Book of Shadows – “Velvet Rut In The Violet Crown” (Ram Horn Records 2013, REORH #041, Cassette)

The latest from Austin, Texas based Book of Shadows is a cassette album jammed packed with well over 80 minutes of music. For this outing we have founders Sharon Crutcher on vocals and acoustic guitar and Carlton Crutcher on keys, aided by BOS regulars Jason Zenmoth on guitar, electronics, recorder and drill, Aaron Bennack on guitar and recorder, Jonathan Horne on guitar and trumpet, and Douglas Ferguson on guitar, bass and electronics.

Side A opens with Ormazd Pt 1, which leaps out guns a blazin’ with dual caterwauling noise guitars and electronics. After a while the guitars transition to a calmer sort of Robert Fripp angst-distortion mode, and as the bass joins in I briefly sense a bit of a mid-70s King Crimson-ish feel, though the overall vibe is very much freeform exploratory sound and atmosphere creation. Around 10 minutes in there’s a dark and moody atmospheric segment that has a narrative feel, but just as this is starting to flow nicely we’re thrust back into the opening theme with the avant-noise guitars flailing about. As this 25 minute piece comes to a close things quiet down considerably, leading into Pt 2, and as the guitar starts to strum we get a cool grooving melody, surrounded by rumbling soundscapes and culminating in an interesting avant-rocker.

Neither Past Nor Future is next and features Sharon playing a dreamy folk-psych melody, and I really dig the contrast with the spacey, noisy soundscapes and effects that are dancing about and whizzing by. Elementals is a relatively short track that closes Side A of the tape, being an eerie, howling atmospheric piece with the first vocals I’ve heard from Sharon yet on this set. I’m writing this the morning after Halloween and the mood really fits. But just as the music gets going it comes to an end. I wish this one been developed into something lengthier.

Side B kicks off with Marching To The 8 Mysteries, which is a deceptively complex floating, hypnotic, spaced out soundscape piece. I like the way we’re lulled along by the melody as various effects drift and/or rush by (and rush backwards). Sharon’s vocals sail along like an angel-witch in the background, and there’s just a wee bit of noise-scape to inject a gentle edginess to the music. There’s a lot going on here and it all flows beautifully. This is the kind of music you can close your eyes and drift along to, but if you listen attentively there’s a huge palette of sound and effects to appreciate. Seventh Ray returns to avant-garde mode, though it’s not as directionless as I felt some of the stuff on Side A was. Once again BOS keep things interesting with their flair for melody and noisy sounds/effects combination, and Sharon’s subtle vocal effects, along with the trumpet, build on the color and character of the piece. Karnak is a minimal and sometimes harsh avant-space-soundscape excursion. Suspended Animation is dominated by dense electronics, Sharon’s banshee vocals, and a tension laden melody, though later transitioning to pure meditative ambience. Finally, the appropriately titled Sing Song is precisely that… a SONG, with Sharon once again on acoustic guitar and vocals with actual lyrics. This is a beautifully haunting bit of pagan/wryd folk-psych and something quite different for BOS.

In summary, there’s a lot of variety on Velvet Rut In The Violet Crown. The album has some of the most avant-experimental music I’ve heard from BOS, and not all of it worked for me on Side A. But the band really shine for much of Side B.

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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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