If you’re a prolific artist of any kind, especially a musician, it’s easy for some to misread your intentions and to cast your motivations in a suspect light. Too often, a high output is seen as a lack of self-control, or an arrogant, narcissistic resistance to self-editing. With the boon of home recording and micro labels that the internet has brought to bear, prolific output in the experimental music world has only increased in recent years. And for some, artistic bursts of creativity may erroneously scan instead as indulgence. This is a shame, for some of the great underground musicians of our time are also some of the hardest-working and consistently rewarding.
Irish folk-drone master David Colohan has worn many hats and assumed many guises over the years, from the dusty guitar minimalism of Agitated Radio Pilot to the collective British classicism of United Bible Studies to the glorious improvisational paint smears of Taskerlands. Raising Holy Sparks however is perhaps his most gentle, melodically-driven project, a gorgeous nest of lingering, melancholy acoustics and wistful, ghostly voices echoing from the ether. There are shimmering moments of chaotic, buzzing drone and swell here, as well, and stirring harmonies that draw from American folk and Sacred Harp music, also proving that Raising Holy Sparks may be Colohan’s most diverse project yet.
Spread across two beautifully-packaged cassettes from the Feathered Coyote label, Era Of Manifestations runs a remarkable gamut, broadening the RHS pallet to include sweet dalliances of free jazz (“Live Bait, Gas, Snacks, Maps, Six Packs & Bear Traps”), staggering Dirty Three-style post-rock (“A Farmland Infinity”), and spectral dronescapes (“‘I Went Southwest. Goodbye…’ [For Lew Welch]”. Also striking are the pieces drawing on American blues, bluegrass and folk, where softly choral voices mingle over delicately plucked banjo and scratchy violin, like listening in on an Appalachian porch-front evening old-time jam. The ability to shift effortlessly and naturally between such highlights as the Sacred Harp pieces and longer ambient workouts like the epic “The Great Bell On Dwelling House Rings, Calling Everyone Home” show a careful craftsmanship that illustrates how much careful consideration this troupe of motley guests put into this mammoth collection.
I’m lucky to have collaborated with Mr. Colohan myself in 2013, and I can say it’s with no trace of bias that I find Era of Manifestations one of the absolute crowning achievements in a long and brilliant sound-making career. Here, as always, Mr. Colohan proves why a younger generation of noise-tinkerers such as myself hold him in such crucial regard. (Zachary Corsa)