Originally released on CDR on Deserted Village (DV22) in 2005
The 2008 reissue is available from Deep Water Acres:
"Airs of Sun and Stone documents a complete live set recorded at a Limerick arts festival in an old church on a Sunday morning. One extended improvisational piece (nearly 40 minutes) by a special quartet version of the group (plus dance troupe), featuring harp, guitars, piano, and percussion, it's a perfect avant-folk morning raga."
United Bible Studies are the best band in Ireland, hands down. They're hard to pin down as they keep changing things up and trying different approaches to their improvised glory. Always organic and always magical, UBS is an entity unto itself. Over the course of their various releases, they've taken us through the tree-lined paths of Ireland's folklore and explored the depths of the seas which surround their homeland. Their musical offerings are taken straight from the earth.
On their latest opus, "Airs of Sun and Stone," the group gives us one epic piece recorded live in Limerick in May 2005. I'm not sure how many people played on this or what the exact line-up was, but the piece heavily features the magnificent interplay of harp and piano. There are other instruments (guitars, percussion, etc - and even some excellent bouts of throatsinging), but it is the harp and piano that make this recording as great as it is.
Over the course of 40 minutes, UBS explore the primeval forests before shooting toward the heavens. This appropriately titled album is stunning in its depth and its breadth. Opening with a simple greeting, "Good morning, we're United Bible Studies... thank you all for coming, so early" is a minor thing, but makes me imagine sundrenched orchards with champaigne and flowering trees in the early spring. This music is warm and crisp, never missing a beat and always searching for the next perfect note.
United Bible Studies should be a name that is commonplace for most people. If they're not, "Airs of Sun and Stone" is a perfect place to start. Pure magic. - Brad Rose, Foxy Digitalis
On this thirty nine minute CD-R we witness a magical event, we get to listen as it happened at St. Johns Church, in Limerick, Ireland on May 22, 2005. Here an initially slowly evolving airy spacious occurrence of angelic and anarchic motions of harp, guitars, piano, percussion, and occassional vocals. Ancient folkish and space-age trance inducement married to a built-in contrarian percussive point-of-view that runs up hills backwards and speeds things up into impossibly mysterious futures. Drifting in a nether world between the past and the future merging in the overlapping now of when this happened in real time. So far everything I’ve heard by United Bible Studies is essential, but this is certainly among their most sublime moments, not to be missed!
George Parsons, Dream Magazine
United Bible Studies is along with The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree the most known (but still obscure) manifestation of Ireland’s ‘Deserted Village Collective’. The collective is a loose affiliation of musicians from Ireland coming together in many artist names and massed as United Bible Studies. As UBS they have released a number of CDrs to date and played live unlike the more reclusive Magickal Tree psych-folk band. UBS make music that sits somewhere between folk, jazz, ambient, chamber music and experimental. On their various releases different aspects of this diverse sound have been emphasized. On the forty minute single suite ‘Airs of the Sun and Stone’ we have a live performance at St. John’s Church in Limerick.
They start almost unheard with a brief introduction and a rippling harp which is soon joined by soft exploratory electric guitar and muffled percussive sounds, like gongs being brushed. After a while vibraphone and clicking hand percussion emerge into the music which is constantly shifting. The music occupies the foreground, drifting but never bucolic. As flute comes to the foreground playing a sombre melody the piece becomes more mysterious, the clattering percussion and guitar more freeform, the discordance of jazz disrupting the flute’s solitude. This section then changes again with chimes, sleigh bells, gongs and harp playing a dance that teeters at the edge of chaos but never descends.
At about twenty minutes the guitar starts to morph with wah wah and filter changes bringing a similarity to the experimental music of Can. The piece is now driven by percussion with the guitar playing a background drone. There is lovely interplay between guitar, harp and piano with the guitar then receding to leave an exquisite section of just harp and piano that reminds of early Harold Budd. Then at thirty-five minutes huge guitar phasing effects dominate the music and the percussion becomes frenzied. Gradually from here the piece recedes towards silence. As this piece was performed dancers had interpreted and we hear them thanked and a round of applause.
What those visiting the church made of this resoundingly experimental music we do not know. However the music does in its own way feel sanctified, there is some kind of transformative spiritual intent at its core. Containing elements of folk, free music and ambient soundscaping this is brave and bold music without barriers. Listened to on headphone, quietly and alone, it becomes enveloping, the music seeming to emanate from natural elements rather than human hand. This is an element further emphasized through the packaging which has a stick, string and binding that seems to give this the feeling of a lost parchment and folk spell, a simple magic of the land contained inside the knotted string. - Mark Coyle, Unbroken Circle
The live CDR is something different. First of all it's just one, forty minute piece and there is no singing, but just free improvisation of guitars, piano tinkling, banjo, some percussive sounds and a major part is reserved for the harp. This release comes much closer to the world of improvisation (and much of the daily digest of music here) and moves away from the folk elements, although I believe this is only temporarily for 'just' a concert and that the 'The Shore That Fears The Sea' release is the 'real' full sound of United Bible Studies, but the live version is quite nice. -Fraans De Waard, Vital Weekly
When Ireland’s finest ensemble played at Terrastock 7 a few weeks back I was stupid enough to not make sure to get to the venue in time for their set. Fortunately I was lucky enough to catch them playing an impromptu set the day after the show so I guess I am not the one to complain. And on top of that we have this disc, from the fine folks at Deep Water, that documents the ‘Studies in the live setting. Musically speaking it’s an intriguing sound journey that flows over the forest folk heavens like a circling bird looking for food. Beguiling musical tapestries constructed from a myriad of instruments unfurls with an almost indescribable sense of grace. For being music with such a strong transportive and visual quality it’s surprisingly complex and subtly chaotic. It’s a bit like a group of musicians having a quiet conversation where everyone is talking at once but where each contributor still gets plenty of room to breathe. As with anything wearing the United Bible Studies name, the beautifully titled Air of Sun and Stone comes highly recommended.
Recorded live in St Johns Church, Limerick, “Airs of Sun & Stone” sees a different version of UBS emerge. Playing as a simple guitars, percussion and harp four piece it’s a really laid back affair that differs greatly from the usual UBS live show. Some of it is beautiful. Some of it is over indulgent mumbo jumbo. The whole recording seems about two years in length, so one to put on while reading the Sunday paper. Limited to 150 copies, the numbered hand assembled covers and string, candle wax and burnt ice pop stick packaging is something else. -TM, Unfit for Consumption
Enregistré dans une église il y a plus d'un an et demi, "Airs of Sun and Stone" est un témoin fabuleux, de la magie que délivre ses Irlandais à travers leur musique. Quarante minutes d'improvisation, de mélange de genre, d'essais multiples et variés. De magnifiques moments emmenés par un piano cristallin et réconfortant, on passe à des guitares angoissantes, accompagnés du piano, mais cette fois totalement décousue, comme si il essayait de s'échapper des mains de son dompteur. Les rythmes parfois proches du free jazz, ses cloches, forment une ambiance à part magnifiée par l'incroyable acoustique du lieu, qui est vraiment très bien rendue sur l'enregistrement. On aurait vraiment aimé être dans cette église. On attend par ci par là la foule ajoutant une interaction finalement très intéressante. Ce qui prédomine c'est la réelle beauté de cette pièce, sublimé par un piano omniprésent ample et valeureux. Un disque à part entière, agrémentant la discographie d'un groupe somptueux, d'une nouvelle perle et d'une nouvelle expérience. En vous remerciant.
- Vincent, www.adecouvrirabsolument.com/ubsairsofsun.htm
released 12 July 2012
Bryan O'Connell: Percussion
Áíne O'Dwyer: Harp
Gavin Prior: Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
James Rider: Guitar, Piano