artist: Stone Breath
release: Twist of Thorn
year of release: 2012
label: Brave Mysteries
detailed info: discogs.com
After a hiatus of several years where it looked like the project was done for, Timothy Renner‘s Stone Breath returned in 2007 with lovely single The Holly Crown. Since then, the discography has been enriched with new albums, and this in itself was an enrichment for the US alternative folk landscape as a whole.
Twist of Thorn marks the debut of the band on Brave Mysteries, a label that is many years younger than Stone Breath, which is coming close to its 20-year anniversary, but the two are eminently suited to each other in terms of music and philosophy. Originally intended as an introductory EP for the label’s steady customers who might not be familiar with the band, it quickly grew into something of a complete album. At its core are three reworkings of tracks Renner originally did with Tara VanFlower on the Black Happy Day album In the Garden of Ghostflowers in 2006. The new versions are closer to the acoustic Stone Breath style, and set somewhat differently to the music. Now, harp is a prominent instrument on both “Hand in Hand” and “In the Garden of Ghostflowers”, whereas “How Many Hours ’til the Spider’s Work Is Done?” retains the wonderful ritual expansiveness of the original, though again with a more organic sound.
The new tracks are worthwhile as well. “Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier” is a poignant traditional war song, and “No Ends Meet” has a lush neofolk guitar arrangement that is simply wonderful. Both suffer a bit from a less than perfect vocal performance, but I’m willing to look past that on account of the merits. Gentle follow-up “Silhouette” makes up for that generously as well: a lovely calm and warm track that shows Renner’s sweet side.
Despite rough edges, which admittedly have always been an integral part of Stone Breath’s sound to a certain degree, Twist of Thorn is a lovely dark folk tape, a strong continuant in what is one of the strongest oeuvres in experimental folk anyway. An excellent choice by an excellent label to pick this up, and based on this I am anxious to hear to upcoming LP.
Reviewed by O.S.
1. Where the Crows Go (3:33)
2. Hand in Hand (2:50)
3. Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier (4:09)
4. In the Garden of Ghostflowers (3:45)
5. No Ends Meet (3:57)
6. Silhouette (2:37)
7. Madstone (3:02)
8. How Many Hours ’til the Spider’s Work Is Done? (9:21)
9. Blood Winter (6:55)