Exceptional, mind-expanding liturgical opus from Áine O’Dwyer, presented as a kind of celebration of the pipe organ's acoustic capacity to tap into electronic pulses, making for one of the most facinating, absorbing records we've had the pleasure of hearing this year. Huge recommendation if you're into anything from Eliane Radigue to Maja Ratkje to Nikos Mamangakis, or generally for anyone interested in being transported to the sublime...
Sometimes, after guzzling tonnes of processed electronic music, one needs a reminder of acoustic music’s unique fidelities and metaphysical ability to bind and transcend space and time.
Áine O’Dwyer’s properly enchanting Locusts album, originally issued on tape by Fort Evil Fruit in 2016 and now given a necessary vinyl edition by Mark Harwood’s Penultimate Press, is exactly the reminder we all need; a sublime dispatch that was seemingly caught in a massive butterfly net during the Irish artist’s stints in 2015 at St. James’s church, Barrow-in-Furness, England, and the first unitarian congregational society church in Brooklyn Heights, New York.
Leading on from recent roles in experimental folk band United Bible Studies and MIE’s sought-after vinyl pressing of Áine’s modern avant classic, Music For Church Cleaners Vol. I And II (2011, 2015), her latest work serves as a breathtaking, etheric demonstration of why the multi-instrumentalist, singer and dancer is considered one of the most distinctive improvisors and performers of her generation by peers and critics alike.
Drawing on a practice influenced by an Irish catholic childhood - giving an awareness of religious music and church space’s unique acoustics - but equally aware of her pagan side, whilst also combining an instinctive approach to what is usually considered a difficult-to-master instrument, the Harp, with a love of keening, discordant folk laments and studies in fine art, Áine’s music can be heard as an attempt to occupy and consolidate contradictions, positing herself as a sort of conduit for ancient currents which lie at the edge of perception, waiting for someone like her to hyperstitiously bring to life.
Áine presents that idea literally and metaphorically in the LP’s incredible Psychopomp - from Greek, meaning “the guide of souls” - where she executes a transition from quivering, sylvan organ tones and siren-like vocals into abyssal, frightening bass drones, cannily using the church’s unique spatial settings - originally realised to put you in your place - to ironically remove us somewhere completely other and wonderfully introspective.
That sense of intangible yet intoxicating space and spirit is manifest in myriad other way’s, too; from the way the low rumble of distant traffic serves to underline and detach from the organ’s spectral voice in opener Sleigh Bells Descend, or the way in which the overtones of Alter Boy and Interruption become reinforced to a choking yet lush sensuality, or how she makes the church groan like cthulhu in a way that could hardly be recreated by modern electronic plugins on Machine Drum; persistently and playfully short-circuiting or inverting conventions to the ends of a heart-rending melancholy and feminine pressure resulting from her own unique energy translated thru huge metal pipes and imposing physical space.
It’s a completely enveloping record, we're still reeling from it's relentless grip.