Review: Far Black Furlong - Far Black Furlong / Haidd 2 (2007)


Far Black Fur­long

artist: Far Black Fur­long
release: Far Black Fur­long / Haidd 2
format: 2xCD
year of release: 2007
label: ICR
dur­a­tion: 1:34:05

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

After being thor­oughly impressed by the pre­vi­ous EP The East Room, I kept a close eye on Far Black Fur­long, one of the most prom­ising exper­i­mental folk and ambi­ent pro­jects to come out of the UK in recent times. I was, of course, very excited about this new release, and a double one, no less. The self-titled album is actu­ally the first full length release by the band, and for good meas­ure, the first edi­tion of it comes with a bonus disc, con­tain­ing a reworked ver­sion of the Haidd EP, which was released on Barl Fire records in 2006.

The music on Far Black Fur­long keeps the middle ground between the electro-acoustic ambi­ent of Haidd and the impro­vised folk sounds of The East Room. In addi­tion, ele­ments both old and new are added to the mix. Poet Bry­ony Lees, who appeared on the Full Gath­er­ing Moon EP, starts off the album with a read­ing another of her poems. Now, poetry recit­als are always a bit hit-and-miss for me, and I’m afraid I find the read­ing a bit lacklustre; it dis­tracts from the poem itself, which is actu­ally very good, not to men­tion mys­ter­i­ous and fit­ting to the music. Dur­ing the recital, some new instru­ments are intro­duced into the mix as well: flute by Amanda Votta (The Float­ing World) and hammered dul­ci­mer by John Letcher. Both guest artists add great depth to the sound­scapes on this album, and espe­cially the dul­ci­mer has a very prom­in­ent role on the album.

The album is con­struc­ted as a whole, but it is divided into six seam­less move­ments, each with its own mood. The first one, as said, fea­tures the poem, and intro­duces the mys­ter­i­ous sound­scapes the make up the rest of the album. Over the course of it, we’re treated to that typ­ical mix­ture of ambi­ent sound­scapes, but with solo roles for many of the instru­ments. The second track focuses mostly on the dul­ci­mer, while the third has a prom­in­ent role for flute and field record­ings. It gradu­ally fades into the epic fourth move­ment, where dul­ci­mer and elec­tric gui­tar enter into an excit­ing duet. The fifth, then, fea­tures a piece of the won­der­ful oboe work of Mark Bai­gent which shone on The East Room. Accom­pa­ny­ing it, more of Ian Teng­wall’s gui­tar play­ing, and let’s not for­get Richard Moult on piano! But, under­neath, the cur­rent is pick­ing up, hint­ing at Andy Cot­ter­ill’s dark ambi­ent waves that dom­in­ate the final move­ment.

I find all of this incred­ibly reward­ing. The musical depth and detail is mag­ni­fi­cent, and rewards close listen­ing, yet it is also strong enough to impress on a super­fi­cial going-over. Abstract though most of the music may be, there are strong them­atic sug­ges­tions: the turn­ing of the sea­sons and nature’s cycles, inner and outer land­scapes… exactly what I love to hear in music of this kind.

Haidd 2

Then, a few words about the bonus disc. The ori­ginal Haidd was the band’s most abstract piece thus far, and in that sense, Haidd 2 is a nat­ural follow-up. In actual fact, it takes the ‘ambi­ent­ness’ a step fur­ther. The ori­ginal fea­tured sec­tions of oboe and other instru­ments, and parts of it were con­struc­ted in a way sim­ilar to the self-titled album reviewed here. But Haidd 2 is really stripped down, com­pared to that. Andy Cot­ter­ill really took the track apart and moul­ded it into a massive, but subtle ambi­ent track. Both ver­sions share the for­lorn, drift­ing atmo­sphere, but the new ver­sion intens­i­fies it through a min­im­al­ism of sound. The res­ult is quite simply an excel­lent, detailed half hour drone trip - well worth the extra money for the spe­cial edi­tion, in any case!

In short, Far Black Fur­long haven’t ceased to amaze me so far. If you’re look­ing for thor­oughly ori­ginal music that seam­lessly blends acous­tics and elec­tron­ics, folk, ambi­ent, clas­sical, improv, etc., etc. - this is it… Highly recom­men­ded, and one of the best albums of the year.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

Far Black Fur­long:
1. One (3:01)
2. Two (7:49)
3. Three (4:53)
4. Four (11:31)
5. Five (12:56)
6. Six (19:48)

Haidd 2:
1. Haidd 2 (34:07)