Fovea Hex, "Allure"
Written by John Kealy
Sunday, 08 July 2007
This release is a beautiful finish to Clodagh Simonds' beautiful Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent trilogy. It is as fabulous as the short previews available online have hinted it would be. There is a further increase in complexity and power, much like the progression from Bloom to Huge. The sound is less abstract but still ethereal, like a familiar setting enveloped in mist.
Like the other two EPs, Allure is painfully brief (although at 25 minutes, it is significantly longer than the others) and is made up of three finely crafted pieces. As anticipated, the vocals throughout are exquisite. The lyrics convey a sense of extraordinary ordinariness, Simonds' knack for taking a normally unnoticed detail and turning it into something magical is strong. When she sings on the title track: "The sun pours in when the morning comes/And the floor's all gold," the effect is devastatingly moving. Allure is not just lyrically impressive, the music carries as much strength and emotion as Simonds' voice does. On "Allure," her words are backed by a gorgeous string arrangement delivered by John Contreras and Cora Venus Lunny. Both musicians playing to the mood of the song, Lunny's virtuosity shining through like the sun in the lyrics.
Lunny's father, Donal, makes an appearance playing bodhran on the following piece, "Long Distance." Simonds manipulates the sound of his percussion into something completely unrecognisable, instead of the throbbing beat of the bodhran, there is instead a dripping rhythmic noise, completely unlike the instrument's distinct character. Surprisingly, Robert Fripp also turns up on this piece. Electric guitar is not an instrument I thought would have worked within Fovea Hex but Fripp does not disappoint and makes it work perfectly. His playing veers between the straightforward and the sublime, a feat he nearly always manages. "Long Distance" is the most dramatic piece to come out of the Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series, it is a fitting climax to say the least.
Unfortunately, production delays have meant that the bonus disc featuring The Hafler Trio's reworking of Allure is still not ready but will be sent out at a later date. What information is available about it is intriguing: it will be an hour long (much longer than the previous bonus discs in this series) and it will be the last new Hafler Trio work to be made available in a traditional audio format. Aside from already finished works awaiting release and reissues, this is the final audible broadcast from Andrew McKenzie. It is fittingly entitled "An Answer," although I expect like most of McKenzie's work, this answer will be cryptic and some time will have to spent thinking of the right question to go with it. Plans to move The Hafler Trio in a new direction are afoot but what direction this will be is still a mystery.
I cannot express how much I have enjoyed these EPs; each one has been a new exploration in beauty. My one hope is that Simonds follows her own tenet and does not remain silent. Her recent work both with Current 93 and Matmos suggests that she is eager to be heard but it is no surprise that her voice has been strongest with Fovea Hex. As such, I eagerly await further releases from this project and in the meantime, I will enjoy listening and re-listening to Allure as much as I have enjoyed the other two EPs.
Fovea Hex "Allure"
Review date: Aug. 14, 2007
Fovea Hex grabs the beating Heart of Albion and places it pumping blood around the veins of abstract bodies. Theirs is the sound of the rising sun burning off ambient mists from the village cemetery. It is the voice of the Grimpen Mire moments before the hound takes its revenge. This music is a close cousin to Coil’s “moon musick” where traditional tropes become woven into spectral sculptures.
Allure is the third and final installment of the group’s Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series. Once again, big names assemble around the ex-Mellow Candle vocalist and driving force behind this project, Clodagh Simonds, with Brian Eno and Andrew McKenzie (The Hafler Trio) giving way on this occasion to Robert Fripp and Colin Potter (Nurse With Wound). It begins with tender dew drops of zither and an achingly mournful violin, before Simonds opines “the very first time we met I was so tongue tied. I’d no idea what I might say,” in that unfussy Celtic lilt of hers. On hearing each new broadcast from Fovea Hex, I have felt what she describes. It is so easy to fall under the group’s magisterial spell. Their craft as a group has been apparent from the release of their debut, Bloom, back in 2005.
As Allure unfolds, the song form is gradually eclipsed by more textural landscapes, slowly moving clouds that only occasionally offer up glimpses of the starlit skies overhead. Potter marvels in his role as the chief architect of these moon beam shimmers, shaping and shifting his otherworldly glacial tones, morphing them into euphoric pagan choirs and aviaries of wistful birdsong (our feathered friends have also appeared on both Bloom and its follow-up, Huge). Allure may not be the most immediate of the three Fovea Hex releases, but when taken in consideration as the conclusion of a wider composition it makes total sense, a fitting denouement to a wonderful series.
If this is to be Fovea Hex’s swansong (the grouping has always enjoyed the veil of its mystery), I would not be too disappointed. They came into this world and produced an hour of near perfect sound. Who could blame them for wanting to go out on a peerless and yet seemingly effortless high?
By Spencer Grady
Fovea Hex, Allure: Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent Pt 3 (Die Stadt)
It is not without a sense of loss no more glorious anticipation of the next jewel in the series! that this reviewer opens up the final installment of the Fovea Hex project founded by Irish singer Clodagh Simonds.
With "Allure", the end of the cycle of beautiful EPs collectively known as "Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent" is reached. They are to be complemented for their beautiful cover art, beautifully-unexpected collaborations, and most importantly, beautiful sounds.
The opening, title track is a ballad of resignation to a life of co-dependency "Take my coat/Remove my shell/And may all my bones be dissolved as well...I yield to your allure alive again". Simonds? voice is conflated throughout with that of Laura Sheeran?s, accompanied by violin and cello, and the guitars and drones by Steven Wilson of Bass Communion.
"Long Distance" features the legendary Robert Fripp. It is a very dramatic track, one where Fripp almost steals the show (his restraint proves him to be loyal to the ensemble thinking of Fovea Hex) with a virtuoso display of Frippertronics, now quietly looped into the background, now pointillistic and up-front, now stretching notes to their uttermost before they snap. Lyrically this song is the flipside of the preceeding track a song of loss and longing. Simond?s input goes far beyond singing and songwriting she plays a lot of the instruments zither, harmonium, piano and supplies Enoesque "beds of shimmer", "bodhran treatments", and "cluster formations".
Finally, the EP and the cycle closes with a track co-written with Percy Jones on his "subaquatic" fretless bass, with field recordings supplied by Geoff Sample (seriously?) of moorland birds and lakewater. This is no New Age air freshener, but rather a highly-treated and imagined environment under which rumbles the undertow of Jones? bass.
Like its sisters, "Allure" is limited to 2,000 copies, and the label offers an even more limited edition featuring the bonus CD "An Answer", featuring roughly twenty minutes of the music remixed into a smooth ambient drone by Andrew McKenzie (who has done the same for the previous volumes in the series). Interested parties can order all three CDs at a slight discount through Die Stadt?s web-based mail order, receive a simple but handsome box to house the three "foundation" CDs, or choose to splurge for whole set and its ambient footnote remix CDs.
Posted by Stephen Fruitman at 08:18, 04 Sep 2007
Fovea Hex: "Allure"
The final instalment in a trilogy of EPs collectively entitled NEITHER SPEAK NOR REMAIN SILENT, this ambient folk excursion centres on the icy vocals of former Mellow Candle singer/pianist Clodagh Simonds. Gathering a loose collective of diverse musicians tio flesh out her vision, Simonds has managed to create in Fovea Hex an ensemble that is able both to evoke and distort traditional songforms with rare artistry. Allure's soundworld is equal parts dark electronic drift (courtesy of Steven Wilson of Bass Communion et al, Human Greed's Michael Begg and co-producer Colin Potter of Nurse With Wound) and sepia-hued acoustic mournfulness (cellist John Contreras from Current 93, plus Simonds herself on zither and harmonium). Robert Fripp spins a crystalline web of processed guitar on the exquisite "Long Distance", while the aqueous smears of sound on the trilogy's title track proceed almost unbelievably from fretless bass titan Percy Jones. The overall impression is a kind of Celtic version of Nico's Desertshore, in which the undemonstrative vocal delivery allows the starkly imagistic lyrics to resonate and smoulder. The earlier releases in the series featured extensive input from The Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie, and while he is absent from ALLURE itself, some copies of this package include a bonus disc, "An Answer", comprising his 60 minute reworking of elements from the EP. Building from its opening rumble, through a luminous section (perhaps) based around heavily treated zither, to a coldly dramatic coda of piano strikes and echoing harmonics, it ranks among the very best work produced by the Hafler Trio. (Keith Moline)
FOVEA HEX Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent 3: Allure|
The third and final installment in a series of short-form but jewel-like eps from this ethereal and esoteric collective project. Centered by Clodagh Simond's (Mellow Candle, Current 93) magisterial vocals and featuring a superstar roster of players, which this time around includes Robert Fripp, John Contreras, Steven Wilson, Michael Begg, and Percy Jones with overall production overseen by Colin Potter. Subtitled "Allure" (the first was "Bloom", the second "Huge"), the arrangements are still haunting and cathedral-like but at the start tethered in more traditional structures with harmonium, zither and strings setting up the mood before dissipating into the gossamer of treated guitars, tonal harmonics and ambient drones. The appearance of Robert Fripp's beguiling guitar theatrics on "Long Distance" nicely underscores Simond's climactic vocal incantations and treated bohdran percussive rhythms before settling into the third and final act, a beautifully charged and vocal-less epiphany of melancholy and fragility that like its title is neither spoken nor silent, but exists in that rarified space of being satisfyingly unsolved.
FOVEA HEX - ALLURE (CDEP by Die Stadt)
'Allure' is the third part of the Fovea Hex trilogy, following 'Bloom' (see Vital Weekly 501) and 'Huge' (see Vital Weekly 529). Fovea Hex is centered around Clodagh Simonds, who receives help by the best from the left: Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree), Robert Fripp and on previous releases also the brothers Eno and Andrew McKenzie. Again three tracks, like before, two of which are sung by Simonds, who also plays glass, harmonium, piano, beds of shimmer and bodhran treatments. Absolutely gorgeous music, again. Folk like singing, heavenly sung, with an instrumental backing that is largely ambient related, but in 'Long Distance' has a firm percussive backing too, adding a kind of menacing backdrop. Beautiful stuff, once again. Also part of this is, at least with the first few hundred copies, is another Hafler Trio remix, this time called 'The Answer', which is an hour long rework of whatever is done on the CDEP. I think, at least. In this exactly sixty minute piece, sounds are looped around, stretched out and fed through whatever The Hafler Trio are using and create a drone like piece that is however a big deceptive: it's not the full hour of of monotone drone, but a work that evolves, builds up and cracks down and starts again in order to move into a new direction, getting at times louder than is usual in the recent trio work. A fine if somewhat unsettling work. All three Fovea Hex releases fit nicely in a box that makes this a true box of beauty. (FdW)
Fovea Hex: "Allure"
The plot unravels: A quiet promise that everything will be well.
“Harry Potter” isn’t the only series to come to a close these days. Far off from Hogwarts, muggles, quidditch and Hermione, the first musical journey of Clodagh Simonds’ Fovea Hex ends with the release of “Allure”, the final installment in a triade of EPs that has held many in the music scene breathless over its unique structures and the exact meaning of its motto “neither speak, nor remain silent”. Slowly, the news of its arrival trickled through the medial percolator. First, there were excerpts of the new songs, then cover scans and thematic hints. In the very last stage, Andrew McKenzie’s efforts as a remixer were stinted by his health and an obsession of turning the bonus disc to the release into a monumental work of its own, further delaying the publication. Of course, he was right in doing so – his one hour long “An Answer” will have Hafler Trio fans dance in exultation. Meanwhile, the title to that track remains questionable with regards to the music on “Allure”. Doesn’t it, after all, leave listeners with more questions than before?
To whatever conclusions one may come, the twentyfive minutes of this CD will probably defy the expectations of most who have followed the project this far. From the first reviews, one anticipated solemn grace. With regards to the logic of Hollywood trilogies, an explanation seemed in place. But when Simonds starts to sing, the claustrophobia of “Bloom” has still not subsided: “Take my coat – remove my shell/ And may all my bones be dissolved as well”. Does that sound like a solution, is this the voice of beauty? Much more than a statement of aesthetics, “Allure” is about love, longing and loss, about a sense of oblivion in the shadow of an overwhelming presence and about obsessions that can not be fulfilled. Most of all, however, it is about how the past always comes back to haunt you – or how you sometimes wish it would. “Long Distance”, the second track and the darkly poetic core to the EP, sums it up in lyrics that deal with the question of what it means when all you have is a memory: “Last night – this dream: I heard your voice push in the Silence and murmur my Name/ I woke – I broke to pieces. (...) Say you came back this way... “ Simonds does not portrait these sentiments as broken as the text implies. There is just as much anger in her voice as there is frailty; a sign that the music, which is more tangible than ever here with acoustic folk, nervous rhythms and electric guitar erruptions breaking up the floating drones, is merely the soil under which subcutaneous motives sprawl; and it is not without reason that the idea of the body as a shell is a red thread throughout. In the brute bass signals of “Long Distance”, the work reaches its climax, all dilemmas hanging in the air suspended and without hope.
It is only in the last six instrumental minutes that the plot unravels – albeit rather as a whisper than a detective story. Percy Jones’ “subaquatic fretless Bass” and Geoff Sample’s fieldrecordings of “Moorland Birds and Lakewater” heal the wounds and caress the troubled mind. The world suddenly makes sense again in this quiet promise that everything will be well and you realize that in the end, the fear will go, because you have faced it, not because you have rationally come to terms with it. Wherever words fail, music must take over and this is, of course, the true meaning of the phrase “neither speak nor remain silent”. Somehow, there seems to be more magic to this simple message than Harry Potter could ever conjure up with his wand.
By Tobias Fischer
Fovea Hex - Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent: Bloom (2005); Huge (2006); Allure (2007)
Fovea Hex is a side-project of Clodagh Simonds of Irish progressive band Mellow Candle, also featuring contributions from legends like Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Carter Burwell, and others. For the big names brought in on this, it sure slipped under my radar surprisingly well until just recently.
Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent is a trilogy of EPs released about a year apart. The latest of these, Allure, was just released this year. Each is 3 tracks, about 20 minutes in length, and although they stand well on their own, the union of all three makes a cohesive whole. There is not much to distinguish each in content or in quality; they are all fairly similar and all top-notch.
For all the artists involved, especially considering the enormous presence of each in their respective projects, Fovea Hex's sound is surprisingly unified. It is primarily ambient, with Celtic-like vocals placed far in front of everything. The backing music ranges from modified sound samples to mere ambient soundscapes, but is usually a droning minor chord played by some string instruments and backed by subtle electronics. Sometimes the vocals are layered, creating an ambience all their own; at other times it is merely a single vocal line, transporting us into a misty Irish countryside (most notably on Huge, part 2 of the trilogy). The production on each is stellar, everything precisely recorded and mixed for the best effect.
The first EP, Bloom, is built mostly around choral-style vocals, sometimes with a lead melody shining through. This fades away into mere ambience in the 2nd track. The final track has a more celtic-sounding melody, backed by accordian and pump organ (?). The second, Huge, continues the folk motif in the vocals, with much more presence from the singer. The first song introduces them over pulsating ambient vocals, not unlike something Thomas Jennefelt might dream up. More digital manipulation is present here and throughout the other two tracks, the second of which does not feature prominent vocals. The third and final EP, Allure, finds the vocalist even more confident but drops some of the folk elements of melody, then introduces Robert Fripp's beautifully transparent, aleatoric guitar work in the second track, followed by an unexpected almost trip-hop beat. Perhaps this makes the final EP the most straightforward. The final track is pure ambience, that fades into the same birdsong samples that ended the other two EPs.
Much of the writing is minimalist, based on a single chord or motif, reminding me very much of Arvo Part. Although I am not an ambient conoisseur, I think it's fair to say that many of the ambient passages are reminiscent of Raison D'etre's newer material (specifically, Metamorphyses). But really, this is something that must be heard to be understood. And even then you might not understand it. In a way, I'm glad that I found out about this project after all three EPs had been released; the to-be-continued nature of the first two would have made the suspense nearly unbearable.
In short, this is just astounding and beautiful, one of the best things I've heard this year or any year, and simply a must-have for anyone who enjoys music.
Posted by Jonathan at 9/08/2007 10:45:00 AM
[Die Stadt/Janet; 2007]
Allure is the third and final installment in Fovea Hex's Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent trilogy, and it closes the captivating series with an impressive balance and symmetry. For this EP, the self-described "ensemble of associates" has undergone further cast changes, making the project's cohesion all the more remarkable. The primary constant, however, remains former Mellow Candle vocalist Clodagh Simonds, whose voice and koan-like songs anchor Fovea Hex's ambient drones with a deceptive simplicity and frequently breath-taking beauty.
The two previous EPs in the Neither Speak series, Bloom and Huge, had featured appearances by such luminaries as Brian Eno, the Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie, and film composer Carter Burwell. This time around, Simonds is joined by guitarist Robert Fripp, Nurse With Wound's Colin Potter, an assortment of Dublin-based improvisers, and-- perhaps most tellingly-- musician and wildlife author Geoff Sample who contributes field recordings of Moorland birds and lakewater. As with the earlier EPs, this rotating ensemble ensures a constant evolution of activity and texture within Allure's three pieces, and yet each sound source is incorporated with such elegance that the whole eclectic group can appear to perform with a single, indivisible voice.
A palpable sense of loss and displacement has informed Simonds' songs throughout the Neither Speak recordings, and never more so than on Allure. "I'm like a fish that's breathing sand, so longing" she sings on the album's centerpiece "Long Distance", the stark emotion of her voice mirrored by Fripp's shimmering guitar figures and Michael Begg's piano treatments and "melancholia implants." As with her previous songs, the object of Simonds' longing is never given a specific name or identity, so "Long Distance" and the opening title track might be addressed to a missing lover, or they could be hymns from a disillusioned believer to an absent God.
Throughout Allure, the various members of Fovea Hex continually bolster Simonds' songs with unexpected instrumental flourishes, as with Donal Lunny's exotic bodhrán on "Long Distance" or with the tasteful Celtic strings on "Allure". Intriguingly, Simonds and company have chosen to close out the album, and hence the entire trilogy, with the instrumental "Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent". Counterbalanced with Percy Jones' subaquatic bass and Sample's nature recordings, Simonds concludes this series with a prolonged, enigmatic whisper, one that can seem an alternately soothing and vaguely disquieting finale to Fovea Hex's adventure.
Limited editions of Allure come packaged with the bonus disc An Answer, which features the EP's material re-mixed by Andrew McKenzie into a luminous, hour-length meditation. And now that the Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series is finished, Fovea Hex also offers the three EPs together in a handsome boxed edition. Given the project's unified vision, this box set seems the best way to experience Fovea Hex, and putting these three EPs on in hypnotic succession can quite quickly become an addictive procedure. And though it might now appear that the group's work is complete, one can certainly hope that Simonds can someday find further alluring ways to put the Fovea Hex associates to use.
Matthew Murphy, September 17, 2007