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Fern Knight biography
Fern Knight was originally formed by Margaret Wienk (Ayre) in 1999. Their debut recording 'Seven Years of Severed Limbs' was released by Normal Records in 2003, with a lineup consisting mostly of Wienk and accompanied by several friends. Following a self-released EP the group expanded to a quartet and recorded their second full-length album 'Music for Witches and Alchemists' supported by the Espers duo Greg Weeks and Meg Baird, as well as Alec K. Redfearn (the Eyesores) on keyboards (Redfearn had contributed accordion on the band's first record).

Also joining the lineup around 2006 was percussionist/guitarist Jim Ayre, who not only became a permanent member but also the spouse of Margie Wienk.

The band has toured in both the United States and Europe, appearing on both tour dates and at various festivals. Their fourth full-length CD 'Castings' was released in November, 2010.

Bio by Kazuhiro

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

3.00 | 2 ratings
Seven Years of Severed Limbs
4.00 | 4 ratings
Music for Witches and Alchemists
3.12 | 6 ratings
Fern Knight
3.92 | 7 ratings

FERN KNIGHT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

FERN KNIGHT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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0.00 | 0 ratings


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Fern Knight by FERN KNIGHT album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.12 | 6 ratings

Fern Knight
Fern Knight Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars People have been asking about modern prog folk that does not merely refine the blueprints of the earlier masters of the genre, as admittedly noble as such a mission might be. If one can legitimately argue that folk music in its various forms is as old as the hills, then the artists of this sub genre are blessed in being able to take cues from a time well before 1967, indeed from a time when all music was live and we can only guess how it sounded.

While STEELEYE SPAN, TREES, FAIRPORT CONVENTION and others of their ilk infused hard rock with their folk, shamelessly blending jaunty tunes with gory lyrics, bands like ESPERS and FERN KNIGHT adopt a consistently morose persona consistent with the incessant navel gazing of our times. The end result is music that works great for certain moods and wears well even as it wears one down.

Judging from this self titled release, FERN KNIGHT seems to understand their role better than ESPERS, and, whether the songs are appealing or not, they do possess a certain dark beauty, conveyed by Gillian Chadwick and Orion Rigel Dommisse with their solo and harmony vocals; the gently plucked guitars, and the viscerally resonant strings. While very few significant tempo changes exist, the occasional insertion of harsh guitar reminds one of the generally shrouded rock context of this music.

If you enjoy WHITE WILLOW's more somber aspects, FERN KNIGHT will regale you, and the best tracks here possess the profound tristesse of that band's best work, to the extent that I initially believed FERN KNIGHT to be Scandinavian and winter sun-challenged. The melodies in "Silver Fox", "Loch Na Fooey" (like something off ENYA's first album "The Celts"), and especially "Synge's Chair" are arresting. But you need to be patient as they unfurl. The latter two parts of "Magpie Suite" are also excellent, in particular the harmonies in Part III. Unfortunately, the remaining material can only be recommended for meditation.

This KNIGHT's armour may be unpolished, but the instincts to which it appeals have yet to be named, from a time when we had yet to walk upon this earth.

 Castings by FERN KNIGHT album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.92 | 7 ratings

Fern Knight Prog Folk

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Described by the band themselves as the soundtrack for a gothic fairy tale, Fern Knight's `Castings' is an album that has taken me months to review. Although full of beautiful arrangements, it's also an impossibly dense and conflicting work, with an extraordinarily heavy and oppressive sound present in both the music, vocals and words. Classically trained cellist/guitarist and vocalist Margaret Ayre's sorrowful vocals float around a mix of classical drama, gothic, raga rock, progressive and medieval folk with not a trace of whimsy. There's a hypnotic, sighing, almost droning quality to much of Ayre's vocals, she displays endless humanity and fragility. Weeping violin and a storm of electric feedback and distortion makes it the perfect background for gloomy rainy days, and it's an album that takes endless listens to gain even the slightest proper sense of.

Beginning with the striking lyric `Where the road drops to a cliff, I stand at the beginning and the end...', `From Zero To Infinity' swirls with sprawling feedback, delicate harp from Jesse Sparhawk, cello and violin, with Margaret's hypnotic, almost chanted vocals. They take on a dreamy stream-of-consciousness quality, while the music drifts through middle-eastern tones in the second half with bubbling guitar distortion and urgent drumming.

I can't express the effect `The Poisoner' has had on me since I acquired this album. Possibly one of the best pieces of music I've heard in years, it brings me to tears with the combination of sad lyrics and troubled vocals. Beginning with a ghostly wall of gentle feedback before sumptuous harp and Margaret's haunting voice enter, this is an incredibly somber medieval dark folk ballad.

`Little did I know then, what I know now to be the truth, that inside these stone walls, lay my past and my future. That's when the poison is discovered, while your tracks they lay uncovered, then they will know that my poisoner was past and future.'

The violin, cello, and Jim Ayre's grinding electric guitar noise creates a grey and maddening tension. The track is the absolute highlight of the album, and I encourage listeners to go online and watch the exquisite music video for it as well. One listen to it should guarantee you'll want to snap up the album straight away.

`Pentacle' has stunning violin and moody acoustic guitar alongside Margaret's sighing vocals. There's some richly detailed lyrics, and the electric guitar is not unlike some parts of King Crimson's `Islands'. That band will play an influence on this album later on too.

`Long Dark Century' is another gloomy highlight. A doomy folk ballad with very strong bleak lyrics that demand to be carefully listened to. There's a very oppressive repeated line `All is silence' that really weighs down on the listener too. Swamped in long sections of grand accordion, cello and harp orchestration that enhances the subject of the dark lyrics, this track reminds how even the unhappiest music can be the most beautiful. By the end, it somehow even manages to be oddly uplifting.

`Cave of Swords' is a maddening instrumental that switches back and forth between a sinister medieval violin, dirty cello and a droning funeral trumpet. Very jarring, but also highly fascinating. Along with some harsh electronic effects and rumbling bass, the pace quickens in the final minute as the music turns even more unnerving.

`It's suffocating!' cries Margaret over and over throughout the frantic cello dirge `Cups and Wands'. Words like that really sum up the sound and mood of much of this album. A grand and grim violin solo by James Wolf sounding like gloom-masters My Dying Bride weaves through a thunderstorm of heavy feedback and aggressive drumming that stomps down on the listener. A short but very effective and emotional track.

The majestic and grand violin and distortion epic `The Eye of the Queen' has that ever- present doomy and gritty tone, with the repeated lyric `You're cast in stone' continuing the mood that pervades so much of this album. Lovely gentle feedback guitar solo in the outro too.

The cover of King Crimson's `Epitaph' is going to be of great interest to progressive fans. Violin effectively replaces the Mellotron, delicate harp, drawn out cello, low-key bass playing and of course those wonderful female vocals. Although this interpretation fits in perfectly alongside the other pieces, it's also somewhat unnecessary perhaps because the album is full of incredible original material as it is. It certainly doesn't lessen the album, though!

There's something very grim and uneasy about the stunning finale `Crumbling Stairs' - even that title is very evocative and troubling. A refined acoustic guitar and cello intro soon turns impossibly dark. Margaret's wilting vocals and the lyrics have a resigned and hopeless feel to them, while her multi-tracked arrangements in the second half are gripping and heartbreaking. The track ends the album in a very devastating and morbid fashion, and the final few seconds of guitar feedback is supremely upsetting. Pay very close attention to the lyrics and try not to break.

While I still have so much love for Fern Knight's earlier album `Music For Witches and Alchemists', `Castings' is much more complex, mature and multi-layered. Immersing yourself in this album can be a very emotional and harrowing experience, with the music full of frequently depressing and somber subject matter. There's not a wasted or throwaway second on it, with at least two absolute classics in `The Poisoner' and `Crumbling Stairs'. Just don't expect to fall under it's spell straight away, and it needs to take the time to crawl under your skin and take hold of you, to consume you totally.

Dark, beautiful and mournful folk music for pitch black nights.

 Music for Witches and Alchemists by FERN KNIGHT album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.00 | 4 ratings

Music for Witches and Alchemists
Fern Knight Prog Folk

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars For my first review here, I decided to give the time to a record that has become very special and important to me. An album that sometimes brings your mood down, and then raises it over and over again.

I bought the vinyl LP copy of this album from Greg Walker's Syn-phonic store, and to be honest, I thought I was taking a bit of a chance. It seemed to be referred to as a psych-folk or prog-folk album, and in the past I've found that can really go either way. They can be very fascinating, or quite dull and samey. So I didn't have a lot of high hopes for this album. It didn't take me long to realise how special it really was.

While it could still be somewhat considered folk, the music on this album is surrounded by a wide range of instruments that help create a very sombre, near gothic ambience. While some of it sounds to me to have a medieval flavour, it's married with feedback and an interesting combination of instruments, including electric guitar, that makes it sound quite modern too.

Margie Wienk's wonderful voice is very reflective, both mournful and joyous, often within the one song. Take particular notice of the middle section of one of the standout tracks `Shingle River' - brings tears to my eyes.

The repetitive and hypnotic `Marble Grey' and `Murder Of Crows' are two beautifully dark and solemn tracks, also both highlights.

The lyrics are very personal and reflective, occasionally working in the way that perhaps No-Man words do? They may remind you of quiet moments in your life, relationships you've been in, people that you've known.

Extra special mention must go to the wonderful accordion and cello playing on the album. They both add so much to the somewhat gloomy atmosphere.

Highly recommended. The sort of album to really treasure, to come back to over and over. Make sure you grab the beautiful hand-silk screened vinyl copy for something even more special.

 Seven Years of Severed Limbs by FERN KNIGHT album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.00 | 2 ratings

Seven Years of Severed Limbs
Fern Knight Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars I really don't even remember where I got this CD, although I suspect it was during the late 2000's when I was chasing down derivatives of the drone/neo-folk band Espers. You'd think that the cartoonish green cover and bright pink CD label would be more memorable, but whatever.

Cellist Margaret (Margie) Wienk played with Espers early on and appears to be the driving force of this band as well. The music is in the whole Espers / the Iditarod / In Gowan Ring / Mountain Home mold, meaning the sound is steeped in echoes of Vashti Bunyan-like wispy vocals, meandering rhythms, drone strings and an overall introspective, almost shoe- gazing mood. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just an accurate description.

This first album from the band features Wienk and guitarist/violinist/lap steel player Mike Corcoran, who also provides the male half of the vocals, and guests include accordionist Alec K. Redfearn (the Eyesores, Beat Circus, Amoebic Ensemble) and Joel Thibodeau (Death Vessel) on the few tracks that include drums. And like I said, this is neo-folk at its finest with Wienk's dainty vocals, spots of drone (although nowhere near what you would hear with Espers or on any other Greg Weeks album), pretty much all acoustic and no particular emphasis on melody, recognizable song structure or any apparent interest in popular music convention. Which suits me okay.

This sort of music is kind of hard to write about, and track-by-track descriptions are neither necessary nor useful. The point is really to get into the mood and to enjoy the unusual and something throwback arrangements, as well as to appreciate the juxtapositions created when combining the likes of cello and accordion, usually with not much of a rhythm section beyond some ad-hoc percussion and spastic upright bass crammed in here and there by Wienk. The CD's liner notes don't include any lyrics and I'm not inclined to try and decipher them so the meaning of many of the songs is pretty much left up to interpretation. I could tell you there are songs about being awed by full moons ("She Who Was So Precious to You"), wolves tracking illegal aliens sneaking across the border ("Wolf I"), southern California sliding into the ocean ("Kingdom"), tradition ("Boxing Day"), and even vulnerability ("Mover Ghost / Mark the Days off on your Wall"). But I would only be guessing because that's what the abstract lyrics seems to be about to me. Only Wienk and her hardcore fans know for sure I suppose.

The one complaint I have with this record, as I do with many of the band's contemporaries such as the Iditarod, Natural Snow Buildings, and even In Gowan Ring to a certain extent, is that there isn't a whole lot of variety in their music. The slightly mystical, new-age musical impresario with a pile of eclectic instruments and a yearning to wax poetic is always nice in moderation, but after an hour of listening to this one I find myself reaching for something with a little kick to it to get my heart racing and to fend of sleep. Great music, but I would find it much more appealing if the band were to try a little more experimentation with their sound to see where they can take it. I haven't listened to much of their later material yet, but let's hope they've done just that. I'm going to give this one three stars only because it is the band's debut and they're entitled to establish a sound before one can expect them to start exploring ways to stretch it. But they'd better do that with the next couple of things they crank out or they risk becoming yet another in a long list of neo-folk bands whose relevance is challenged by their apparent lack of much to say.


Thanks to Kazuhiro for the artist addition. and to ClemofNazareth for the last updates

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