When I first read about this collaboration between Gnod’s Paddy Shine, and Phil Masterson (Los Langeros, Damp Howl, Bisect) I have to admit that I thought that it probably would not be for me. However, the press release, written by John Doran of ‘The Quietus’ got me more intrigued…
Some of the most striking ancient structures in Ireland are not its standing stones but the country’s neolithic “passage tombs” constructed between five and six thousand years ago. As this modern name suggests, they were in all likelihood actual liminal zones bridging this world and the next; charnel houses, stone age reliquaries, bone gardens, cairns vibrating between planes and states of being. One of the most interesting of these graves is Knowth at Brú na Bóinne. Its huge, many-passaged central burial chamber is surrounded by 17 small barrows, and among these constructions is over one third of all the rediscovered megalithic art in Western Europe. Kerbstones and pillars are carved with a hypnotising array of spiral, serpentiform and lozenge-shaped patterns; alongside is chiselled the oldest known representation of the moon made by man.https://moundabout.bandcamp.com/album/flowers-rot-bring-me-stones
I am fascinated by the idea of liminality, especially where it relates to rites of passage and so I was intrigued with how Shine and Masterson would reflect and develop these themes in their work. As I have written on these pages a number of times… I can relate to the idea of liminality when I am listening to music… of letting it take me into a different psychological state, or at least to another place from the the one where my body is inhabiting… and this, it seems to me, is also the purpose of these burial chambers… to take the essence of someone away from their bodily remains… although here is is something of a one way trip for the dead… for the living it can be something else, and reflecting this on music is something that I feel is well worth exploring.
However, I don’t this that this in itself is enough to make me like an album… particular one that is exploring these issues… it would have to take me somewhere else itself… and now that I’m five or six listens in I can tell you that this record is really fulfilling its purpose, and in a way that it is hard to explain why…
Later on in his piece Doran expresses caution about this being seen as a ‘new folk’ album… and I would agree with this since it seems to transcend this explanation (although if you had to locate it musically you would probably, reluctantly, say that this is where it resides). It is, in addition, a work that seems to have really found a deep connection with the subject matter, and has allowed the musicians to channel this to the listener.
In this sense, then, it is a set that feels very organic, very grounded, and very connected… there is depth and emotion here… but there is also something that is focussed… it is like you are witnessing a moment of clarity… something that is in itself a liminal moment in the process of making music where it all seems to have come together and allowed Shine and Masterson to capture that moment.
This feels like something of a complete work to me, so I don’t want to dwell too much on individual tracks, but on the opener ‘The Sea’ you can almost taste the salty air… ‘Bog Bodies’ sounds like a call beyond the grave to bring the dead to continue their journey, with the vocals sounding like a cross between ‘Murder Ballads’ Nick Cave and a Tibetan monk reciting the Book of the Dead.
Elsewhere, such as on ‘Waste of Peace’ and ‘Bring Me Stones’ I am struck by how the lack of complexity in the music delivers such a depth of meaning, although the latter is more layered inviting you to explore it more deeply… and then there’s ‘Dick Dalys Dance’, a twelve minute work which in many ways subverts what has gone before it… a dance of the dead which could be straight out of Gnod R&D… a fragmented and skeletal piece which is at the same time dank and spacious… perhaps suggesting the final death throes as this increasingly absorbing piece draws you further in… and in the process makes me re-assess the relationship between modern experimental music and liminality…
After that the beautiful meandering of ‘Cold River’ brings you back to the world of the living… although it also gives you a sense of being on the ‘other side’… and, actually, I am happy with that ambivalence because, either way, this album is such a deep and ultimately satisfying experience it hardly matters where it lays you down.
‘Flowers Rot, Bring Me Stones’ is released on 27th May 2022, on Rocket Recordings… and is available to pre-order here.
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