PARADISE OF BACHELORS 17 February 2017
Pedal harmonium is not the most usual lead instrument for an album but then James Fennelly is not the most usual composer. Known for solo work, he has gathered here collaborators to create an incantation of synthesisers, drone, beating heartbeat pulses and nature magic. Beware: This one is likely to put you in a trance.
I’m reminded of all sorts of things at moments but none endure throughout, leaving this its own being. There is a splash of Philip Glass, a bit of early Kraftwerk, some Tangerine Dream, Harry Partch and his invented instruments, Anthony & the Johnsons, and it opens with a flavour of poor Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Nights. That opening track sees sawing fiddle sounds, drone and drum, cycling over and over before fading to synth rising and falling, wave-like. Moving on, synth and martial drums portend something – the something being the revival of the sound of side two of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album. Measured, stately, product of a dream, meaning only its own atmosphere. Philip Glass-isms appear in the vocals, bag-piping drone sounds appear, harmonium see-saws – you’d better like the long-form drone – I do.
Instruments like singing bowls become part of the esoteric sound and textures are rich and enveloping. They add a depth of colour to the tracks Fennelly laid down on harmonium and synth over two weeks in an American wilderness. Later, throbbing synths accompany a joyful female vocal and chiming triangle. Grand sounds and choruses lift things upwards. Chirping crickets appear and disappear. By the end, the album is less Krautrock and more a stasis-exploration of the folk-meets-electronics interface with added hypnosis, maybe even hyp-gnosis. A scarcely moving reflection on drones past and present – the line from the Indian Pump Harmonium to the analogue synthesiser. Different tool, same result, a warm and fuzzy gathering into an eternal present.