Sieben - _Ogham Inside the Night_
(Iceflower, 2005)
by: T. DePalma (8.5 out of 10)
Ex Sol Invictus and Der Blutharsch member Matt Howden released his fifth Sieben album last summer, unfortunately slipping past my radar. The revolving-member group consolidates Howden's skill as a violinist with a penchant for English lyricism, creating evocative modern folk tapestries. This release comes as a two-disc package with the latest tracks appropriately sharing a case with his _Sex and Wildflowers_ album and contains several new additions to that material as well. (Continuing much in the same vein, these bonus tracks reflect a more concentrated performance on violin and drums, with manic outburst of dissonance and distortion that follow the rock 'n' roll influences on the original recording.)

"We saw Death in the field and ciphered in the stars. He said he'd plant a seed to show us how it ends is how it must start." ("Ogham in the Ground")

With _Ogham Inside the Night_, concepts have matured, a linear progression that remains fascinated by metaphor and pagan culture. From the atavistic rustling of grain that opens the album to the strangely soothingly lullaby at its close, each track posits a seductive, yet temperate celebration of nativity and people. The more obvious sexuality of "Sex and Wildflowers" is reduced to a mere blush, having moved from erotic stems to ancient alphabet; intellectualized from Spring Snowdrops penetrating the soil to the language of Rowan, Birch, Oak, Ash and Furze.

In combining multiple violin loops with primitive acoustic beats, Sieben brings neoclassical incantations full of pop repetition that reference Kraftwerk as much as they do traditional Anglo and Celtic music. We're given a larger view of cultural attitudes and emotions aided by a diversity of players. As well as the kindred make-up in Howden's father and daughter contributing voice and paintings (a set of "Tollund Man" renderings by the former), _Ogham Inside the Night_ also features the vocals of Simone Salvatori (Spiritual Front), Carlos Boll (Mystery School), English blues musician Andy Weaver, members from Faith and the Muse, Larsen and use of the Cajon for percussion. Howden's own foxish voice is the source of both considerable pleasure and wear. Although his sly delivery makes fluid even the most unaccustomed letters of runic language, he is limited and at times almost interruptive. Yet the able sound-tracking from fiery night hymns to "Ogham"'s more sunny entrances, ensnares one in a mantra of blood, earth and soul, wiled through a community of voices that weave riddles into song -- affinity made magic.


(article published 18/4/2006)

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