As the natural heir to This Mortal Coil, Fovea Hex is a collaborative effort that produces sacred-toned music in both the vocal and instrumental fields. Thanks to a measured release pace, the group tends to fall off the radar every few years, only to resurface with a quiet vengeance. This pace mirrors the story of lead singer Clodagh Simonds, who vanished from the public’s eye for nearly two decades after making a splash on Mike Oldfield’s early albums. Fovea Hex makes music when it’s good and ready, and now is the time.
As has been the case with previous releases, The Salt Garden 1 is the first EP of a trilogy. Also following this template is a limited edition remix disc, which sold out on pre-order; a shame as Steven Wilson’s dismantling of key track “Solace” deserves a wider audience. For now, latecomers will have to be satisfied with the admittedly lovely original piece, a languid instrumental work that makes great use of silence and space, its strings careful yet not tentative, soft but not weak, teetering on the fine line between ambience and modern composition.
The other members of the “core ensemble” ~ Michael Begg (electronics and other instruments), Colin Potter (electronics), Laura Sheeran (vocals), Cora Venus Lunny (violin) and Kate Ellis (cello) ~ continue to participate, joined by Justin Grounds (violin), although the spaces between artists are blurred. This smudged effect distinguishes Fovea Hex from other like-minded groups; the otherworldly quality of the music removes even the vocal tracks from the tethers of time. The oldest EPs (recorded a decade ago) still don’t sound as if they are from that decade, and we suspect the new music will age well as well.
“The Golden Sun Rises Upon the World Again” is the most memorable track, and certainly boasts the best title, reminiscent of Dead Can Dance. On the surface, it’s a vocal track, yet underpinned by music so subtle and stretched that it would never grace the popular charts. The template is repeated on the subsequent vocal pieces, culminating in the closing minute of “The Undone Mother,” which references industrial music without raising its pulse. Still, it’s best to play the EP as a whole, and to wonder what surprises the group will unveil in the other installments. These productions are always worth the wait; our advice to readers is to get on the mailing list immediately so as not to miss the next bonus disc. (Richard Allen)