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Gaia Consort - Secret Voices CD (album) cover


Gaia Consort


Prog Folk

3.00 | 2 ratings

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3 stars Listening to Gaia Consort reminds me that no matter how liberal I think I am there are always plenty of folks to my left. And apparently an awful lot of them live in the American Northwest.

This isn't a band in the traditional sense of the word. They're more like a musical collective, although the nucleus appears to be the duo of Sue Tinney and Christopher Bingham, who have also performed and recorded as the Bone Poets Orchestra. Besides them the lineups on the group's four albums varies widely, and from reading about them so apparently do their live show assemblages. Bingham writes all the songs, plays guitar (acoustic of course) and sings, while his wife/partner Tinney offers well-placed alto harmonies and apparently produces much of the recorded music.

The style of the band is rather fluid, but almost always reveals hints of both contemporary folk, some rock and a youth obviously spent indulging in progressive and rock music as well as the various ancillary pleasures that went along with that scene.

Some tracks such as the opening "Secret Womb of Night" and "Three" come across a bit like Paul Simon meets Barenaked Ladies (the opening drum track of 'Secret' sounds suspiciously like the one on Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"), although the lyrics are firmly rooted in Northwestern tree-hugger nature loving. Same goes for the lyrics on the anti-modern world ballad "Every Sacred Thing"; although instrumentally Bingham's acoustic strumming and strings (violin?) dominate on this one.

And speaking of the Barenaked Ladies, the rhythm and tempo of "Cry Freedom" bear a striking resemblance to their 2000 hit "Pinch Me" (which itself sounds quite a bit like Sheryl Crow's "Leaving Las Vegas"), although here the message is quite anti-organized religion with lyrics like "can't you see that all religion lives by a steady trade in lies" and "do you trust a creed that claims to set you free by spending half a lifetime begging on your knees". Zealots might want to skip this one, although the strings here are excellent and quite emotive.

"Illumination" is a brief but beautiful all-string instrumental featuring acoustic guitar, violin, cello and I'm pretty sure viola as well. Too bad the group didn't include a bit more of this as they are quite good at it. Later in the album the band offers up an almost traditional Anglo folk track with "Beltane Fires" which is also a sound I would like to hear more from them.

I was ready to write the album off as decent folk-rock until "Secret of the Rain" came along. The band adds organ and snare drums for a clearly progressive music-inspired track that includes plenty of tempo shifts, innovative breaks and a couple of tasty keyboard solos. Very nicely done, and another song I wish Bingham would have expanded into something even more than it is. "All the Light?" on the other hand is sort of a round with at least three lively vocal parts alternating along with acoustic guitar and plenty of percussion before slowing down to morph into an acoustic folksy Mother Earth number for a couple minutes before resuming the round/jam to bring the song to a climax. Not really my cup of tea but I'm sure this one was a live favorite for the group.

The closing title track is either about schizophrenia or becoming one in harmony with nature, not sure which, but the electric guitar here is a bit of a shock after so much acoustic music to this point. This is a fairly conventional light-rock number but a pleasant enough close to the album.

I'm probably not quite as freethinking as these guys, but I have to say that despite some reservations the first time I played this record it has grown on me. Probably not to the point where I'll put it into heavy rotation on my disc-changer, but definitely an album that will get some play next time I find myself in a car, plane or bus trekking through the American Northwest with some spare time on my hands. A collection of songs that should make you feel pretty good if you aren't turned off by some of the values espoused in it, 'Secret Voices' is a decent record that should appeal to a lot of folk and indie-rock fans. Three out of five stars.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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