5 Oct 2016
Susan Matthews - From Veliko
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Welsh musician Susan Matthews has been recording and releasing essential and experimental works of wonder and dark beauty for over a decade now. Deeply atmospheric and evocative mood pieces, Matthews’ work is almost unclassifiable and often otherworldly yet equally seems to hinge on and tap into something deeply human, something familiar and recognisable. ‘Before I Was Invisible’, her recent collaboration with Rainier Lericolais on the Wild Silence label was a quiet gemstone of an album. 'From Veliko' is a similar subdued but powerful treasure, inspired by recent visit to Veliko Tarnovo (the medieval capital of Bulgaria); Matthews recounts “most days I wandered to The Monument Of The Assens. I sat and contemplated the old town across the Yantra river, where the ‘hanging houses’ cling precariously to the steep hillside, some are literally crumbling and sliding towards the river below. This seeming fragility is reflected in both the music & lyrics I composed for this project ‘The Road From Veliko’ is also a metaphor for a psychological journey - from the darkness of depression back towards the light.”
Beginning with the piano hymnal of 'The Road from Veliko (Part One)', we are immediately drawn into a world of shadows, of reverberated, descending notes and backwards voices and tapes. Both paradoxically calming and unsettling, the sheer impact of the piece is evidenced by the hold it has on the listener; the outside world ceases and the music becomes all there is. This is no ambient, background work; these tracks are entirely immersive and demand your full attention and involvement. Matthews' fragile voice recounts 'these things they are inside me, inside my dreams and in my mind…' as the piano gradually stops, leaving her alone observing 'the darkness descends...descends'. It is a heart stopping moment. 'A Room Of Lights' follows, a processional organ piece framing Matthews' text as she recounts her travels and the transformational effects that they have upon her. There is almost something sacred about this work, it feels like a surrender to something bigger, some supernatural experience that can only be conjured in hushed, solemn terms. The piece is also a work of great beauty and stillness, one can easily imagine that those who love the music of such contemporaries as Richard Skelton, Michael Begg and James Leyland Kirby will find much to admire here. The EP/mini album finishes with the vast, cavernous dronescape of ‘St Paul In The Yantra', an echoing chamber piece of spoken word vocals and wintry waves of strings, combining to hugely evocative and moving effect.
You almost have to draw breath after the album finished, this listener suddenly realised that he had been holding his, hanging on every note. There is genuine power held in these songs, quiet and drifting as they are; they have an intensity that is bewitching and all encompassing. This is music for the liminal hours, for dawn or dusk, for candlelight. Highly recommended, this album deserves your close attention.
Available below to download on a name your price basis or as a physical CD from Siren Wire.