A Year in the Country’s Artifacts Shop opened on the first of January, setting out to uncover one “artifact” a day for the entire year. In focusing on “the bucolic countryside dream”, the site has already championed The Advisory Circle, Folklore Tapes and Electric Eden, along with many less-known bits of art and ephemera; but it is also a source of new music, which it delivers in beguiling fashion: string-bound, with extras such as mirrors, badges, and booklets. Doineann and Torridor Gate are two of the latest releases, available in Day, Night, Dawn and Dusk editions. One imagines such editions being buried in time capsules or cemented in stone walls for future generations to mull over: sedimentary layers of history.
United Bible Studies is no stranger to the folklore format, as the collective has always demonstrated a fascination with ancient sounds. Names familiar to this site include David Colohan, Richard Moult and Michael Tanner. As usual, the collective presents a mixture of intricate instrumentals and Maypole-esque vocal works. The singers waft through the speakers like passing madrigals, here for a moment and then gone, disappearing from their own tracks for minutes at a time. But the instrumentals make the greatest impression, especially the ten-minute title track, itself worth the price of admission. Plucked strings and drones are joined by what may be a hurdy-gurdy. When the horns and snares enter, one imagines sprites in the woods. And the thirteen-minute “Halo”, which begins as a vocal piece, surrenders to the call of the the wild in its final 7:30, ending with a lovely two-minute coda.
Torridon Gate is a different beast, essentially a manipulated field recording of a garden gate. But what a gate! After hearing these sounds, I wistfully thought of my own house gate, devoid of history or even sound, a thoroughly modern, white plastic piece connected to a white plastic fence. Will later generations excavate this gate and marvel at its construction and workmanship? Doubtful. The Torridon Gate is a sonic symbol of a time and place, preserved by Howlround as a reminder not only of durable things, but of durable memories. Few would recognize this as a field recording; it comes across as an experimental electronic piece, haunted by echo and hum. The expected creaks are present, yet in these recordings, one can also hear ghosts. Disregard the human voices and listen to the background; there are murmurings in the drones. If one’s gate sounded like this, would one venture outside to close it? Perhaps not. But one’s gate does sound like this; we’re simply unable to hear it. This is the whole point of the Artifacts Shop: to uncover what is veiled, even if it remains beyond our comprehension. (Richard Allen)