The Shore That Fears The Sea

by United Bible Studies

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES: The Shore That Fears the Sea
4/5 stars

Although United Bible Studies formed in 2001 as a duo in Dublin, their evolution into an ever-shifting collective has taken their original Current 93-inspired, Incredible String Band-Shirley Collins-Vashti blueprint into unexpected terrain. Their first album proper The Shore that Fears the Sea, showcases a shifting, tremulous sound, with textures that move in and out of focus like a distant, fog-shrouded shoreline. While the almost solo Hellical Rising and Columba’s Song share Robin Williamson’s intimacy, it’s clear that United Bible Studies are maturing into a compelling acoustic counterpoint to Sigur Ros. The wraithlike melody of Watching the Rain Reshape Galway rises from a crackling sonic bed that wraps the performance in an ancient-sounding rusticity. The title track encapsulates this approach in an epic fashion. The Shore that Fears.... is a gem.
-Kieron Tyler, MOJO

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES: The Shore That Fears the Sea
Ireland’s premier (if not only) practitioners of free-folk unleash their long awaited compact disc after a few years of celebrated releases on the global Compact Disc R underground. This album couldn’t have surfaced at a better time as it chimes perfectly with the renewed interest in the pantheistic SICK-FUCK embodied by Vashti Bunyan, Linda Perhacs and the wicker-works of Paul Giovanni. The title track is blessed with one of the most hypnotic riffs of all time and captures an oceanic Tim Buckley ambience, while “Watching the Rain Reshape Galway” suggests Ry Cooder and Labradford lost amongst the heather and limestone of Connemara. Melody and experimentation share a peaceful co-existence as the tension between the eroding electronics and the acoustic instrumentation mirrors the battle between technology and tradition: telecom cables become entangled by ivy while trees stand proud next to electricity pylons. The closing “Captain William Coey” fuses unearthly drones, twinkling glockenspiel and a ghostly voice into an aural hallucination suggesting cosmic seafaring music for ships that may well be starsailing. The album’s rustic sleeve imagery is devoid of information but the identity of these forest folk is imprinted all over the their music - United Bible Studies are tinkering with tradition but also travelling towards a bryter folk future.
4 stars
Keith Wallace, Foggy Notions

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES: The Shore That Fears the Sea
( Compact Disc on Deserted Village/Deadslackstring

2006 finds UBS returning to mainly composed works (with some improvisation) for 'The Shore that Fears the Sea', At their core these are songs – but they also draw together all aspects of what the band has done over it's existence including elements that predate 'Stations/Transits'. 'Shore' exists at the intersection of their minimalist Foxglove Compact Disc -R 'The Lunar Observatory' and the damaged folk contained on their Slow Loris Compact Disc -R 'Huntly Town' and it plays out like the keeping of a promise. It's difficult to pin down what makes this release a masterpiece, but the addition of Dave Colohan's vocals have helped anchor their sound and make it both richer and more accessible, and there is a clear intelligence and intent at work: they wanted to bring all the streams together into a complex studio outpouring of pagan-folk bliss with overtones of the vintage 70s progressive and the psychedelic forms and they largely succeeded. The UBS palette thus expanded now seems like a prism through which other Deserted Village projects like Murmansk and the Magical Folk are refracted.

Waves and bells call up dead sailors in 'Rivers Rotting in the Earth' and they stalk the earth muttering hopeless prayers under their dank breath. Not for the last time on 'Shore', Coil and Current 93 are invoked, albeit obliquely. Unexpectedly, around half way through the track, the fog lifts and a sweet acoustic instrumental passage takes over. It could be one of the vignettes on 'Stations/Transits', but it is more confident somehow, having a surety of knowledge of its place in the UBS sound. 'Hellical Rising' seems to come directly from Irish folk roots, a simple banjo and voice piece that could drop easily onto a Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree Compact Disc . 'Columbia's Song' is an indication of how far they have progressed. Lyrically, a stunning musical setting of an Edwin Morgan poem, musically they sound like they are playing in a corner of the Green Man in some lost scene from 'The Wicker Man'. Improvisational and visionary elements elevate 'Watching the Rain Reshape Galway' to astral realms, though it too is song-based, trading passages of keening lament from Colohan with shimmering bowed drones and electronic oscillations. The effect is out past the border of what words can convey. 'Crofts of Copland' is a gorgeous short piece utilising church organ, tapes, and vocal samples. 'Tributaries of the River Styx Under Dublin' expands an early compilation track into a fully-formed extended meditation, which transitions effortlessly from a raga introduction to ISB-influenced folk to ambient electronic shimmer to contemplative acoustic guitar instrumental passage. Damn near a curriculum vitae, really. Bowed strings and tape work chime away behind Colohan's soulful vocals on 'The One True God Lies to Himself While the One True Goddess Sings' as lyrics are finally provided to help one decode 'Stations/Transits'. The track has the hypnotic thrall of Current 93's 'Earth Covers Earth' with the addition of being stabbed through with a particular Irish take on the Japanese concept of mono no aware, roughly translatable as a sensitivity to the sadness things. The title track is a stone classic, its dazed acoustic guitar, flute and downcast vocals evoking a bygone era when bands like Broselmaschine and Stone Angel would release a single bogglingly-great record and then mostly disappear without trace. I don't think UBS will be doing that, though, and we are going to be the richer for it. Don't wait for this record to appear on end-of-year top 10 lists, grab it now! There were only 500 copies pressed and I believe they are selling like hot corn dollies.
Tony Dale

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES: The Shore That Fears the Sea
Ireland's United Bible Studies have consistently releasing great music over the past few years on their own Deserted Village imprint and various other labels. "The Shore That Fears the Sea," also on Deserted Village, is their first proper Compact Disc . I'd been hearing about this album for over a year before it finally made its way across the Atlantic, but the wait was well worth it. These nine tracks are painted in gold, soaring like a flock of magic birds.

One thing that's always struck me about United Bible Studies is how organic their sound is. It's like everything is inspired by naturally occurring objects. I feel like an archaeologist, unearthing mystic artifact after mystic artifact underneath the terrestrial plane. As main vocalist Dave Colohan's voice haunts the tiniest cracks in the dirt, this music feels truly paganesque.

The thing that is most striking about "The Shore That Fears the Sea" compared to previous United Bible Studies releases is Colohan's vocals. Most of the earlier material has been instrumental, though with a very similar feeling to this. However, UBS's decision to experiment within somewhat more traditional song structures pays off in spades. The album's title track is a simple folk gem. Acoustic guitars and wind instruments dance together in the glen while Colohan's multiple vocal tracks provide the perfect harmony.

On tracks like "Watching the Rain Reshape Gelway" and "Crofts of Copeland," the free-floating instrumental passages of past UBS recordings returns. It's a wonderful diversion of bowed strings and hypnotic drones. On the former track, Colohan adds some minimal vocal work that soars, but it's the seething concoction of loose instrumentation that offers so much.

United Bible Studies has emerged as the true flagship of the budding Deserted Village empire. "The Shore That Fears the Sea" contains all the best elements from all of the collective's best groups (Murmansk, The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, etc). This is the true definition of what has to be considered forest folk. United Bible Studies really do live amongst the trees.

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES: The Shore That Fears the Sea

United Bible Studies was formed as a duo at the end of 2001 but quickly evolved into a collective and was the groundwork for the Deserted Village label. Their original interest to emulate the incredible string band, still is noticeable in the songs, which are COB or ISB at its most (beautiful) melancholic (-voice-). But United Bible Studies is much more improvised. It uses large intros and parts of slow and dreamy improvisations (vocals, guitar, harmonium, organ) which are somewhat experimental (Tibetan bells, sax sounds, percussion textures, acoustic and a few electronic noises), here and there mixed with some seashore sounds, which always evolve in the songs with fingerpicking guitar or banjo and flute. A very nice recording from start to finish. SICKFUCK Homestead
Review by Brad Rose, www.foxydigitalis.com

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES - THE SHORE THAT FEARS THE SEA
( Compact Disc by Deadslackstring/Deserted Village Records)

Originally formed as a duo, these days they are a collective of up to twelve members at a time. They play folk music but with a strong twist into the world of improvisation. Free Improvisation, with twice a capital! The instruments include guitars, theremins, banjo and accordion, and they scrape their way along instrumental tracks as-well as some with vocals. The influence of say Current 93 or Sol Invictus is there, but there is a general lack of percussion, making this much more intimate and even more melancholic. It's in a way close to Vital Weekly when it comes to the improvisational parts of various tracks, but when it's guitar playing and singing it's perhaps to far away. It's music that is hardly heard here, and therefore quite nice.
Review by FdW, Vital Weekly

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES “The Shore That Fears The Sea”
Compact Disc (Deserted Village)
“The Shore That Fears the Sea” on busy Dublin label Deserted Village, is United Bible Studies first proper Compact Disc following a slew of Compact Disc r releases. And as you would and should expect from this release its more atmospheric creations from the UBS troupe albeit with an added element of Irish folk and
trad. The album opens with “Rivers Rotting In The Earth” the eerie reciting of lines over a creeping soundtrack which after some minimal use of guitar and drums makes way for some acoustic guitar and an assortment of instruments and works quite brilliantly over its 6 minutes plus. The next
song “Hellical Rising” comes out like a court jester and his banjo tale telling before the following song “Columba’s Song” sees the banjo replaced by guitar for more of the same. The ghostly cello and supernatural voice on “Watching The Rain Reshape Galway” is sublime and then you realise there's still another five songs to enjoy after that. The atmosphere United Bible Studies capture is delightful and I found this album works best in a dark room at nighttime while lying in bed. Definitely want to see them live again and more often. I wonder if I turned up with my dried peas in a washing up bottle would they let me join in? Something incredibly spooky about the cover photograph though.
TM, Unfit for Consumption Zine

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UNITED BIBLE STUDIES: The Shore That Fears the Sea (3/5 stars)
Folk music is where it all begins for United Bible Studies, but their inquisitive, sprawling and occasionally masterly music usually ends up somewhere completely different. A loose-limbed Dublin-based collective, UBS tip their fedoras and caps to a range of classic folk and freeform practitioners, yet their best material comes when they find the path to explore between the psychedelic folky Birkenstock whispers and the offbeat, offset keyboard twiddling. They’re also at their best when Dave Colohan is allowed to haunt the proceedings. A distinctive crackle in the groove even when it’s just a wisp in the mix, Colohan’s voice articulates UBS’s freak scene far better than any amount of mellow soundscapes or chin-scratching wig-outs. Catch it on Watching the Rain Reshape Galway and you can even see rainbows developing. Whether there’s a pot of gold to uncover there is another matter entirely.
Jim Carrol, The Ticket/Irish Times

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United Bible Studies is one of Ireland's leading freefolk ensembles, combining experimentation with ambient and more traditional folk. Compared to previous releases since the band's inception in 2001, The Shore That Fears The Sea is more of a 'studio album', with a greater emphasis on songwriting.

This makes the album very diverse and more accessible, while remaining original. Each song has its own distinct character, so the album contains a wide range of sounds. "Rivers Rotting In The Earth" is an introductory mix of sound manipulation, guitar, flute and spoken word, exemplary of the United Bible Studies experimental style. But, other songs on the album sound like they could come straight from the repertoire of a related project. "Hellical Rising", a fragile little song, could just as well be from The Magickal Folk of the Faraway Tree, whereas "Columba's Song" wouldn't sound out of place on one of Dave Colohan's recent Agitated Radio Pilot albums. "Watching The Rain Reshape Galway" takes things in a different direction, though. One this beautiful track, Dave's soaring vocals steal the show. The rest of the album shows a similar mix of beautiful melodies, ambient and musical experiments. I won't go into further detail, save mentioning the wonderful title track, a long modern folk song with a great flute and clarinet duet at the end.

Together with the great pictures in the booklet, this makes for a very succesful release, and it comes warmly recommended to all lovers of modern folk and experimentation.

O.S.www.eveningoflight.nl

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United Bible Studies still preserve a sombre faA§ade in their music. At times their sound gets dangerously out-there - as on the screechy "Tributaries of the Styx Under Dublin" - but largely, this is a psychedelic-folk-acid outfit that is comfortable in expressing the sadness of the sameness of everyday coarseness of life. With its lovely flute and acoustic guitar motif and roaring sea waves crashing on the shore, the title track is absolutely brilliant in passing on the essence of the band. Stunningly played, sung and prepared, this is a release that I'll be returning to often.

Review by Tom Sekowski, Gaz-Eta

On my journey through Ireland, I picked up quite a number of CDs, which predictably enough were mostly metal albums. What I didn’t count on was finding this marvellous gem of an album, mistakenly tucked neatly between two heavy metal CDs. And what a surprise it was. The Shore That Fears the Sea is a mesh of so many different styles, that I find it hard to even describe what sort of sound they have. It’s most obviously folk, but it’s been transformed into something that’s psychedelic, atmospheric, and hauntingly melodic, all in the same album. The icing on the cake though, is that United Bible Studies is from Ireland; I’ve found it very typical for bands of any genre that come from Ireland to very often incorporate their musical heritage into their own music, which I think is a wonderful thing.

The Shore That Fears the Sea begins with a hypnotic, almost dreamy, atmospheric piece that lulls you into a state of paralysis, ready to be enveloped by the next song. There are a lot of mellow breaks in the music, atmospheric passages that are a mixture of different sounds, instruments and tones, over which sombre and melancholic melodies flow in and out, supporting the mood and feel of the music. For this is most definitely an album of mood and no matter what you are feeling like, you can be sure that United Bible Studies will steady your heartbeat and cool your mind down.

As you continue into the album, the vocals are introduced, which are plain and dull, in a good sense. How I’d ever imagine a boring voice to be good is beyond me, but the soft, straight-faced vocals on the album sit perfectly with the slow tempos and acoustic medleys. An Irish accent pokes itself around, not quite there, but almost. The seventh track (The One True God Lies To Himself While The One True Goddess Sings), is the epitome of why the soft, nearly spoken word, vocals are so great. This isn’t the whole of it however: along with the already mentioned vocal style, moments where the vocals are elevated to Sigur Ros levels really make The Shore That Fears the Sea a journey needed to be undertook by everyone.

The clutter of sounds comes together finally midway through, with Tributaries Of The Styx Under Dublin centring around the climax the album so desperately needed. This then fizzles out, and The Shore That Fears the Sea returns to the snail’s pace it had begun with. The effect of reaching the climax becomes apparent in the final few songs, all of which are strong in mood, and defined in melody. The Irish influence is most apparent starting with Tributaries Of The Styx Under Dublin, and continues on until the end, where we are left with an absolutely beautiful and mesmerising piece, Captain William Coey. This song completes the album. The Shore That Fears the Sea began in an unorganised way, tried to find the melody hidden beneath the weighty atmosphere, made obvious attempts to find it, and eventually succeeded, culminating in a delightful end to an amazing piece of music. Highly recommended.

Sputnik Music Blog

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released 25 April 2011

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Track Name: Hellical Rising
Came upon an omen on the north slope of heaven
Thru the parliament of trees, the libraries at night
Where the worst human failings are now institutions
& the last dance is crowned with a halo of flies.

With the cadence of the beast
With augurs & offerings
The baritone gribbets of frogs by the sea.

If magic be just the science of coincidence
Then to turn on it's to sow one's seed on the wind
Where the clouds come down to sleep
Shall henceforth be her residence
& the plants that dream they are men, her shall keep.

With the cadence of the beast
With augurs & offerings
The baritone gribbets, cane toads by the sea
She's a regent of a kingdom long fallen
The last true beauty of a world on the brink.

Came upon an omen on the north slope of heaven
Where the clouds come down to sleep, til the moon it takes flight.