A mandala, sparks from a fire sending messages to the sky, and a known and beloved trail in the woods are the images one encounters upon opening the new Fearthainne album. This is what someone would miss if they would merely listen to this over the Internet. Surely, the music could still be appreciated, but the intent, the reason this exists, will be somewhat astray. These three images would not do the music justice, nor allow the listener to comprehend alone what this is. Still, hold the idea of these images in your head; allow them to sink in, to recognize that this is an Eco-psychological endeavor. What is pertinent here is for the listener, and reader of these words, is to recognize that this is an aptly titled medicinal musical ™, Chet Scott’s term for his various endeavors, and collaborator on this album as well.
We have lost something, a thing which is hard to identify, perhaps transcending any definition in itself. What is happening in our world is no fairy tale, nor mere ‘Fern Gully‘ type of tearjerker. We are talking about our loss of life, This thing that we all too easily forget was gifted to us through insurmountable odds from a universe that went through seemingly impossible changes to manifest the world we call home. Somehow, I think it is just as important, if not much more so, For this to be understood. The music is secondary, and let it be known when I say “we” that this is our collective message. My words on this album, Fearthainne’s message, which I hope my words will do justice, are about this predicament that we are in. What makes Fearthainne so incredibly important is that this is not music created for mere entertainment value; these are carefully crafted acoustic pieces to signify the despondent loss deep within our bones, a fear beyond words.
Anamnesis may be the shortest track that Joshua, also known for his works with Fauna and Echtra, has ever done. At five minutes, it largely relies on a dulcimer and a recording of Dr. Reginald A. Ray, a prominent American Buddhist teacher. It serves as a intro to the rest of the album, introducing the listener to a primal origin within the music itself. Anamnesis, and this is a brief explanation which will have to suffice, is an idea from Plato that we are already born with all the knowledge, we just have to remember it. This concept, of remembering, of returning to the origin, is a fitting opening for such an album.
Knowing, on the other hand, is past the forty minute mark, traditional for Joshua’s works. Certainly some key ingredients are to be found here, for the main composer is known for lengthy songs, arpeggios, trance like repetition, and the despair of seeing the dissolving of our connection with the Earth. Lina adds a soft voice that balances Joshua’s gruff vocals, somewhat reminiscent of Steve Von Till and a mountain goat. Her warmth is the offering of hope admits the despair, a mother’s love which the picture on the back reveals is highly accurate. This small life is buried in a blanket and listening to the sound of her mother’s internal drum, the beating of her heart. Rounded out by Jonny, who often accompanies Joshua on his musical adventures, and the noble Chet Scott, this is quite the lineup.
The work of Fearthainne contains a subtle appreciation of repetition and facile chords that is quite endearing, and enduring. This ability to stay where one is at, to find something that works and continue on, is a fixed quality that is quite admirable. Certainly an aspect of these songs sounds like they were crafted next to a fire, reflecting a threnody for a dying world. A quality exists of the bonds that one forms from staring into the same flames as another. With this being one long track, somehow they found a way to stretch one song into many cohesive parts. I simply can not imagine this being divided into five or six different parts, although certainly aspects of the song are quite different.
Various chords are utilized to create a foundation, building on one another again and again., along with violin and shared male and female vocals. The music itself creates a very reflective quality. When it finally ends, it seems difficult to imagine that it’s already done. Somehow, this subtle intensity is quite effective. The pattern remains the same, making sure that it is seen, a quality that on paper sounds docile, and in practice has quite a bit of intensity. Similar to Swans in this approach, Fearthainne plays a chord pattern until it’s forever etched in your unconscious. The violin fits perfectly with acoustic guitars, creating imagery of flames flickering on trees in the background.
A steady drum keeps the rhythm, a solid heartbeat returning the listener to a primal state of mind. This is truly Folk music, its simplicity and honesty reveal the possibility of using creation to induce thoughts of reflecting on creation. While this does not live up to its predecessor, the self-titled double album, this critique has more to do with length and, dare I say, epic value. Forty minutes is simply not long enough. His voice sounds like gravel, as if he came from a cavern deep within the Earth and had to dig himself out. His voice is a voice of the Earth, a knowing that we are in dark times. Yet, the music itself holds a candle within the apocalyptic vision, a light which allows the listener to heal from our wounds. As we lick them like a canine, perhaps we will find it was we who created these wounds, as it is we who can heal them.