Alphane Moon - "The Echoing Grove"
(Camera Obscura 1999, CAM019CD)
From Aural Innovations #7 (July 1999)
Alphane Moon are the Welsh duo of Dafydd Roberts and his partner Ruth, who sometimes also record under the name "Our Glassie Azoth." The tracks from 'Grove' were recorded in 1994, released sporadically in small cassette runs, then an obscure 1996 US LP release, and now finally a CD release on (Ptolemaic Terrascope associate) Tony Dale's Camera Obscura label in Oz. There is no evidence of any bass guitar or percussion, the music usually carried along by multiple effects-laden guitar lines, incidental sounds, and occasional vocals.
The trend from cleaner, happier sounds at the outset towards a more disturbing atonal character in later tracks is unmistakable. I don't necessarily prefer one over the other, but in this case the cleaner tracks are the ones I strongly prefer. And that's because "Circle of Four" and "To Almadine" are both very original compositions, effectively applying massive amounts of looping echoed guitars and space-battle sound effects. A dab of eerie gliss tops off a very exciting sonic stew. Fans of the solo period Ash Ra Tempel (e.g., 'Inventions' and 'Private Tapes') should really catch on to this music. With "A Closed Gate," the duo offer what seems like a traditional Welsh folk song corrupted by recording it through an oscillating fan. Here, the heavy fuzz guitar makes its first appearance, and this will become the dominant sound throughout the remaining four tracks. And so "Lunadial" is a long, fuzzed out excursion with too many shrill effects for my tastes. The pretty folk music returns again in "Reap a Field of Light," but then part two is another lengthy fuzz-fest, this time helped along by respites of the cleaner, echo-guitar and swirly madness. To say it's psychedelic would be quite the understatement.
This is crazy stuff, and I agree that it should have been given a wider voice than it was originally offered. But the music can get a little distracting, and is not always easy to absorb. So I'd warn against listening to Alphane Moon while on any mind-altering substances... this music is enough to alter your mind on its own.
For more information you can visit the Camera Obscura web site.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson