[The Wire, n 262]


Now this is a little bit special isn’t it — what do you get if you take Brian Eno, Roger Eno, Andrew McKenzie (Hafler Trio), Carter Burwell (Fargo OST, Being John Malkovich OST) and have them collaborate with a trio of insanely talented chanteuses? Fovea Hex gives us the answer to this and provides us with what Brian Eno has described as “Some of the most extraordinary songs I’ve heard in years”. As I flicked through ‘Bloom’ to review initially I wasn’t sure what to make of it — fragmented vocals and very subtley affecting ambience. Returning to it and playing it from beginning to end was when I had my revelation; this record is as gorgeous as any of Burwell’s stunning soundtrack work, as sentimental and romantic as Eno’s very best and polished off expertly by the experimental flourishes of avant garde mad-scientist McKenzie. This deluxe package (part one of an ongoing series) comes in a lovely embossed gatefold style package and just feels like something that little bit exclusive (isn’t that what we’re all after?). If you enjoyed recent releases this year by Amina, Midaircondo and even Bjork’s more experimental moments then check this without delay.


Fovea Hex
Bloom EP
(Die Stadt)

Fovea Hex is a release that may have flown under the radar of some listeners, despite the damn-near all-star lineup that have contributed. Brian Eno, Carter Burwell (soundtrack artist, most notable for his work with the Coen Brothers), Roger Eno, and Andrew McKenzie (Hafler Trio) have all come together to create the first in what is supposed to be a several-part series for the collective. Comprised of only 3 songs that span just under twenty minutes, it's an amazing little release, calling to mind everything from the Winter Solstice EP (with vocals from Rose McDowell) release from Coil to other vocal-centric drone and ambient work.

"Don't These Windows Open" starts the disc with what sounds like little more than swirling vocals floating around on sparse notes of fretless bass while singer Cloadagh Simonds adds vocals that sound like they could have come out of a British/Irish folk song. "We Sleep You Bloom" progresses much as the title suggests, starting out slowly with synth pulses and other subtle layers of viola and piano before it peaks with several small and gorgeous builds and finally dissolves again back into dark drones.

The closing track of "That River" is the probably the most straightforward, with multiple layers of harmonium and the vocals of Simonds building steadily until they collapse into field recordings and soft washes. Other than the vocals, it's hard to tell where the contributions of everyone in the group begin and end (although the liner notes help sort that out), as the recordings are very subtle and slowly-shifting (best suited for headphones or full-bodied stereo listening). As always with Die Stadt, the packaging is quite lovely, and after hearing this, I'm curious as to what the artists will conjure up next.

rating: 7.5


Fovea Hex - Bloom

Here we have the first of three E.P.s called ‘Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent’ by a loose band centred around the vocals of Clodagh Simmonds with instrumental contributions from Brian Eno, Roger Eno and Andrew McKenzie of The Hafler Trio and soundtrack composer Carter Burwell amongst others.

There are four songs written by Clodagh who will be known to readers of this site as a key member and singer of definitive early 1970s folk band ’Mellow Candle’. That band evoked an intense sound and released one album. They were one of the best bands of the generation and were genuinely a band that ’got away’. Although they came at a time when record company faith in folk-rock was waning, their music was as complex and wonderous as Kate Bush later on. Clodagh would work with Thin Lizzy, Mike Oldfield and release one solo album in Japan. Her return here is very welcome and we hope it endures.

If Brian Eno has bought an influence here it is one of mood setting, creating a hushed air of minimalism and restraint within which the songs are set. Andrew McKenzie appears to treat the instruments subtly giving them a distant, haunted sound which has real physical presence. Each instrument appears to have ghost sound merged in giving an sound that projects from the speakers. This is like hearing a set of ambient lullabies through a wind tunnel, but the care in production and sculpting of sound is stunning.

Superficially these songs would not seem to be folk music, but melodically in more conventional settings these could easily be classified in that genre, particularly Western Irish folk music. The droning harmonium, plucked zithers set behind the voice remind of Nico’s ‘Marble Index’ album produced by John Cale. One of the closest comparisons in mood to this album would be John Cale’s own ‘Ghost of Carmen Miranda’ collaboration with Brian Eno so the circle completes.

Vocally the songs are delivered simply but with a yearning or probing that gives them an emotionally charged quality. This quality is due to the powerful lyrics which seem to be written from the perspective of the elements, or perhaps more accurately that which sits behind the elements. They are written from the perspective of an ‘other’ existence we cannot see, ‘heart of the world is a hidden heart’ seems a particularly important lyrical phrase that is used. It’s the unformed hidden heart that is being expressed, also evoked through the hushed music. The songs seem to call for the listener to concentrate, that there is more to be revealed. Mellow Candle in a more conventional way seemed to hint in the same way back over thirty years ago. Perhaps now Clodagh is ready to reveal the hidden heart in the next two E.P.s. We can but dream.



Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie teams up with songstress Clodagh Simonds (of British folkies Mellow Candle) to bridge the gap between droney dreamscapes and traditional folk music. The end result is spellbinding ambience and eerie pagan beauty. I can't stop listening to this. Oh yeah, some guys named Brian and Roger Eno contribute, as well.


Fovea Hex Bloom [Die Stadt/Janet, 2005]

Bloom is the first disc in the Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent trilogy from Fovea Hex, the working name for singer/songwriter Clodagh Simmonds and The Hafler Trio’s Andrew MacKenzie. Simmonds’ voice has a slightly acerbic quality, and her melodies draw tartness from folksong, while MacKenzie’s post-production drops the songs into resonant chambers slick with condensation and fogged with reverb. The deep purr of viola and harmonium, banked up against choral vocal treatments, further destabilises Simmonds’ songs. Though in line with the Die Stadt ethos of rarefied, abstract beauty, Bloom also recalls the cryogenically frozen ‘sublime’ of 80s 4AD ethereality.

[Stylus Magazine, Jon Dale]

FOEVA HEX Bloom (Die Stadt)

"Cry, baby, cry," Fovea Hex founder Clodagh Simonds sings on Bloom opener "Don't These Windows Open," her buttery brogue afloat on a star-dappled cloud of zither (hers), fretless bass (Brian Eno's), and voices (hers, Eno's, Laura Sheeran's). "Cry for your father." Trapped like living human arteries in black marble, madness and grief course through her stately cant, all the more poignant for their containment. Incarnation management mini-epic "We Sleep You Bloom" finds Simonds shedding her hedge druidess' cloak to harmonize with fellow weird sisters Sheeran and Lydia Sasse. While earthier than its predecessor, the song's instrumental bed is no less mysterious. To wit: How the hell did composer Carter Burwell (Fargo, Being John Malkovich) end up adding "disappeared piano" to Simonds' keyboards and Cora Veunus Lunny's violas? Ask Eno, his harmonium-contributing brother Roger, or better still, the Hafler Trio's Andrew MacKenzie, who mixed this EP, number one in a series of three. You could even put the question to Stephen Malkmus, whose live cover of Simonds' 36-year-old "The Poet and the Witch" appeared on Dark Wave. Simonds has been flickering in and out of the limelight's margins ever since her stint with Irish folk-rockers Mellow Candle in the early '70s, gracing tracks by Thin Lizzy, Mike Oldfield, and (most recently) sound artist Russell Mills with down-to-earth otherworldliness between disappearances. Who knows how long she's been working on this thing? Sure, clumsy antecedents—ranging from Eyeless in Gaza to Current 93—abound. But the singer's got such a knack for marrying traditionalist tropes and melodies with up-to-the-minute-after-this-one experimentalism that you'd think she was born with eternity in her gut.

[Seattle Weekly, Rod Smith]


'bloom' is a beautiful mini-album of haunting ambient song. first in the 'neither speak nor remain silent' series of three cd ep's by this new project founded by irish singer clodagh simonds. featuring brian eno, roger eno, laura sheeran, lydia sasse, cora venus lunny, toby arnott, carter burwell and andrew mckenzie of the hafler trio. the cd comes in a beautiful embossed cover, the quality you'd expect from die stadt. as brian eno has said, "some of the most extraordinary songs i've heard in years". voices: clodagh simonds, laura sheeran, lydia sasse, brian eno; harmoniums: clodagh simonds, roger eno violas, violins: cora venus lunny; disappeared piano: carter burwell keyboards, zither, guitars, other interesting things: clodagh simonds, andrew mckenzie, brian eno. this really is special, a shame it has to be so expensive

[Rough Trade]

Fovea Hex: "Bloom"
You're lured closer by sweet melodies and hypnotized by wonderously enigmatic words.

When does one become a legend? Clodagh Simonds has been a folk singer since the 70s, worked with Mike Oldfield on the dark and secluded psychedelic trip “Ommadawn” and found herself in the spotlight again as both her own recordings and cover versions attracted renewed attention over the last few years. Her past achievments justify a place among the great. With “Bloom”, she sets out both to defend that position as well as to take a bold step towards a new and exciting future.

When does one become a legend? Sometimes, this can be measured by the amount of equally legendary collaborators involved in one’s current projects. And there’s plenty of those on this only seventeen minute long EP, the first out of a series of three: Brian Eno plays Bass (and contributes vocals) on “Don’t these Windows open?”, Hollywood soundtrack composer Carter Burwell delivers a dose of “disappeared piano”, Roger Eno joins Simonds for a Harmonium-duett in the brooding closing-track “That River” and The Hafler Trio’s Andrew McKenzie contributes “12-Strings & Organic Matters”. More impressive than this list, still, is the fact that this renowned personnel is merely a sidenote to the proceedings on “Bloom”- this disc carries Simonds’ handewriting more distinctly than ever. Instruments have passed into a shadow world, surviving only as Kirlian Camera-snapshots. Beat, rhythm and the usual pulse of time have withdrawn, shied away by the light of the pale full moon. The only recognisably human component is Clodagh’s voice, almost surreal and recorded hardly without effect, pervading the plumes of harmonious smoke and polyphonic choral ghost lights. Almost unnoticed, the listener is drawn into her recitation, lured closer by her sweet melodies and hypnotized by these wonderously enigmatic words: “Way down beaneat the battlefield, Down there beside the fire/ Deep down at the very heart of it/ As we sleep, you bloom.”

It is at this moment of highest intensity, that one fully realizes how irrelevant all this fame-talk really is. I’ll admit it straight away: I had never before heard of Clodagh Simonds and her past glory. Maybe you haven’t either. An important part of “Bloom” is that you don’t have to. On this record, she has refused to simply rest on her laurels and redefined herself within a new cosmos, which is just as much her own as folk music once was. If you really want, you can call her a legend for that.

[Tokafi, by Tobias Fischer]

Fovea Hex, "Bloom"
Contributed by John Kealy (brainwashed.com)
Saturday, 10 December 2005

Bloom is the first in a series of three releases by the collective known as Fovea Hex. Quiet and moving, this is a very promising first chapter by a group that contains some of ambient and experimental music’s most golden children backing up some equally golden voices.

Fovea Hex sees the likes of Brain and Roger Eno team up with Cloadagh Simonds (most famous for her work with Thin Lizzy and Mike Oldfield) and Carter Burwell (famous for soundtracking pretty much all of the Coen brothers’ works) to make some beautiful songs that touch on traditional, ambient and experimental music. As well as playing on one of the tracks, The Hafler Trio’s Andrew McKenzie has performed his production magic on each of the tracks. His influence is apparent but not overpowering. Simonds is the focus of the group, these are her songs.

Simonds’ lyrics are powerful, especially because of her delivery. On “That River” she conjures up images of a house that morphs all of a sudden into this beautiful description of a river: “She swerves a sapphire soul over the land.” Her singing is wrought with emotion, her voice blends a few traditional styles of singing, most prominently Ireland’s sean nos singing. I found that the other vocalists and musicians were all sympathetic to this style (half of the members of Fovea Hex have a solid traditional Irish music background) which means that the songs don’t end up sounding like a hodgepodge of new age commercial rubbish like the demon queen Enya.

As expected by the line up, the music is all soundscapes and ambience. Despite the mention of fretless bass and zither in the liner notes, the opening track “Don’t these windows open?” seems to consist entirely of disembodied voices with Simonds dancing lyrically over them. The entire record makes great use of sound as a three dimensional phenomenon. By walking around the room the sounds take on different characters. This is the subtle McKenzie effect I referred to above, it’s a trademark Hafler Trio technique but Fovea Hex does not sound like the Hafler Trio. Fovea Hex is more reminiscent of Coil’s work in their Solstice and Equinox series.

With some editions of the EP there is a bonus disc of reworkings by Andrew McKenzie. “The Explanation” is a single track of abstracted drones and utterances from Bloom. It gels together well, I wasn’t sure (considering how strong I thought the original songs were) that such a CD would work but McKenzie dissolved any doubts I had. This disc along with the main EP makes for a very fine piece of work. Bloom marks the beginning of the Neither Speak nor Remain Silent trilogy but if the quality keeps up I hope Fovea Hex keep going beyond this.

FOVEA HEX Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent : One (Die Stadt / Janet)

Fovea Hex is the brainchild of Clodagh Simonds, the Irish singer whose work in the early '70s with Mellow Candle earned her a solid reputation amongst avid fans of British folk music. Her recent work as Fovea Hex has found her collaborating with some serious heavyhitters in the electronic composition world including Brian Eno, Roger Eno, and Andrew M. McKenzie (aka The Hafler Trio) as well as film composer Carter Burwell. Simonds' voice is at the center of this shortened program, with many of her contributing cast singing spectral chorales around her emotionally charged siren songs which emerge as Irish folk hybrids of Marble Index period Nico. These are haunted, ancient sounding songs, with almost all of their arrangements stripped away, leaving behind spare fragments of desaturated piano, bass, and harmonium. It's no surprise that in very small type in the liner notes, there's a text that reads "all material lit from within by A.M. McKenzie," as the music itself has McKenzie's fingerprints all over it. Even the fact that this is this first part of trilogy and is an expensive short form ep of about 17 minutes is evidence of McKenzie's meddling. Nevertheless, Simonds remains steadfast in her control over the project, not allowing McKenzie to interfere with the beauty of her own voice.


Fovea Hex
Die Stadt/Janet

The opera prima by Fovea Hex is structured like many 70s progressive albums — three tracks on the first side, and a suite on the second — except that this is a limited edition double CD, not a vinyl. This project by Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie and singer Clodagh Simonds (remember Mike Oldfield's Hergest Ridge?) is based upon rarefied superimpositions of voices and acoustic instruments (viola, harmonium, piano) plus "organic matter" by McKenzie himself. Bloom is the most "vocal" half, as Simonds' transparent (glacial?) voice sings the marrow of three diaphanous songs whose harmonic content is all dim light and near-undetectable movements of the tectonic plates beneath the musicians' feet (Brian and Roger Eno are "special surprise guests", even if their presence is rather discreet, if you'll forgive the pun). The Explanation starts from rigorous silence, gathers impalpable sounds, seemingly from an underwater out-of-tune radio, and finally stabilizes in a harmonious invocation recalling Pink Floyd ca. Obscured By Clouds before being interrupted by Simonds' processed voice, and then silence. Finely conceived and unobtrusively brilliant. — MR


Fovea Hex
Bloom (Janet Records / Die Stadt / Import)

[translation below]

Attention, “super-groupe”: derrière Fovea Hex se cachent quelques pointures, dont, entre autres, Brian Eno, aux côtés de son frère Roger Eno, Andrew McKenzie (aka Hafler Trio) et Carter Burwell (compositeur pour les frères Cohen ou Spike Jonze). Tous sont au service des talents de compositrice et interprète de Clodagh Simonds — connue pour avoir collaboré avec Thin Lizzy et Mike Oldfield, et plus récemment avec Russel Mills au sein de Unda rk. Avec Fovea Hex, entre voix traditionnelles et textures expérimentales, la chanteuse irlandaise fait le lien entre deux univers distincts, mais qui n’ont rien d’incompatible.

Des fragments de voix éthérées, abordant des thèmes sombres et énigmatiques, glissent et s’écoulent lentement, sous-tendus par de délicates nappes d’une fluidité telle qu’elles habitent et envahissent chaque parcelle de l’espace sonore. Le monde idiosyncrasique de Fovea Hex semble sorti d’un univers parallèle où règne l’anti-matière : chaque élément qui le constitue étant d’une finesse immatérielle, se définissant plus par son absence que sa présence. L’addition de ces particules impalpables parvient néanmoins à aboutir à un ensemble d’une consistance et d’une densité bien réelle, mais toujours insaisissable. De cette faille spatio-temporelle en marge des lois de la physique générale s’échappent d’immenses courants glacés, vents polaires séculaires laminant un sol instable, mouvant. Dans une atmosphère en microgravité, un violon lancinant, fort de ses racines celtes, dérive insensiblement dans la dissonance pour tendre vers un drone en apesanteur, évoquant le jeu de William Breeze. Allié aux voix du trio de chanteuses présentes sur We Sleep You Bloom, dont certaines intonations rappellent celles de Rose McDowall, tout concourt à rapprocher Bloom de la série des eps de Coil Soltice / Equinox. Premier volet d’une série de trois eps (le second volume étant à paraître au printemps), Bloom, ou pour rependre le titre complet Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent : one peut voir son impact décuplé par l’adjonction d’un second disque — disponible uniquement sur commande auprès de Die Stadt. The Explanation, remix par Andrew McKenzie, permet de compléter et d’approfondir l’expérience et les sensations préalablement générées. Si la patte caractéristique d’Hafler Trio est déjà présente sur les versions originales, elle reste fine et épurée, au service des titres composés par Simonds, mais prend toute son ampleur le long de ces vingt minutes additionnelles. Lors de cette descente au coeur du son, ne voyageant pas sur un drone unique mais sur une multitude de niveaux en coexistence pacifique, l’expérience se veut unique, plongée abyssale dans un abîme qui n’est autre qu’un trou noir.

Aymeric Lozet


Attention, Great Band Alert: the Fovea Hex project involves some big names, including Brian Eno, his brother Roger Eno, Andrew McKenzie (aka Hafler Trio) and Carter Burwell (composer for the Coen Brothers and Spike Jonze). They all serve the talents of composer and interpreter Clodagh Simonds, known for her work with Thin Lizzy and Mike Oldfield, and more recently with Russell Mills’s Undark. With Fovea Hex, blending traditional voices and experimental textures, the Irish singer bridges two worlds that, different as they may be, are far from incompatible.

Fragments of ethereal voices, touching on dark and enigmatic themes, slowly glide and flow, underpinned by delicate layers so fluid they inhabit and invade every particle of the acoustic space. The idiosyncratic world of Fovea Hex seems to arise from a parallel universe where anti-matter reigns: all its elements are so fine they become immaterial, defining themselves more through their absence than their presence. The sum total of these intangible particles creates nonetheless a whole with a consistency and density that are quite real, albeit elusive. This fault in the space-time continuum, on the fringes of the laws of general physics, releases immense frozen currents, secular polar winds laminating an unstable and moving ground. In an atmosphere of microgravity, a haunting violin, drawing on its Celtic roots, drifts imperceptibly in dissonance, tending towards a weightless drone, reminiscent of the sound of William Breeze. Blend in the voices of the trio of singers heard on We Sleep You Bloom, of which some intonations recall those of Rose McDowall, and Bloom begs comparison with Coil’s series of EPs, Solstice / Equinox. First in a series of three EPs (the second is to be released in the spring), Bloom (full title: Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent: one) can have its impact increased tenfold by the adjunction of a second disc available only by special order from Die Stadt. The Explanation, a remix by Andrew McKenzie, completes and deepens the experience and the sensations previously generated. Though the Hafler Trio’s characteristic input is already present in the original versions, it remains refined and restrained, serving Simonds' compositions; in these additional twenty minutes, it reveals itself fully. This descent into the heart of sound, traveling not on a single drone but on a multitude of pacifically coexisting levels, is a unique experience, a plunge into an abyss that is nothing other than a black hole.


BLOOM was OCTOPUS EN LIGNE CD of the week December 27th to January 2nd 2006.

Fovea Hex
Bloom EP
[Die Stadt/Janet; 2006]
Rating: 7.6

In the early 1970s, Irish singer/songwriter Clodagh Simonds was a founding member of the progressive-folk cult favorites Mellow Candle, and later went on to perform with Thin Lizzy and Mike Oldham. As with many of her folk-rock contemporaries, Simonds has been long absent from the recording scene but has seen a recent surge of interest in her earlier work, as exemplified by Stephen Malkmus' 2003 cover of Mellow Candle's "Poet & the Witch".

Intriguing though it's been, however, there's nothing in Simonds' past history that could've adequately foretold the remarkable appearance of her new project, Fovea Hex. Featuring contributions from such heavyweights as Brian and Roger Eno, the Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie, and film composer Carter Burwell, Fovea Hex represents a startling confluence of talents and styles, and the group's first release is uniquely possessed of an icy, sapphire-like radiance. This three-song EP is the first installment of a proposed trilogy entitled Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent and brief though it is, the record exhibits a sterling assortment of ambient, high-density drones, all of which are subtly bound by Simonds' songcraft and crystalline, folk-derived vocals.

Assembled and mixed by McKenzie via a ghostly construction of harmonium, viola, zither, and "disappeared piano," the deceptively active arrangements achieve a frosty mood somewhere relative to Nico's The Marble Index, Current 93's apocalyptic folk-drones, and the unflinching winterscapes of Burwell's Fargo soundtrack. But despite Fovea Hex's assembled instrumental firepower, Simonds unquestionably emerges as the central figure on these performances—particularly on the near-acappella opening track "Don't These Windows Open". Conducted by McKenzie's invisible hand, here Simonds' multi-tracked chorale is as gracefully split and clarified as sunlight mirrored off the polar icecaps.

Yet though all appears tranquil on the surface, on Bloom there are unseen forces at constant work to undercut Simonds' lyrics with ripples of doubt and anxiety. "Cry for your father/ Don't these windows open?/ How could he hear us?" she fervently sings on this first track, sounding determined not to lose her cool in a crisis. Later on, amid the gorgeous dunes of "We Sleep You Bloom", she again conjures indistinct external spirits, "Way down beneath the battlefield/ Down there beside the fire...as we sleep you bloom," leaving ambiguous the nature of these unnamed forces that "bloom in a petrol rainbow dark." And throughout these performances, Simonds tempers her passions with an elegant measure of stoic restraint, aided by the exceptional vocal harmonies of Brian Eno, Laura Sheeran, and Lydia Sasse.

So potent, in fact, are Fovea Hex's joint creations that the album's brevity becomes its primary drawback. Simonds has a voice that one could happily drown in for hours, and obviously guys like McKenzie, Burwell, and the Enos would benefit from further opportunity to stretch their collaborative limits. So it's good news to learn that the next chapter in the Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series is due later this spring, and a minor impatience to anticipate the day when the entire work is available to be absorbed as a whole.

[Pitchforkmedia, Matthew Murphy, March 24, 2006]

Fovea Hex, Bloom (Die Stadt)

The result of the inspired wedding of the voice of Irish singer Clodagh Simonds, not much heard from since the seventies (aside from a lovely track on Russell Mills? Pearl and Umbra) and multiple skills of Iceland-based sound missionary Andrew McKenzie, aka The Hafler Trio.

Simonds has written or co-written all three songs, which are genuinely poetic. They also have a Celtic/Nordic feel, while simultaneously seeming to emanate from no previously known place. "All things lit from within by A. M. McKenzie", the album credits state, and that, I suppose, explains that elusive quality.

Adding further weight to this project are the impressive session musicians Simonds and McKenzie have gathered, including Brian Eno on fretless bass and as part of an angelic choir on the first track, and brother Roger playing a harmonium duet with Simonds on the third track.

A mere 17 minutes...sometimes you say much more with so much less.

First in the 'Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent' series of three CD EPs, which puts it in line to be the first of three of the most beautiful mini-albums you?ll hear.

Posted by Stephen Fruitman at 09:37, 03 Apr 2006