Review: At the Head of the Woods - Secrets Beyond Time and Space (2008)


athotw_sbtasartist: At the Head of the Woods
release: Secrets Bey­ond Time and Space
format: CD
year of release: 2008
label: Glass Throat
dur­a­tion: 70:06

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

A recent offer­ing of the ever pro­li­fic Glass Throat Record­ings is James Woodhead’s solo pro­ject At the Head of the Woods. We know James from the two excel­lent The Ele­mental Chrysalis albums, also reviewed on Even­ing of Light. Com­par­ing these albums, one can tell that James seems to be respons­ible for some of the more pysche­delic and spacy influ­ences in the music of The Ele­mental Chrysalis, for Secrets Bey­ond Time and Space dwells on pre­cisely those musical ele­ments, being a suite of four pieces com­bin­ing ambi­ent and moments of pro­gress­ive rock.

These four long pieces move through calm parts with subtle ambi­ent synth waves and typ­ical flow­ing gui­tar melod­ies - the likes of which are also quite prom­in­ent on The Ele­mental Chrysalis’ albums. At times how­ever, as in the middle of the first move­ment, the music is joined by some sparse drums and chanted vocals. The tracks flow into each other seam­lessly, and the second one starts with some thun­der, rain and bird sounds, and a new gui­tar melody over­laid on the calm waves that ended the pre­vi­ous move­ment. The second track also intro­duces the lyr­ics for the album, sung by James in a high-pitched, rever­ber­at­ing voice, drift­ing over the rest of the music like clouds mov­ing across the night sky. The third move­ment picks up the pace a bit, with a heavy, straight­for­ward drum rhythm and con­tin­ued recit­a­tion of the lyr­ics, all this in a some­what darker atmo­sphere than the first half of the album. The end of the track is beau­ti­fied by a string melody sup­ple­ment­ing that of the gui­tar. The final move­ment con­sists of two sep­ar­ate parts. The first is a beau­ti­ful sor­row­ful ambi­ent intro that fades into the final part where the final sec­tion of the lyr­ics is sung over a melody of piano and gui­tar.

In all, Secrets Bey­ond Time and Space is an impress­ive and atmo­spheric album with a very power­ful mood. Like many The Ele­mental Chrysalis tracks - and indeed, many other artists from the Glass Throat roster - it relies heav­ily at times on hyp­notic repe­ti­tion. At times, this puts me off a bit, and I seem to be waver­ing between moments when I felt the album could have suf­ficed with half its dur­a­tion, and other instances where I listened to the album in full, totally entranced in its extens­ive flow. On the whole, there­fore, I found it to be slightly less inter­est­ing - since it con­tains less vari­ation - than the work Wood­head does together with Chet Scott on The Ele­mental Chrysalis. All the same, I think this is an excel­lent debut release. If you are in the right mood for a spacy, yet dark and pro­found musical trip, Secrets Bey­ond Time and Space is a good bet.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. (17:25)
2. (18:11)
3. (17:06)
4. (17:24)