United Bible Studies - "The Jonah"
(Camera Obscura 2008 CAM-084)
From Aural Innovations July 2009 update
For at least the last ten or so years, Camera Obscura has been a reliable source for some of the darker sounds in folk music, and Ireland's United Bible Studies is yet another interesting offering. The album's pervasive theme of cold crisp climactic extremes is often evoked by effects, as well as the standard dreary acoustic guitar, such as in the intro "The Swallowing". The title track follows and is an odd suite of tunes spanning sixteen minutes: an atmosphere dominated by mandolin, fiddle and accordion segues into an eerie harmonica and doomy fx interlude... and from there to somber group balladry detailing survival in harsh arctic wasteland... and then to a pleasant upbeat rock passage before the piece ultimately gives way to heavy down-tuned doom/death-metal riffs and growl-shriek. "Veil Song" is a really sweet folk ditty featuring some pretty keys and one of the male vocalists (though he strains a bit to hit that lowest register). "The Lowlands of Holland" utilizes the unmistakable voice of Sharon Kraus in a duet. There's a very crisp production of all the sounds on this album, even when the pieces become more layered. A welcoming haven of warmth, "Skelly's Fireplace" is a happy, heavenly tune of mandolin and accordion, though far too brief at barely over one minute. "Death In the Arctic" is a really beautiful work. The accordion (or is it harmonica?) plays the lead melody and the singer echoes Irish-inflected voice, with which the intrusive yet almost harmonious effects and cacophonous use of squeaking instruments and screeching wah-guitar achieve a kind of strained symbiosis (If you took a lot of the rock elements from some of Neutral Milk Hotel's work, you might get something similar in spirit). What a closer!
For more information you can visit the United Bible Studies web site at: http://www.myspace.com/unitedbiblestudies
Visit the Camera Obscura label web site at: http://www.cameraobscura.com.au
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg