic guitar and vocal lines which rapidly turn into some kind of (relatively tense) mantra. It?s also in this particular tune that the words of the cdr?s title can be heard.
On the other hand, the track ?Elbow of Dawn? can be seen as an exploration of a definitely more Celtic musical sensibility. It begins with a melody played on the uillean pipes, before a flute, a saxophone and some very subtle percussions join in and take part in the creation of an intricate web of carefully assembled wind instruments. This one is absolutely lovely and offers a perfect example of the magic that can be found in UBS.
However, my favorite of them all is the last song ?Spoon of Haar? (the longest track on the album) which features the gentle, high-pitched singing of Dave Collohan against a complex backdrop of ever-shifting vocal drones. It is the most intimate piece on the album and the vocal lines have such a hypnotic quality to them that they?re able to display a certain kind of strength which, despite the inherent fragility of the piece, remains all the more elusive as it is highly restrained.
What really makes UBS so unique is that you can truly hear/ feel this sort of communal, almost primal sense of belonging in their music (which is also reflected in their name ? beyond any kind of religious reference). UBS just belong where they are ? at a series of crossroads from which a variety of horizons can actually be perceived. This collection of songs is thus a particularly brilliant manifestation of this ?interconnectedness of things? that the band mentioned in a recent interview as well as yet another expression of the endless creative possibilities that lie therein. 10/10 -- Francois Hubert (21 August, 2006)