Hen Ogledd - Mogic - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hen Ogledd - Mogic

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-11-16
Hen Ogledd - Mogic
Hen Ogledd - Mogic

All change!

With those words, Peter Gabriel announced the mid-song dynamic metamorphosis of the acoustic intro of the band’s masterpiece “Supper’s Ready” into the grandeur of British prog rock’s greatest epic journey.

And speaking of Peter Gabriel, the song “Problem Child” is a dead-ringer for his sound, circa “Shock the Monkey.” And because PG hasn’t exactly been overly generous with new material of late, this tune is a welcome reminder why we all loved that ex-Genesis guy who really doesn’t do much anymore.

But, yeah, all change, because, this is a band that includes Richard Dawson, he of weird folk music fame. Of course, he sheds the solo spotlight to show the talents of band co-founder Rhodri Davies (guitar, harp), Sally Pilkington (vocals), Dawn Bothwell (electronics), and guest Will Guthrie (percussion).

It all starts with a bit of a horn sound. That’s always a nice thing. There’s a wah-wah guitar, a few electronics, and a latent and processed vocal. The piano dances in the background. It’s all very impressionistic, and well, folky.

Odd.

“Sky Burial” is prog music with female choral voices with a catchy melody. But trust me, this was not the expectation, what with the name Hen Ogledd, which, when translated from Welsh, means Old North. I really expected more folk music stuck in thick amber right next to the Sphecomyrmodes robustus (a fossilized ant) and a few fluffy dinosaur feathers. This music, in a way, is ages old, yet is ages young and quite vibrant.

Odd, again, with the before-mentioned “Problem Child: Peter Gabriel sound-a-like tune. PG’s first album was promoted with the sales pitch, Expect the unexpected. Ditto for this record.

Odd, yet again, as “First Date” becomes percussion and piano precise, with more lovely female vocals. Various electronic sounds burble under the tribal dancefloor. And this is magical old English music that somehow manages to twist itself into our modern world. I think that’s the point of this music.

There is, perhaps, a kinship with the equally eclectic music from the sadly long-gone band, Rip Rig & Panic. Also, new bands like Goat share ritualist intent.

And then, odd even more: more: “Gwae Reged o Heddiw” begins with a few whispers and a child’s voice echoing those words, an organ duets with electronic sounds, and the tune ends…only to be followed by “Dyma Fy Robot” with a distorted guitar and chanted vocals, crazy sounds of electronics, and off-kilter percussion. This is brief interlude stuff.

And just when the cauldron has enough eye of newt and toe of frog, “Tiny Witch Hunters” bubbles with helium vocals (and an irresistible melody), more tribal percussion, a few honks from a saxophone, and Richard Dawson’s melodic bass. So, yeah, throw in wool of bat and tongue of dog, with a pinch of an adder’s fork and blind worm’s sting into the hell broth and get the resulting tune, “Transport Travel,” which grooves along with blunted horns, male and female vocals, crazed percussion, tribal bass guitar, the entire and sad history of mankind, and heavenly electronics. It’s a lovely farrago that is brush-stroked on a rock ‘n’ roll musical canvas.

Then there is “Welcome to Hell.” A pounding rhythm drives the swirling vocal, and a piercing guitar plays its rock ‘n’ roll soul that echoes ancient medieval Hollows Eve fears that touch the dead and laugh at the living. Again, I think this is the point of this music.

“Etheldreda” ends with a beautiful cathedral hymn and celestial vocals, church choir organ, gentle percussion, and one heck of a heavenly bandage of secular sacramental harmony.

By the way, the band’s ethos wants to “challenge the idea that the ancient world was rife with magic, while the new is infiltrated with cold logic.”

I have to admit, initially, I wanted more of the Peter Gabriel stuff. I even contemplated getting literary and quoting Dickens about the best of times and the worst of times. “Problem Child,” of course, was the good stuff, and the rest was, well, the worst of times. But was wrong. I mean, this is a weird record that circles history with an odd coil of sounds. But, truly, give this one a lot of attention. There are so many wonderful nuances in this music. Revelation takes time. Heck, Genesis’ epic “Supper’s Ready” (which is about The Book of Revelation) took about twenty-five vinyl minutes.

Sometimes it simply requires a Brit Rail guy to yell, “All change!” to poke up a sleepy rider onto a different train, an unfamiliar train, a train, or for that matter, a record album, that transports the traveler on a new journey that always ends, ironically, in an equally wonderful and very old and very warm familiar place. And I think that is, indeed, the point of this music.

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