Of Thread & Mist ~ Static Hymns to No One

Gizeh Records may be located in the U.K., but Static Hymns to No One seems like the perfect selection for Inauguration Day in the U.S.  The music is mournful and melancholic, an elegy for all that has been lost and much that will never return. And yet, like “We Do Not Sulk in Shadows Of Unbelief” (from Gizeh’s 2020 compilation We Hovered With Short Wings), it is also reflective and resolute.  The world has been through so much lately that light seems in short supply; yet in the deepest darkness, the smallest light can be seen.

Of Thread & Mist is a fitting phrase for ephemeral, loop-based work.  This is the new moniker of Richard Knox, no stranger to these pages under various guises.  Recorded during the pandemic, Static Hymns to No One is both a reflection of and music for quarantine.  The very title is at war with itself, implying that no one is upstairs and that we’re going to ask for help anyway, because we can’t be sure.  “Grace and Truth Perish” is like the lamentation of Job, seeking an explanation for his suffering (spoiler alert: two entities made a bet); or Ecclesiastes, lamenting the unheard cries of the oppressed.  The choral elements, coupled with the sense of yearning, make it a hymn.

From the early minutes, certain sounds struggle to break through.  Robert Plant once asked, “Does anybody remember laughter?”  Richard Knox seems to ask, “Does anybody remember truth?”  The rising strings seem to indicate progress and hope, until we remember that they are looping, never moving forward in real time.  This is an astonishingly gorgeous track, captivating throughout its eighteen-minute span; but the other piece is nearly twice as long.  The title “A Face Full of Drunken Ticks” is far less elegant, but the music remains so.  More peaceful than its predecessor, the piece has over half an hour to unfurl.  At first it seems resigned, but after a while, it starts to accumulate strength just by the fact that it’s still going ~ a possible parable in the works.  The payoff comes in the closing minutes, as the track refuses to end, like a person fighting for his life on a ventilator, a democracy holding on for dear life, a generation of multi-cultural youth insisting that better days will come.  Time and time again, the track seems to be over, but it’s not, it’s not, it’s not, and even when it finally is, we continue to hear the echoes in our minds; it’s made a case for longevity and won our admiration.

And so, as we await an inauguration, a vaccine, a new trade deal, or simply the ability to hug each other, let’s cling to our hope as we sing our static hymns.  (Richard Allen)

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