This eight-year old Irish collective’s third formal studio album joins an impressive discography rife with (mostly) out of print EP, live concert, and CD-R releases (including their 2004 “Lunar Observatory” release on our own Foxglove imprint). The original duo of David Colohan and James Ryder have been joined over the years by more than two dozen fellow astral travelers, and this time Camera Obscura’s own chanteusey siren, Sharron Kraus, Mellow Candle’s Allison O’Donnell, and Ivan Pawle (from Ireland’s legendary folk experimentalists, Dr. Strangely Strange) are along for the trip. Theremins, banjos, and heavily treated, spacey electronics usher in opener, “The Swallowing,” featuring arcane, spoken-word vocals from Current 93’s Richard Moult. Colohan’s sparse, isolated-yet-gorgeous landscape photographs that adorn the album provide a perfect visual feast for absorbing the 16-minute centerpiece/title track. Softly plucked acoustic guitars (banjolins?) wander aimlessly around Colohan and Caroline Coffey’s hushed vocals, like visitors to an unknown planet seeking shelter from prying, extraterrestrial eyes. Aaron Coyne’s album cover does seem like the Jiffy-Pop aluminum disc from Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space wandered onto the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey to encounter the monoliths on a coffee break, but this adds to the track’s eerie, sci-fi aura, particularly the three-minute coda that seems patchwork quilted from the discarded stomach contents in a GWAR vomitorium.
But all is not sturm und drang… the pastoral beauty of “A for Andromeda” melts like butter into Sharron Kraus’ tin whistle-driven “Veil Song,” and her duet with Colohan on the traditional “Lowlands of Holland” is simply divine, easily nudging Steeleye Span’s interpretation into the background to perhaps become the new “definitive” reading. The brief instrumental, “Skelly’s Fireplace” is a lively little Irish jig that recalls vintage Dr. Strangely Strange, “Mirror in Cherwell” tiptoes delicately around your mental attic like a fiddler nervously auditioning for St. Peter, and hauntingly, echoed vocals, ear-piercing guitar shredding, lost-in-the-ozone fiddles, and Pawle’s hurdy gurdy backing add nostalgically romantic goose bumps to the Robert Service poem that provides the lyrics to closer, “Death in The Arctic.” An eclectic work of wyrdfolk-cum-space opera-cum outré, experimental skronk from one of Ireland’s most intriguing and exciting exports. 8/10 -- Jeff Penczak (1 May, 2009)