Book Of Shadows – “…and then we all
(Ethedrone Muzac 2007)
From Aural Innovations #36 (May 2007)
The fourth Book Of Shadows release sees the band continue to evolve. The first Book of Shadows CD, Hanged Man, featured an enjoyable set of trippy melodic songs (see AI #26). IndigoM consisted of a single 52 minute guitar and electronics exploration (see AI #31). And Mantis followed a similar path, with more stretched out space electronic soundscape voyages (see AI #32).
One thing that struck me right away about the new album is the band have grown to 7 members. Joining Carlton (also a founder of ST 37) and Sharon Crutcher are Lori Varga on Theremin and keyboards, Douglas Ferguson on keyboards and electronics, Aaron Bennack on guitar (haven’t seen his name since the first album), Erich Ragsdale on synthesizer and Jonathan Horne on guitar.
Well… having heard three of the band’s albums so far I must say this new one took me completely by surprise. Book Of Shadows have really matured, having created a set of ambient space music that transcends the typical conception of the genre. In fact, I hate to label these guys at all. So let me try to describe the music…..
“Clouds In My Eyes” opens the set and is sombre, melancholy, yet beautifully melodic. It’s got a gorgeous deep space vibe and there’s a section with a keyboard sound that’s like a blend of mellotron and flute that I loved, and combined with Sharon’s space whispers makes for a seductively entrancing and meditative listening experience. Like a mixture of early Tangerine Dream and Gong, yet in a more contemporary ambient style. “Waving Hands” is a more purely ambient/soundscape piece. It incorporates some experimental elements, being adventurous but not straying too far into the avant-garde. Lots happening and a dedicated headphones listen will reveal a banquet of sonic treats. “Vulcan” is a relatively short track but has some nice subtly jamming guitar that injects an Ash Ra Tempel vibe into the music. “Malkuth” takes a turn into freakier space, with fun bleepy electronics, but with an almost jazz like vibe to the guitar and more of Sharon’s space whispery vocalizations. A really nice combination of contrasts that work together so sweetly. The title track gets even more freaky, being a deep space electronic exploration that is part avant-garde space, part sci fi film soundtrack, and also reminiscent of some of wilder interludes on Hawkwind’s Space Ritual, as well as veteran hometaper Hal McGee’s spacier work. “Music For Cocoon Bearing Insects and Animals Part 2” further investigates space/soundscape/sound-art territory, reminding me of early Alien Planetscapes. It’s quiet and calm, yet elusively complex, lulling the listener into dreamland, yet all the while adding ingredients… taste… add some spice… a dash of this, a dash of that… taste again… “Crunklin” is similar, but also brings in guitar, space whispers and drones. “The Nomination of Numeration” examines similar realms, but with more of an avant-garde spaced out sound-art feel. And the nearly 16 minute “The Fallen Architecture of Pompei” is perhaps the most purely space ambient piece of the set. It’s completely in calm, contemplative space, yet still has the sense of adventure that Music For Cocoon has. An excellent closing track.
In summary, ambient/soundscape fans who crave more action are in for a real treat with this album. Likewise, I would encourage space rock fans who don’t normally go for the mellow stuff to check this out. There’s lots going on that is tough to describe. But Book Of Shadows manage to be space ambient while still creating instrumentals that really take off and sometimes have a song quality. They do a fantastic job of developing their themes. Recommended.
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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz