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SILMARIL

Prog Folk • United States


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Silmaril biography
A long time lost but now cult 70's progressive folk band from United States. Silmaril (whose name is inspired by the magical world of Tolkien) is a musical collective led by Matthew Peregrine (member of the Christian Pentecostalism). The band recorded their first LP in 1973, called "Given Time or the Several Roads", rapidly followed by the publication of "No Mirrored Temple". The compilation "The Voyage of Icarus" (Locust, 2007) features compositions taken from these LPs. Silmaril's music is gorgeoursly religious, acoustic and ethereal. It inlcudes a large variety of instruments, male / female voices, a nice taste for medieval / ancient music, ethno-folk sonorities, ponctual electric organ / electronic arrangements. A serene acid folk band whose music is highly recommended for fans of The Incredible String Band, Of Wondrous Silence and the bucolic, evocative sides of kraut-folk.

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Voyage of IcarusVoyage of Icarus
Locust 2007
Audio CD$21.90
$17.52 (used)


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SILMARIL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 4 ratings
The Voyage Of Icarus
1973

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SILMARIL Reviews


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 The Voyage Of Icarus by SILMARIL album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.98 | 4 ratings

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The Voyage Of Icarus
Silmaril Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Silmaril is one of those obscure early seventies groups whose story is lost to history except for the memories of the players who lived it, and for a small number of folks who were either familiar with the band or who have stumbled upon them as a result of this CD.

Too bad, because the tale is a fascinating (though somber) one. Band founder and somewhat ‘cult’ leader Matthew Peregrine (born Jim Boulet) was a devout Catholic born on the edge of the American industrial rust belt in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He formed the group Dark Star (which later became Silmaril) with a small group of like-minded friends met at Catholic youth retreats in the early seventies. The band cut their teeth on the works of the Incredible String Band, Comus and Pentangle, and those influences show strongly in these songs. Peregrine came to be involved in the controversial and mystical Pentecostal movement within the Catholic church around that period. That and the band members’ interest in the fantasy writings of J.R.R. Tolkein are reflected in the songs’ lyrics, which vacillate between spiritual and mythic and sometimes encompass both.

Peregrine was a young man haunted by himself though, and despite an ill-fated ‘spiritual’ marriage to fellow traveler Susan Mankowski he was unable to escape the fact that he was gay, something that he finally came to grips with shortly after these songs were recorded. The band stayed together throughout the seventies but as the decade came to a close Peregrine found himself in Houston as an active member of the hardcore cruising community and fronting a gay cowboy band named Blue Wave. Like so many of his kind in those days Peregrine eventually succumbed to AIDS-related causes at the young age of forty-one. The other band members have carried on in various musical endeavors, with the main female singer on this album Sharon Tews becoming a Jewish synagogue cantor; Mike Krukowski performing in various local folk and rock bands in the Milwaukee area; and William Pint carving out a niche playing British nautical standards as half of the duo known as Pint-n-Dale.

The story is important in understanding this music I think. Otherwise the record comes off as simply another forgotten American folk private-label pressing of the early seventies that is neither exceptional nor particularly noteworthy. In the context of the lives of the players though, the lyrics especially reveal the uncomfortably poignant spiritual and personal struggles of the members of this group, and particularly of Peregrine's.

Peregrine seems to have had a rather dire view of religion, as evidenced by some of the tracks here. The final four tracks especially are dark and foreboding: “The Coming Storm”, “Lamb of God”, “Revelation 13:11-18”, and “Song of the Apocalypse” came from the final and unreleased recording of the band known as “No Mirrored Temple”. The instrumentation consists mostly of piano and acoustic guitar, while the lyrics are almost verbatim recitations of some of the most damning words of condemnation found in the Bible’s New Testament. “Revelation 13:11-18” consists of Peregrine reading that passage, which describes St. John’s vision of the apocalypse where the beast rises up and reveals his number (666). This is followed by the closing “Song of the Apocalypse” in which Tews relates that story in verse in a cathedral vocal timbre that makes this sound like something that might be sung at a conversion ceremony in some sort of weird doomsday cult. Very creepy stuff.

So that’s the latter half of the album. The earlier tracks aren’t quite as morbid, although the music is quite sparse and reserved, presumably like the religious setting they seem to have grown up in. A poustinia is a small cabin in the wilderness where spiritual hermits go to ‘commune with God’ and remove themselves from the outside world. This was a concept en vogue with some of the more radical and experimental charismatic Christians in the seventies, and the song of that name seems to pay tribute to the concept as a way of growing ‘closer to God’.

“Not Enough” is a quiet acoustic number consisting almost solely of Peregrine’s guitar playing and singing. The lyrics tell of life and of love being ‘not enough’ to keep him in his current circumstances, but instead he sings about getting away and ‘going to find the dark’. Like I said, these words take on new meaning after learning of the guy’s life story.

Most of the rest of the tracks leading up to the apocalyptic ending are rather nondescript for the most part, although there are a few interesting surprises here and there. “Vespers” includes someone (presumably Peregrine) playing a sitar. “Harrow Hill” is relatively religion-free and features both flutes and kazoos. And “Voyage of the Icarus” is another seemingly prophetic tune about the mythical creature that flies too close to the sun and is destroyed. One has to wonder what kinds of thoughts were going on in Peregrine’s mind at the time these tracks were originally recorded. There’s even a tribute of sorts to the early European religious settlers who came to America in “Plymouth Bay”, complete with what sounds like a banjo.

In all this is a rather pedestrian American folk album from the early seventies that would be pretty much forgotten were it not for the folks at Locust Music who took an interest in the story of Matthew Peregrine and his followers for some reason and hunted them down to make the release of this record possible. Musically I wouldn’t give this much more than two stars since there is nothing groundbreaking on it, the production is uneven and weak at times, and the overall feel lacks in variety or spark of any kind. But taken in the context of the lives of its participants and considering the deep and thought- provoking lyrics I’m going to say this is a solid three star effort and recommend it to fans of American acid folk, as well as for the kinds of people who can’t find it in themselves to turn away when they see another human being in pain. Not sure that’s a healthy affliction to have but if you do then this might be something that will get under your skin.

peace

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 The Voyage Of Icarus by SILMARIL album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.98 | 4 ratings

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The Voyage Of Icarus
Silmaril Prog Folk

Review by philippe
Special Collaborator Content Development & Krautrock Team

5 stars The Voyage of Icarus is a high class bucolic acid folk effort released in a relative discretion by an acoustic north american duo. This mysterious duo has written what I consider to be among the finest and the most refined essays published under the progressive folk label. Each note and each chord played evokes a real purety and an eternal beauty. The two musicians use a large variety of instruments, from intimate fingerpicked guitar to warm organs, flute and ethno percussions. The ambiences are really charming and full of simplicity. The progressive arrangements / ingredients appear inside fragile, authentic folk ballads. Simple, dreamy-like folkish vocals appear all along the album. The duo approaches the Christian folk territory at the beginning of the album with super melodic, evasive & acoustic forest ballads as the optimistic Poustinia , the melancholic / nocturnal Not Enough or the magnificant, ethereal Windbridge (with its dark guitar tone and angelic female voices). Harrow Hill is a celtic, medieval inspired song with gentle pop accents. From Velvet & Gold to the end, the album turns to something darker, less traditional and more progressive in the choice of contrasts, various textures. Velvet & Gold is a mesemerizing psych folk trip with lugubrious harmonies. Babylon is a beautiful epic ballad with a medieval, semi- classical instrumentation, delicate female voice, always composed in a dramatic vein. Coming storm is a calm, pseudo romantic piano interlude with a nice nostalgic atmosphere. Revelation features narrations accompanied by enigmatic, strange abstract / cosmic noises. A true masterpiece that needs several listenings. Unique!

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