Voice of the Seven Woods
Voice of The Seven Woods – S/T
(2007, Twisted Nerve)
Voice of The Seven Woods aka Rick Tomlinson is an illusive yet prolific musician from Bolton, This LP however does not sound as if it were born of backwater England: It’s an unabashed ode to a lifetime of record collection. A sonic schema which is diverse yet succinct.
Merging his progressive guitar style with a rustic sonic aesthetic all underpinned by middle eastern structure the album sporadically forays in some grooves and folk. The impression your left with is that Voice of The Seven Woods was written in one sitting, it’s opening notes are the tuning of a guitar before juddering off in one direction then the next, like the mind of an enthusiastic collector building connections between tracks. It nearly appears a trick or mistake that all these elements fall into place without cluttering, but it manages to retain a sense of flow.
The first three tracks are probably the most coherent and rigid, indulging in their middle eastern element and reminiscent of the 60’s experimental rock. Solely instrumental these arrangements heavily featuring sitar, tabla and bongos but the tracks remain driven by the fuzzy yet intricate guitar work. Sand and Flames slowly building on simple rhythmic devices into a pacing and mesmerising opener that sets a precedent for “Sayat Nova”. “The Fire in My Head” begins in the same fashion before slowly morphing into some heavy groove, still utilising the undercurrent of tabla, the guitar layers build and descend into almost abrasively and unruly tones, the point where the album really begins to foray into the reaches of Tomlinson’s diversity.
Perhaps the most rustic track on the album comes in the form of heavily folk-inspired vocal track “Silver Morning Branches”. Although folk elements appear throughout the album; like in opener “sand and flame” and “Valley of the Rocks”, they are really bought to bare here, dissolving almost all traces of the prog and world music instead drifitng into a Nick Drake-esque track. Soft acoustics are ovelayed with the Whispering melodic vocals, his voice comes unexpected after 11 minutes of instrumental and seems distant, out of place.The lyrics are minimal, atmospheric, with more lively cymbal driven breaks and violin bringing the song up before it again falls into the softer tones.
The final track “Dusk Cloud” is a reprisal of “Silver Morning Branches”, with some structural changes, it is slower, heavier and darker, the vocals are less clear and vivid, barely an echo of the central piece of the album.
“Second Transmission” is the most indulgent and deeply psychedelic composition. The first section is played backward leading breaking and leading way to fuzzy electric guitar with pitch changes and distorted feedback, however it’s the ridiculous electric sax solo that really drives this song to the edge of absurdity. “Underwater Journey” carries a similar vein, and the name is fitting, the production is distorted and discordant, the guitar sporadic, the mid and bass warped. Like trying to listen to a live show through a wall, instead of being unintelligible though it actually sounds attentive and true to it’s psychedelic heritage.
The epic pulsations of “Return from Byzantium”, a rolling drum line that builds over 6 minutes of repetition, subtle changes layering before fading, perhaps the most typical track on the album but a very structurally solid one. The haunting penultimate track “The Smoking Furnace” is a solely guitar affair which creates a haunting tapestry while never quite achieving the same vigor as the previous tracks.
Guitar proliferates modern music and this form of experimental album often seems dead in the 21st century but Tomlinson manages to pierce through the monotonous and create a progressive album that in spirit pushes the platform forward. Narrowly avoiding sounding conceived or conceptual the one criticism could be it is clearly very self-indulgent This is no fumble or lucky stab into a broad range of influence, it is focused and thought through, concreted by the subtle production to create an end product is immersive and beautiful.