by United Bible Studies

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Doineann is available in four versions here...

'This extravagantly packaged release from the hydra-headed irish folk collective United Bible Studies comes in four editions (Night, Day, Dawn & Dusk), with each reelase colour coordinated and containing appropriate paraphernalia to reflect phases of the lunar cycle. It's an impressive presentation from the A Year In The Country label, whose raison d'etre lies in 'searching for an expression of an underlying unsettledness to the English bucolic countryside dream'. These concerns streak through the British visionary imagination, from painters such as Blake and Samuel Palmer to early 20th century romantic composers like Peter Warlock, 1960s pantheistic pranksters Incredible String Band and into the post-industrial underground of Coil, Psychic TV and Current 93. In the UK, where many of United Bible Studies members are now based, this reanimation of the mythic countryside, underscored by liminal drones, residual folk forms and improvisation, has found voice again recently in imprints like David Barker's Folklore Tapes, Stephen Collin's Stone Tape Recordings and Rob Lee's Heretic's Folk Club. Although United Bible Studies have a sprawling back catalogue and a rotating cast of personnel, with relatively little distinction between longterm members and guests, their music always has an impressive aesthetic unity whcih might have found its fullest expression on Doineann (a Gaelic word meaning storm). The six tracks that make up the album have a fragmented, translucent atmosphere, with repetitive piano arpeggios ghosting out of layers of submarinal synth murk on opening track 'Helix'. the title track reflects a sense of meteorological unease, with distant crackling electronics, underpinned by wineglass drones, clarinet sobs and dislocated snare drum tattoos. This epic track brings to mind the horizontal jazz distillations of Rock Bottom-era Robert Wyatt. Tracks like 'Clay In My Hand' and 'The Blackened Field' have a faux-medieval balladry signposted by soindly harp and the fragile falsetto of The Owl Servoce's Alison O'Donnell. But these are interspersed with lengthier pieces such as the album closer 'Halo', which recalls Coil's Solstice and Equinox releases with its slowly spreading horizon of backward chanting vocals, degraded synth drones and manipulated strings.' Alex Neilson, The Wire

'I’m very thankful that this originally Irish collective has been so prolific these past few years — one of the few artists that manage to fascinate me over the course of many years, albums, and changing approaches. It almost goes without saying that UBS is one of those artists that is perfectly suited for inclusion in the AYITC series: rooted in Irish and British folk music, but experimental and improvisational from day one: not afraid to throw in synths, manipulations, crunchy guitars, sax, non-European instruments… the list goes on.

Doineann is in itself a typical UBS album — as far as such a thing exists — summarising a few of the various musical approaches from the past few years: shorter folk-inspired songs with an electric touch rub shoulders with instrumental bits, improv sessions, and ambient stretches.

The intro, “Helix” is short and instrumental, setting the scene with cold piano twirl and a backdrop of percussion, flute, and transmitter crackles. On “Clay In My Hands”, Aine O’Dwyer (harp) and Paul Condon (guitar, synths, vocals) do a dreamy waltz together. This is one of those typical tracks that this whole article is about: it’s folky and pastoral in some ways, but at the same time it’s modern and slightly ‘off’… unsettling. The album seems proportioned for an LP release, perhaps, with each ‘side’ ending in long track. The title third, eponymous track “Doineann” is a slowly moving instrumental, foreshadowing the final track with some motifs and instrumentations, while adding a bit of an improvised jazzy direction to it as well.

The second half of the album starts with “The Blackened Fields”: Alison O’Donnell on vocals with guitar by David Colohan and some further synthesizer backings. On “Seachránái”, Colohan lends his own vocals over a delicate harpsichord-led piece. The crowning workof the album is “Halo”, a superbly dream-like 13 minutes closer that lives somewhere in the clouds above the landscapes we’ve been exploring in this piece. It is based in a warm synthesizer and organ glow punctuated by autoharp, electric guitar, and Richard Moult’s reverb-drenched voice, which transitions into a glorious choral bit about halfway through. The rest of the track is a melancholic weightless instrumental, a drifting end to a beautiful album.' Oscar Strik, Evening of Light

'The ever shifting landscapes of UBS converge once more, this time in a predominantly instrumental vein that echoes rainswept moors, moss-streaked doldems and a rainy gray that is as beautiful as it is chilling. The ten minute title track takes you places where music rarely wants to go, and the taste of what could be a hurdy gurdy adds a hint of MR James to the mix. Later, Alison O’Donnell’s vocal for “Across the Blackened Fields” feels as old as time, and if you’ve ever wondered why there’s such a powerful haunted folk insurgence happening now, this album is one of the key reasons why. ' Dave Thompson, Goldmine

'United Bible Studies is no stranger to the folklore format, as the collective has always demonstrated a fascination with ancient sounds. Names familiar to this site include David Colohan, Richard Moult and Michael Tanner. As usual, the collective presents a mixture of intricate instrumentals and Maypole-esque vocal works. The singers waft through the speakers like passing madrigals, here for a moment and then gone, disappearing from their own tracks for minutes at a time. But the instrumentals make the greatest impression, especially the ten-minute title track, itself worth the price of admission. Plucked strings and drones are joined by what may be a hurdy-gurdy. When the horns and snares enter, one imagines sprites in the woods. And the thirteen-minute “Halo”, which begins as a vocal piece, surrenders to the call of the the wild in its final 7:30, ending with a lovely two-minute coda.' A Closer Listen

'Despite a fluid and ever-changing membership (not to mention an admirably diverse collection of musical instruments and noise-making gadgets) United Bible Studies have honed an original and at times unmistakeable sound in their prolific thirteen-year recording history. To put it in perhaps overly simplistic terms, they have one foot in the ambient/drone camp and the other in wyrd world of psych-folk. But more important is their willingness to embrace unconventional musical structures and at times do away with these structures altogether, instead creating collage-like, improvisational pieces that owe more to sound art and contemporary composition than they do to traditional or popular music.

Their latest album Doineann continues to see them functioning as a loose collective rather than a band in the old-fashioned sense. Opener Helix sees the group’s de facto cadre of David Colohan and Richard Moult joined Natalia Beylis, whose simple piano theme takes centre stage, its clarity cleansing the palate for what is to come. It is followed by Clay In My Hand, a song that features an entirely different set of musicians. This one is guitarist Paul Condon’s baby – his vocals and heavily treated electric guitar are joined by the gentle harp of Áine O’Dwyer. After a placid opening, there follows a guitar solo so prominent in the mix and so evocatively played that it recalls an eerier Mike Oldfield. Conlon and O’Dwyer’s sole contribution to the record, it is nonetheless an important one.

Doineann is an Irish word that refers to a period of stormy weather, and the long, synth-led title track tells the story of a storm in musical form. The random-seeming plings of Colohan’s autoharp conjure up the first sparse but heavy drops of rain, while Moult’s electronic beeps and field recordings bring to mind the frightened scuttling of small animals. A third of the way in, Emer Brady’s mournful sax kicks in, playing off against Enda Trautt’s skittering, improvised shower of percussion.

Alison O’Donnell makes a welcome appearance on Across The Blackened Fields. The former Mellow Candle singer has grown richer, witchier, and more interesting with age. Here, multi-tracked, she is frost-bitten and brooding. An electronic throb, intensifying almost imperceptibly, leads the song to its open ended conclusion. With its pagan atmosphere and synthetic bleeps it is an unlikely but successful meeting of ancient and modern, and as such is a neat summation of both sides of the UBS coin. Seachránaí on the other hand (the title translates as ‘wanderer’ or ‘rover’) is entirely the work of main men Colohan and Moult. Colohan’s earthy, wordless vocal and insistent, almost trudging harpsichord is joined by a synth backdrop so sweeping that it comes to resemble a wind over an empty plain. If it hasn’t become so already, it should now be apparent that Doineann’s music is inseparable from its landscapes – the landscapes it describes and those in which it was composed and recorded. These are landscapes that are sometimes local but which never lose their universality. Crucially, it feels as if we are experiencing these often giant natural landscapes from their own points of view and at their own speeds rather than the point of view of a mere human or musician.

Nowhere is this truer than in the final track, Halo. Here Moult takes on the vocal duties for a lengthy, shifting piece that includes electronic tics, wordless gothic choirs and a glacially-paced duet between electric guitar and David Colohan’s autoharp. It is perhaps the best showcase for Colohan’s impressive timing. Towards the end the track fades out and then resurges on a single but almost orchestral synth note – like a post-ambient take on the Beatles’ A Day In The Life. It is a quietly audacious end to an album full of natural grandeur and musical inventiveness.' Thomas Blake

'United Bible Studies, the celtic wyrd folk collective, are nothing if not hard working. A shifting membership and startling degree of creativity certainly helps but it is impressive nonetheless to have two incredible albums emerge (almost) into the daylight at once. If you are a new student to United Bible Studies then do delve into their teachings; any starting point is a worthy one but special mention should go to the epic "The Jonah" and the chamber folk of "Spoicke". Extensively prolific, but yet with a finely tuned quality control, there is a library of riches waiting for you in their back pages.

The first of the new releases, "Doineann", features such well known and respected names in the current folk music field as Michael Tanner (Plinth), David Colohan (Agitated Radio Pilot, Raising Holy Sparks), Richard Moult, Áine O'Dwyer and Alison O'Donnell (Mellow Candle, Firefay and The Owl Service) and was recorded variously in England, Germany, Ireland and Scotland. Opener "Helix" enters on a waterfall of cascading piano, the combination of Richard Moult's buzzing electronics and field recordings alongside Colohan's organetta providing a clearing for the notes to shimmer and repeat. It is utterly beautiful but also icy; there is a sense of winter in this music. "Clay in my Hand" is a spectral lament, O'Dwyer's harp providing a skeletal framework for Paul Condon's vintage synth sounds and folk rock blasts of psych guitar. Completely timeless and otherworldly, there are moments of Mike Oldfield's "Ommadawn" recalled here, particularly in the building tension, layered orchestration and the fluid yet restrained guitar work. "Doineann" itself is a weather beaten landscape, a lonely wind whistling through chiming percussion, plucked autoharp and mournful jazz inflected saxophone. A solitary drum beat counts time and adds a sense of momentum and storm; an approaching thunder amongst the wide open sounds of birds and squelching synths. This is music that is organic, natural, utterly alive with the sense of its roots and origins; it is from and is of the landscape. "Across The Blackened Fields" by contrast is a hushed and intimate lullabye, Alison O'Donnell's distinctive vocals adding shade and colour to the tense and quietly dramatic, pulsating backdrop. O'Donnell truly adds a sense of magic here, a sprinkling of snowy grace upon the icy musical backing. Deeply affecting and utterly unique, this is a song for late in the year, to be heard when there is a chill in the air during the long winter months. "Seachránaí" begins with David Colohan's harpsichord invoking a regal and sorrowful procession before his plaintive vocals emerge freeform, lamenting into the void. Richard Moult's synths then emerge to create surely one of the most crystalline and heartbreaking moments you will ever hear in modern music, before all is silent save for the howl of the arctic wind. "Halo", a thirteen minute epic of a song, begins with Moult's strident and evocative vocals before autoharp and shimmering guitar feedback encases all in a reverberating chill. It beggars belief that this, some of the most beautiful and emotive music presently being made, does not have a wider audience. Or perhaps that is part of the spell; this is music that touches on a level that only certain listeners may wish to hear. Perhaps UBS are a best kept and much loved secret. As the song draws to a close a choral wave of voices underline the sacred and ancient nature inherent in the United Bible Studies craft and its sheer timelessness. This is true folk music.

"Doineann" is available as two separate limited editions from A Year In The Country. The first is a very limited white/black CDr album in 8 page string bound booklet packaging. A second boxset edition contains the album on all black CDr, a 10 page string bound booklet, a 45mm pocket mirror and a 45mm keyring both in their own packaging.' Grey Malkin, The Active Listener

'Ogni nuova tappa del visionario percorso del cenacolo aperto avant-folk riassunto dalla denominazione United Bible Studies rappresenta un enigma, a cominciare dall’identità dei musicisti che vi hanno preso parte. A due anni dall’ultimo organico lavoro collettivo “I Am Providence”, l’abituale dozzina abbondante di artisti dediti a un’improvvisazione folk radicata nei recessi più reconditi della cultura popolare e del misticismo irlandese.

Nell’occasione di “Doineann” la line-up è composta tra gli altri da Richard Moult, David Colohan (Raising Holy Sparks), Alison O’Donnell (The Owl Service), Michael Tanner e Áine O’Dwyer, artisti tutti già tra i principali protagonisti dell’esperienza di United Bible Studies e a loro volta impegnati, singolarmente o attraverso altre molteplici collaborazioni, nella narrazione sonora di misteriosi mondi scomparsi, ma vivissimi nella tradizione e nello stesso paesaggio rurale britannico.
Proprio alle componenti più atmosferiche della countryside sono improntate le sei tracce di “Doineann”, registrate in presa diretta in vari contesti delle due isole britanniche, quasi come se i luoghi stessi potessero lasciare traccia di sé in suoni già per loro natura arcani, intrisi di magia e obliquo romanticismo.

Ancora una volta il caleidoscopio di United Bible Studies opera quale filtro atemporale di rappresentazioni sonore aliene ma, in questo caso più che in altri, saldamente ancorate a risalenti radici folk.
La piccola orchestra United Bible Studies rispolvera il suo amplissimo arsenale espressivo, composto da strumenti antichi oltre che da un peculiare impiego di archi, fiati, strumenti a corda e percussioni acustiche. Tutto ciò da luogo ad atmosfere sospese in equilibrio nella sintesi di linguaggi e fisionomie artistiche di “Doineann”, che in due tracce di durata superiore ai dieci minuti e quattro più brevi bozzetti coniuga una lucida matrice concettuale con l’istinto di esecuzioni improvvisate ma tra loro perfettamente complementari.

Nel corso del lavoro non mancano saltuarie derive acide, né ancestrali torsioni droniche e persino bizzarri inserti dall’antico sapore freak, come in certe parti di fiati della title track, eppure la sua essenza appare particolarmente legata a fragranze bucoliche, tanto nelle ambientazioni (in qualche misura imparentate con quelle di altri vagheggiatori della countryside quali da ultimo i Memory Drawings, come ad esempio nella conclusiva “Halo”) quanto nella narrazione, riassunta in frammenti di tono più o meno ieratico dalle voci di Natalia Beylis e David Colohan. La mistica coralità ambientale di “Clay In My Hands”, i toni soffusi di “The Blackened Fields” e la stessa lunga declamazione di “Halo” tratteggiano quanto di più simile a vere e proprie “canzoni” rinvenibile nell’estetica di United Bible Studies, avviluppata in un prezioso scrigno conservatosi intatti da chissà quale lontana epoca e oggi perpetuato dalla sensibilità di un collettivo di musicisti che prosegue imperterrito le proprie esplorazioni di un’altra dimensione umana e sonora.'


released August 1, 2014

1. Helix
Natalia Beylis - piano
David Colohan - Hohner Organetta
Richard Moult - electronics, field recordings

2. Clay In My Hand
Paul Condon - electric guitar, bass, synth & voice
Áine O'Dwyer - harp

3. Doineann
Emer Brady - alto saxophone
David Colohan - autoharp, electric guitar, Microkorg & samples
Jez Creek - VCS3
Casey Denman - electric guitar
Gary Morrison - modular synthesizer
Richard Moult - electronics, field recordings
Enda Trautt - drums

4. Across The Blackened Fields
David Colohan - acoustic guitar
Alison O'Donnell - voice
James Rider - ipad sampling
Michael Tannner - electronics

5. Seachránaí
David Colohan - harpsichord, sampled Mellotron & voice
Richard Moult - synth

6. Halo
David Colohan - autoharp, electric guitar & Microkorg
Casey Denman - electric guitar
Declan Kelly - chord organ
Gary Morrison - modular synthesizer
Richard Moult - voice
James Rider - Ipad sampling

Recorded variously in England, Germany, Ireland, North & South & Scotland. Produced by United Bible Studies. Mastered by Rudi Arapahoe at Purgatory mastering.



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United Bible Studies Ireland

Mostly based in Ireland and the UK UBS have taken on many forms since forming in 2001... The wolf in every mind, a hawk in the sun's tears, a stag of seven times & a fire upon a hill...

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