Gnome & Spybey
I love Mark Spybey’s work, full stop. I have since before I knew it was his, when he opened for the Pink Dots the first time I saw them. After having my third eye thoroughly squeegeed (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Hicks), I ran to the merch booth to find out who that laconic gearhead with the sublimely melancholic sounds was, and Dead Voices On Air became a regular part of my musical life. In the past few years, I’ve been taken not only with the creative renaissance Spybey seems to be experiencing as DVOA (by all means check 2010’s From Afar All Stars Spark And Glee if you haven’t as of yet), but also his collaborations with Tony D’Oporto, AKA Gnome. That creative pairing returns for a third LP on Michael Morton’s Crime League imprint.
Spybey’s work at a member of Zoviet France and Download, in addition to his solo output as DVOA, speaks for itself beyond the scope of this review. There’s no mistaking Three‘s proximity to DVOA (indeed it dovetails closer with that project’s recent work than either of the earlier Gnome collabs), but that closer attunes the listener’s ear to the subtle differences. It’s very difficult to pin down what Gnome brings to the equation, but I can say that despite sounding just as airy and deep as his latter-era work as DVOA, Three (not unlike the At Willie’s Place/Beyond Willie’s Place records before it) has less of a melancholy mood. It still has that aching, wondrous sense of the sublime, but with a more guileless, quixotic naïveté.
The sounds which burble up from restrained atmospheres often seem to be engaging in a fumbling self exploration, discovering their own timbres and frequencies, as on “Dreamed Of Being A River”. There are also minimal interludes, restrained and bound by their own uncertainty, with wounded strings eking forward with pained steps. These moments of clumsiness or withholding, alternately charming and evocative, only serve to bolster the record’s later moments of sublime confidence. The (very Coil-sounding) second passage of “The Murmur of the Rivers Mouth” adopts an almost sacred mood, where Spybey’s voice emerges for the first time, repeatedly intoning “And I stand with empty hands in the murmur of the river’s mouth”. This declaration of openness, of self-assured surrender, feels like nothing short of a vindication or benediction.
Though calm throughout, Three is an arresting experience. Like last year’s X-TG releases, this is a record which politely yet firmly asks you to set aside any other activities you might have planned, and even if you don’t initially acquiesce, has subtle magicks which will wrest earthy pursuits from your hands and send your soul off in search of deeper concerns. Spring is here, Albion is renewed. Hallelujah.