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Spirogyra - St. Radigunds CD (album) cover

ST. RADIGUNDS

Spirogyra

 

Prog Folk

4.21 | 135 ratings

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Certif1ed
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "First Utterance"

Fans of "First Utterance" by Comus will indeed find much to enjoy on SpiroGyra's debut - although this is not as wild as the latter, and more steeped in contemporary culture, the raw earthiness, dark humour and beautiful melodies should be relished.

Skilled Craftsmen and Honest Workers

"The Future Won´t Be Long" is a strikingly refreshing take on the traditional folk song, with elements that point back to the roots, but also progressive and imaginative ideas that make this rather timeless.

The lyrical construction is simply inspired, juxtaposing lines like "Ah but there was a maiden and her name was Marjorie" with more contemporary stuff like "Shipped out to Belgium to stop them, plastered and shelled them...", the subject matter reflects on life before World War II with rose-tinted glasses and paints a dark and very short future.

The arrangement matches perfectly, with simple acousitc bass guitar and screeching violin - that appears to draw upon the work of the composer Krzysztof Penderecki in its use of long and slow legato bowing that suggests clusters of microtones rather than any kind of diatonic harmony.

In less technical terms, this translates into a sound like a million fingernails being dragged down a blackboard simultaneously, that quickly suggests bones and death with a kind of chilled fear in the pit of the stomach.

The vocal arrangement is no less inspired, Martin Cockerham croaking out melodies and barking out the verses, and Barbara Gaskin's soft and sublime mezzo-soprano moving around from accompaniment to harmony to picking up the odd line for emphasis.

"Island" by way of contrast, is somewhat nonsensical, but moves to a more rhythmic realm around 2:30 that is somewhat reminiscent of Hawkwind.

Animal Magic

The momentum is kept up with "Magical Mary", the walking bass lines practically running - and the choruses catching us by surprise with their seamless tempo changes. The unison bass and violin that follows the second chorus lends a dramatic surprise to the ensuing developmental passage - something one really wouldn't expect on a folk album. A few mad tempo and key changes later, the drums finally join in - for the first time on this album - and the Prog-Folk genre is pretty much defined here.

Bob Dylan

"Captain's Log" is a nautical tale of desparation - apparently recited by Mr Zimmerman - but replete with sound effects.

The familiar nasal twang is maintained for "At Home In The World", a thoroughly enjoyable piano-driven song with washes of synth strings and brass that lift the texture out of the ordinary, and lend a Strawberry Fields forever flavour to the song.

"Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide" is pretty much in the same vein - a kind of conglomeration of the styles presented on this album rather than any attempt at development - but is a wonderful song nonetheless.

Flickering Jewels

Cusak kicks off "Time Will Tell " with a firey display, and when the bass and female voice join, we go through a sequence of sudden modulations, and the music starts to feel progressive once more. The introduction of some new piano ideas around 3:00ish takes it into a new dimension, and the development of this material around 4:50 is completely brilliant, running through a gamut of styles in a very short space of time.

Pink Floyd

"We Were a Happy Crew" feels like a standard ballad until around 1:40, when a muted, sawed violin adds an edgy atmosphere that is quickly blown away by acoustic guitar. However, the voices remain edgy "Can we go back and start again, Can we begin where we came in?". The next section begins like a Pink Floyd song, with flavours of "Saucerful of Secrets", but quickly moves into a new musical dimension with the piano, and time signatures fly past our feet - 3/4 to 4/4 and back again in the blink of an ear.

One interesting point to note: This song strongly reminds me of "Dogs" on "Animals" in places - 6 years before "Animals" was released.

Stairway To Heaven

The very short "Love Is A Funny Thing" features what appears to be a recorder duet - and the tune seems vaguely familiar... A lovely little folk song, mind you.

Buggered up his fuse

Rounding off this extremely well rounded Prog-folk album is "The Duke Of Beaufoot", a somewhat mad story about an allegedly nice man who was kind to cats, but sadly passed away leaving only fond memories - or is that fondle memories? Maybe he wasn't so nice after all.

The music is, happily, more of the same. Sparse folk-style accompaniments with piano lending a Beatles-esque sound, and the wandering bass prodiving a richness that leaves plenty of space for everything else. The melodies are as rich here as in any other song on the album, and the instrumental sections romp through texture, tempo and style changes, but stay completely within the overall remit of the album. Although no real surprises are delivered, the music is nonetheless completely engaging and always feels inventive.

Summary

A Prog-folk album with something to offer everyone. Engaging, accessible melodies, light accompaniments that never feel as if the drums are missing - but surprise you with their richness when the percussion does join in, lyrics about love, death and change, and plenty of interest to keep you listening to the very end.

Oh, and a smorgasbord of Prog too.

Probably not one for the Death metal fans, but recommended to all listeners of progressive music otherwise.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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