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CD Feature/ William Henshall: "Dark Opus"

img  Tobias

Up until a short while ago, the Red Wharf label was “merely” a nom de plui for the outfit releasing Graham Bowers solo material, which by its status of collages in between the organic and the electronic has always been a collaborational effort in some form. As Bowers is slowly returning to the limelight, he has increasingly resculpted his company into featuring artists he either feels strongly related to or with whom he has worked with in the past. “Dark Opus” falls into the latter category, a barely twenty-four minute long EP with material dating back to 1983.

Back then, Bowers was still more of a sculptor and painter than a composer and William Henshall provided him with music for a multimedia art work. One can’t help but feel that he has been a source of inspiration to Bowers in some way or the other, as his style displays obvious similarities with the one of his current label boss: A colourful array of instruments, including a Zither, a Piano Harp, a Moog Synthesizer and the Harmonium of a certain Mrs. Doins, as well as instrumental contributions by Ronnie Henshall on various Saxophones, Ralph Johnson on Violin or Royston Dodd on vocals combine for delirious meditations between veritable nightmares and lucid fever dreams. Just like Bowers, Henshall has a strong empathy for the absurd, the grotesque and the bizarre, blurring the line between free-form soundscspes and ecstatic musique concrete. What differentiates their styles is the degree to which the latter allows longer stretches of light and tangibly harmonic passages into his dark corridors. His voice is characterised by the constant passage from opaque lines to high-pixel intensity, from upbeat moods to passages of almost lifeless depression and alienation as well as by a perpetous confusion of the senses: On the central key piece “Beyond Erebus Stones”, he plays his Tenor Banjo like a Sitar and “Wollef Doog Nibor” could be damn cool Jazz, if it didn’t decide against it all of the time. 

If artists team up for a border-blowing joint venture, things mostly end up being either pretentious or a mess (or both). In this case, however, the result is appreciatively varied and almost catchy. There is a mild psychedelic wind that blows through all of the pieces, preventing them from being l’art pour l’art and lifting them into a weightless sky of their own. It wasn’t to be expected, but even the distinct aesthetics of Graham Bowers have now been integrated into a lively community of like-minded companions – albeit by himself.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Red Wharf Records

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