| Artist: Sieben|
CD Title: Ogham Inside the Night (and Sex and Wildflowers)
Reviewer: Matt Johnson
Of the new generation of dark folk performers, In Gowan Ring’s B’eirth and Sieben’s Matt Howden are perhaps the most unique. While their two styles share a number of similarities, including a focus on European paganism rather than Nazi Occultism and traditional acoustic instrumentation rather than studio-enhanced noise, there’s also an important difference. While B’eirth creates dizzying, sound-drenched atmospheres with numerous layers of instruments, Howden is much more focused in terms of both his songwriting and his arrangements, which are built almost exclusively around the violin. As he proves on his latest album, it’s an approach that allows him to create a unique and evocative sound without sacrificing accessibility. While Howden is not above modern technology, recording multiple violin tracks for a single song to add weight to otherwise sparse arrangements, the songs on “Ogham Inside the Night” (a reference to the Druidic alphabet of trees) still have an indisputably organic and timeless feel that is enhanced by his idiosyncratic phraseology and archaic vocabulary. This becomes even more apparent on his previous album “Sex and Wildflowers,” which has been reissued with bonus tracks as part of this double-CD set. Utilizing European plant life as metaphor for human sexuality, the music is so drenched in references to old folk wisdom that a book of medieval herb-lore is almost a necessity to interpret them fully. Sieben’s music, however, is less about specificity than creating a sense of place, and his layered fiddle and northern English croon does that perfectly. If you want to hear the future of apocalyptic folk, these albums are mandatory listening.
Bone up on your worts, roots and leaves and visit www.matthowden.com
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