Thursday, May 10, 2012

SEAMUS FOGARTY God Damn You Mountain

County Mayo-born Seamus Fogarty appears to be drawing on particular rural concerns and characters on his debut album: songs about mountains, water, the wind and apple trees plus titles featuring Dinny Phil (and his walking stick) and Rita Jack. But “God Damn You Mountain” never becomes locked to a specific place, country or even single mood - it’s a displaced record creating its own sonic landscape and Fogarty’s neutral even deadpan burr sounds closer to Fife than to Limerick. And Fence Records - headquartered in Cellardyke, Fife - is the faultless home for this release, with its wayward folky sounds formed on guitar, banjo, fiddle and cello with the added curious spaciness of analog synthesisers, laptop interventions and sea-shell percussion; a mixture the traditional and the experimental, of the DIY and accidental with a singular vision.

The elegiac ‘The Wind’ shares the same cathedral-hush baroque sparseness as Smog’s “Red Apple Falls” whereas ‘By The Waterside’, ’The Undertaker’s Daughter’ or the title track have deeper roots with echoes of traditional Irish airs or the pre-war folk-blues of the Harry Smith Anthology but with a distinctly modern crispness (Fogarty cites studio clinicians Tortoise and David Grubbs as inspirations in this interview for The Quietus). ‘By The Waterside’ and others feature some unusual/unidentifiable percussive tics and glitches (‘butter tray’ is cited as one of the instruments on the record) and the opening ‘Appletrees’ hypnotically and deliberately unfolds to the rhythm of what sounds like tightly coiled springs being stroked lovingly – but you’re never quite certain what is being stroked or by what. And at the centre of the album is the disorientating, nine minute ‘Rita Jack’s Lament', a shape-shifting collision of spoken word, finger picked guitar and musique concrète like an Alan Lomax field recording from peat-bog rural Ireland being simultaneously soundtracked by John Fahey and The Orb.

In its closing moments, ‘The Question’ provides a comically bleak and misanthropic moment: “When you’re young you think that life is shit / there must be more, this can’t be it / then the shit becomes your life / taking shelter beneath the trees whilst the rain pissed down on me / this was the question on my mind”. But “God Damn You Mountain” as a whole is an unhurried, life-affirming listen, mixing rough, earthy ruminations with a transcendental other-worldliness. Displaced, nomadic even, but a fine addition to the Fence Collective homestead.

Seamus Fogarty God Damn You Mountain [BUY]

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