Black Happy Day is a collaboration between Tara VanFlower (Lycia) and Timothy Renner (late of Stone Breath) from the always intriguing and exhilirating Silber imprint. From a capella versions of such traditional tales as ?The Leaves of Life? to the dulcimer-driven title track, Renner and VanFlower merge centuries of traditional tales, making them sound as fresh as if they were written yesterday, while making their own ballads (murder and otherwise), seem as if they were written in Appalachia at the turn of the 20th century. The chronological dichotomy is matched by the vocal disparaties between VanFlower?s soft, litling soprano and Renner?s gruff, monotonic moans.
Like a wyrdfolk version of Fairport Convention, Black Happy Day breathe new life into centuries-old ballads like ?Edward? and ?A Lyke Wake Dirge,? which are so perfectly blended with the duo?s originals that you?d swear the album consisted entirely of original compositions. VanFlower?s childlike, wordless vocals and Renner?s Glitchgear music box sends chills through the spine on the terror-stricken ?Of The Wind and Loneliness,? which ultimately sounds perfectly suited to one of Dario Argento?s classic horror tales.
?Oh How They Weep and Moan? is another shitstorm of a horrorshow, with Renner and VanFlower assuming the roles of lost souls aimlessly roaming the depths of Purgatory or one of Dante?s circles of Hell, wailing and gnashing (or, more acurately, ?weeping and moaning?) for all eternity. There are more haunting, wordless vocals from Tara and spooky, backward-looped electronics from Timothy, which add a mystical, almost liturgical aura to ?How Many Hours ?Til The Spider?s Work Is Don?? where you can almost smell the incense burning. It?s all very soothing and dreamy, at times halllucinatory and refreshingly at odds with the nightmarish qualities of the other material. Just don?t drive to this too late at night for fear of ending up dazed and confused in a ditch on the side of the road! Finally, ?Hand In Hand? is a lovely folk duet with a litling, poppy lullabye melody, making it the album?s most accessible track, let alone its most beautiful. It ends the album on a hopeful note, providing solace from its more gruesome surroundings.
Overall, a mesmerizing trip through three centuries of Americana and old-tyme folk ballads, ambient horror tales and psychedelic wyrdfolk that should appeal to more than just the fans of the artists involved. In fact, I would highly recommended it to fans of dark Americana, ambient wyrdfolk from the likes of Nurse with Wound or VanFlower?s Lycia project, and especially fans of the essential-viewing ?Songcatcher? film from a few years back, which explores the origins of Appalachian music and one woman?s efforts to rescue it from obscurity. This will also appeal to fans of Lycia?s darker releases and Renner?s work with The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree, as well as his recent effort as the Revelator, ?Hoofbeat Caw & Thunder.? 8/10 -- Jeff Penczak (28 August, 2006)