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Fovea Hex  'The Salt Garden 3' 10'' + CDEP

Fovea Hex 'The Salt Garden 3' 10'' + CDEP




The Salt Garden 3 is the final word, and the concluding instalment to the critically lauded The Salt Garden Trilogy. Issued in 3 standard editions; 10 inch vinyl + CD, CD only, and Digital Download. This is the standard edition 10'' + CDEP.

The core ensemble of Clodagh Simonds, Michael Begg, Colin Potter, Cora Venus Lunny and Kate Ellis is joined by special guests Guido Zen, and the Medazza and Dote Moss choirs.

There is a 5 minute sample here :

Review from Brainwashed :

This third installment of Fovea Hex’s excellent "The Salt Garden" trilogy brings the series to a close on an unexpectedly uplifting note, as Clodagh Simonds' ensemble transform their signature haunting and meditative hymnals into joyous, light-filled ones.  Much like its predecessor, however, The Salt Garden III has also been released in an expanded edition with some bonus remixes.  In this case, however, the remixes are a track-for-track reimagining of the entire EP by Headphone Dust's Steven Wilson.  In essence, that offers two significantly different versions of the same EP, as the Wilson remixes take these four songs in a more shadow-shrouded and meditative direction akin to the previous EPs.  Naturally, both are a delight, as Fovea Hex is a project like no other, occupying an enchanted and timeless realm of sublime, organic beauty.

 As with all Fovea Hex releases, the beating heart of The Salt Garden III is Clodagh Simonds' voice, as her simple, lovely melodies float over understated, minimal musical backdrops to evoke something akin to an ancient Druidic ceremony in a forest clearing.  This time around, however, Simonds is joined by a pair of choral ensembles (the Dote Moss Choir and the Medazza Choir) to occasionally expand those melodies into harmonically lush and joyous crescendos.  The opening "The Land's Alight" is the definitive statement in that vein, as it begins as a chant-like, minor key reverie over a gently shimmering bed of synthesizer drones.  Around the midpoint, however, the tone completely transforms and Simonds' voice is joined by a mass chorus for a radiant crescendo brimming with light and simple joy.  Objectively, it feels like the EP's clear centerpiece, but I am personally more drawn to the record's darker second half, as I have never been the target demographic for beatific rapture or radiance.  Bridging those divergent moods is a lovely and delicate instrumental piece ("Trisamma") that highlights Cora Venus Lunny's darkly sensuous strings.

The more melancholy half of the EP begins with "A Million Fires," which is another choir-centric piece, though its heavy harmonium drones and majestic tone imbue it with a bit more gravitas than "The Land's Alight."  In fact, it almost feels like an elegy, but there is an undercurrent of hopefulness that gives it an ambiguous and bittersweet feel that resonates more deeply with me than pure light or pure darkness would have.  The closing "The Given Heat" initially creeps into far more seething and haunted territory, but it has more complicated emotions lurking in its core as well, as it organically swells into warm, ascending crescendos as it unfolds.  More than any other piece on the EP, "The Given Heat" is where it most strongly feels like all of the individual components of Fovea Hex seamlessly come together in fluid harmony, as structures effortlessly dissolve and eerie synth tones quaver and dissolve in the periphery like flickering ghosts.  Like all of the other pieces, it feels like a glimpse into an imagined past, but twists that aesthetic by presenting it more like a precarious dream with some very dark shadows gnawing at the edges.       

The Salt Garden III is another characteristically fine release in Fovea Hex's near-flawless discography.  To my ears, the first two Salt Garden EPs featured stronger songs and more memorable hooks, but the final EP's shift towards mood and atmosphere casts its own kind of lovely spell.  More importantly, the fundamental beauty of this project has always lied in its overall aesthetic rather than in the craftsmanship of any individual songs and that remains true.  When Simonds and her collaborators are at their best, it uncannily feels like they are vessels through which imagined ancient folk songs are being soulfully and supernaturally channeled.   Anthony D'Amico


Review from Textura :

Since its 2005 formation, Fovea Hex's output has been modest, totaling as it does an initial trilogy of EPs, Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent, the 2008 full-length Here Is Where We Used To Sing, and a second group of EPs collected under the title The Salt Garden Trilogy. Following the release of the latter's initial parts in 2016 and 2017, the concluding installment is now with us, and it's safe to say it'll be received with as much rapture as its predecessors. At four songs and twenty-two minutes, the release is, like the group's discography, modest, but it's every bit Fovea Hex at its most quintessential.

The outfit remains the brainchild of Irish singer Clodagh Simonds (vocals, keyboards, rhythm beds), but the contributions of Michael Begg (vocals, rhythm beds), Cora Venus Lunny (violin, viola), and Kate Ellis (cello) on the group's music shouldn't be overlooked, nor should those by guests Guido Zen (rhythm beds, beats), Medazza ( Martin and Parvin Branch, Damien Byrne, Ed Kady, Rachel Lacey, Brigid Madden, Bernie Smith), and The Dote Moss Choir (Max Jones and friends). Still, no matter how many individuals are involved in a typical Fovea Hex production, the ensemble's signature element is Simonds' stirring voice. Issued on Steven Wilson's Headphone Dust label, the EP comes in three standard editions, in download, CD, and ten-inch vinyl (with the CD) formats; a limited special edition is also available that features a bonus CD containing four Wilson remixes.

As always, the group's songs defy easy categorization, weaving together as they do folk, electronica, drones, and pop into intimate, incandescent wholes; the one thing of which one can be certain is that the music will intoxicate. “The Land's Alight” initiates the EP on a mesmerizing note with chanted vocals wrapped in a lustrous electronic swirl; after that intro, voices swell for choir-like expressions emphatically delivered, and the instrumental design likewise grows in stature when radiant elements flicker atop a bass undercurrent. In contrast to the fullness of the opener's arrangement, the plaintive instrumental “Trisamma” opts for a restrained chamber orchestral-styled wedding of doleful strings and reverb-drenched piano. Choir vocal resources return for “A Million Fires,” this time the harmonium-driven music more drone-like than the opener and, though I might be mistaken, Brian Eno's voice seems to be one of the many included in the performance; though synthesizers whistle through the arrangements upper sphere, the piece is as timeless a folk drone as might be imagined. At EP's close, “The Given Heat” caps the release with an incantation that proves especially haunting in pairing Simonds's vocal with an ethereal, strings-enhanced backdrop.

Does The Salt Garden 3 signify a major change in style and approach from previous Fovea Hex releases? Not in the slightest, though that in no way should be construed as a criticism. Here's that rare case where the group and its music benefits from hewing to a course already set, and it would be hard to imagine anyone entranced by the group's earlier output not having the same response to this latest chapter.

December 2019


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