Review: United Bible Studies - I Am Providence (2012) 2


artist: United Bible Stud­ies
release: I Am Provid­ence
format: LP
year of release: 2012
label: Jelly­fant
dur­a­tion: 31:19

There is some­thing dis­tinctly kvlt about what United Bible Stud­ies have done on this most recent album: impro­vise music over the actual grave of Howard Phil­lips Love­craft at Swan Point Cemetery in Provid­ence, Rhode Island. We could nerd off about how awe­some this is, and about how this 2008 US tour incarn­a­tion of the chi­meric group cap­tured the old master’s cos­mic hor­ror spirit in music some­how. But frankly speak­ing, that’s not what’s going on here at all.

To me, Lovecraft’s hor­ror seems firmly based in a deep-seated fear of the irra­tional that lurks in all man­kind, but pro­jec­ted onto the for­eign, the prim­it­ive, and the alien in a way that I can only describe as xeno­phobic. The music of United Bible Stud­ies is pro­foundly dif­fer­ent, how­ever. Rather than tap­ping into one writer’s cre­at­ive and para­noid spirit, it feels as if they’ve opened up all the graves at Swan Point, not in the least afraid of hav­ing a bit of a weird, dejec­ted Hal­loween with the New Eng­land ghosts. Eerie voices like some strange cor­rup­tion of choral singing form much of the intan­gible sub­stance on I Am Provid­ence, with banjo, organ, and strings round­ing out the sound in some of the tracks.

I can almost see the band sit­ting there, on a windy night, spir­its of the deceased moan­ing softly about their heads, in the eye of a gentle storm of reven­ants. It’s way more mel­an­cholic and lim­inal than it is ter­ri­fy­ing, spir­itual more than hor­rific. The album also builds upon the band’s own past, in a good way. The short re-enactment of “Trib­u­tar­ies of the Styx” takes us back to 2006’s The Shore That Fears the Sea, while the gor­geous vocal lay­er­ings remind me of the same year’s “Spoon of Haar” on The North­ern Lights and The North­ern DarkThis one, how­ever, is eas­ily one of the most power­ful albums the band has ever pro­duced, focused and urgent in its sound.

This is ritual, impro­vised and real, chan­nel­ling folk and reli­gious themes like so much intaken breath, and spit­ting it out in half an hour of ghost music that bridges the bound­ar­ies between this world and the next. Phe­nom­enal and essen­tial.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. I Am Provid­ence Pt. 1 (7:45)
2. Chthonic Spiral (5:14)
3. Trib­u­tar­ies of the Styx under Provid­ence (2:50)

4. Swan Point Pet­ri­chor (4:44)
5. Grave Trudge (3:27)
6. I Am Provid­ence Pt. 2 (7:19)


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