I can’t help but think of England’s hidden reverse while listening to “The Mercy of the open Sea”. England’s hidden reverse is a book about Coil, Current 93 and Nurse with Wound. The term is used to loosely describe the odd qualities of the music these artists create. For me it means music that is familiar but alien; music that seems to float and has deeper astral meanings. There are no genres but just the desire to explore. This was also the impression I was left with after the music of this release faded. A bit of web searching also revealed that Drew Mulholland contributed to the track, Fair Isle, Faroes, Southeast Iceland. Drew Mulholland is also known as Mount Vernon Arts lab. An artist that Coil has remixed and released (as Mount Vernon Astral Temple) on their now (sadly) defunct label, Eskaton. So the connections are there.
Fair Isle, Faroes, Southeast Iceland is a droning Middle Eastern inspired piece. There are odd noises interwoven throughout and overall the feeling is of a nautical journey. At some point, minimal vocals (if you can call them that) come in and deepen the feeling of mystery and voyage. Unfortunately the piece is very short and it feels unfinished. I am left wanting more. This is normally a good thing but in this case, it does not feel crafted this way -- instead it gives the impression that the music is a sketch for a larger piece. Either way, the musical ideas are solid.
Drowning, Not Waving is the long piece on the release and solidifies the concept of “England’s hidden reverse”. Overall the piece is very loose and the instruments seem to have a mind of their own but somehow or another they also seem to compliment each other (except for one instrument in particular which breaks the magic spell). The vocals are deep and push the psychedelic properties of the piece onto the listener. I wanted to like this song but the sax ruined it for me. The instrument just doesn’t work. At times the sound is reminiscent of bad jazz and at other times the improvisational tones just aren’t executed in a manner that I can enjoy. I know that the saxophonist (Raymond Macdonald) is quite accomplished but I just can’t get pass the sounds he has created. I suppose it just isn’t my cup of tea. Lastly, I enjoyed the vocals but they are rooted in the Coil school of thought As such, some people might not enjoy these stylings.
Overall I think there are some good ideas presented by the release. However, the ideas are not completely fleshed out or executed in the best way possible. Nonetheless the music is still worth it if you are interested in this peculiar genre or are looking for something that is odd and challenging (the sax withstanding).
Lastly, I will keep an eye out for other works by this artist as I feel that they have the ability to release a truly great piece of work (maybe they already have). Perhaps this mini-CDR should be viewed as a slight introduction to Phosphene? 6/10 -- Daniel De Los Santos (9 June, 2010)