Black Happy Day, a collaboration between Lycia's Tara Vanflower and Stone Breath's Timothy Renner, blends elements of both artists' work into something of a folk/ambient/experimental hybrid. On their full-length debut, In the Garden of Ghostflowers, the duo share vocal duties atop a diverse framework that is sometimes sparse and stark while at other times dense, often due to sound processing, and layered. The disc's production is well done, taking liberty with experimentation and spatial layout while often retaining a low-key, organic air that serves the material well.
Of the disc's eleven tracks, it should be noted that four (namely "The Leaves of Life", "Edward", "A Lyke Wake Dirge", and "Be Thou My Vision") are traditional songs, albeit usually with slightly more experimental modern arrangements that take full advantage of technology through the use of sound processing, particularly delay and reverb. These four are largely guitar/banjo/dulcimer/vocal-oriented folk tunes, the haunting "Edward" arguably being the most impressive and "The Leaves of Life" standing out for it's delay-effected, layered a cappella delivery.
Vanflower and Renner's original compositions encompass similar folk offerings (the disc's title track, the catchy highlight "Hand in Hand", and the short and quirky "How They Weep and Moan!", featuring layered wailing from Vanflower). However, they also expand into more experimental/ambient territory, the nearly-10-minute "How Many Hours 'Til the Spider's Work is Done?", blending processed string drones and spacious layered male and female vocals, coming close to bridging the gap between the disc's two styles. Of the album's more sonically adventurous outings, "Wolf & Hare" is arguably the most interesting, a running water backdrop with more musical ambient elements and layered and processed spoken word vocals melting into a sparser guitar-driven dirge. "Of the Wind and Loneliness" is also notable, if only for the fact that its music box-esque lullaby delivery sounds like nothing else on the disc.
Combining differing styles and songs spanning centuries yet managing to work them into a nearly seamless album, Black Happy Day have managed to construct a work that serves its folk roots well with a highly organic sound while also incorporating a fairly heavy amount of sonic experimentation. Those simply here for the folk side may find the disc's several lengthy ambient/experimental outings a bit hard to swallow, but ambient/ethereal fans with a penchant for dark folk music should give Black Happy Day's impressive debut a listen.
Silber Records website: www.silbermedia.com
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