Artist and singer Andrew King has released an album of traditional English folk songs entitled The Bitter Harvest. Andrew will be familiar to Sol Invictus fans for his artistic, literary and musical contributions to Tony Wakeford's On magazine, and the album is distributed by World Serpent. Andrew is an enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable exponent of traditional song as well as entertaining a certain obsession with the Baroque.
The singing is essentially unaccompanied but drones and percussion are effectively deployed in places in a supporting role. Andrew's distinctive voice and clear articulation are impressive. The melody line is adorned with grace notes in traditional style, but strength and control ensure that he stays in tune.
His choice of material - dark and murderous - includes classics of the folk repertoire such as 'The House Carpenter' and the melodic gem, 'Brigg Fair'. The distribution of this album, complete with learned notes, puts to shame the effort now being made by the old-established folk labels.
Rik - 19 June 1998
"The Amfortas Wound" 2004
The Amfortas Wound is the second release of traditional song from Andrew King, following the unaccompanied songs of The Bitter Harvest (released via World Serpent). On The Amfortas Wound Andrew King brings the listener eleven traditional songs with a slight musical experimentation particularly using the harmonium and drones. On The Amfortas Wound he is aided by Hunter Barr, Andrew Trail and John Murphy. The trio normally record under the name Knifeladder, here they are guided by Andrew King to embelish the songs with industrial-atmo drone.
"The natural state of all created matter is one of pain" writes King in the liner notes and as such many of these songs are concerned with death, and quite usually at the hands of another. 'Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor', a fateful tale of abandoned love, sung over a drone and extended by a mock flute organ refrain. 'The Prentice Boy' a vicious murder ballad. 'Cruel Lincoln' a ballad of mindless slaughter involving Cruel Lincoln, a nurse and the murder of the Lord's lady and child. The old Scottish ballad 'Love Henry' tells the story of a man who is murdered for refusing the advances of a lady. 'Worcester City' is tale of unrequited love that ends in death for the damsel and her deadly admirer as a result of poisoned wine. Death also arises from misadventure. 'The Wild Wild Berry' with its buzzing harmonium and ominous drone tells of the dreaded woody nightshade.
The largely unaccompanied 'Down in the Meadow' collects a number of disparate verses of which the second may be familiar to listeners of Sol Invictus (as it featured on early versions of 'Abbatoirs of Love'). An excerpt from 'The Week Before Easter' even made an appearance on Current 93's Thunder Perfect Mind (as spoken by Shirley Collins on 'A Beginning'). Yet these are merely pointers to explain the importance of traditional song to those associated with the industrial folk genre. The Amfortas Wound details Andrew King's obssession with traditional song.
'The Knights Templar Dream' is clearly Masonic, and Irish in descent. The sectarian divide is clear as King's notes point out that the printer used different coloured paper stock depending upon the religion of the recipient. 'Gethsemane' is King's arrangement based on Peter Bellamy's musical setting of a Rudyard Kipling poem. The poignancy of this track is increased as it features a recording of the gas shell bombardment from the First World War.
Andrew's extensive knowledge is evidenced in the liner notes for each track providing an insight into vernacular history. The Amfortas Wound is unique within the pages of Compulsion online and while it may not be to everyone's taste it is produced with considerable love and in its own way represents an important point in capturing these songs and ballads for subsequent generations.
The package is completed with a booklet containing full lyrics, their history and a number of artworks by Andrew King, from his Alchemical Emblems series. An ultra-limited edition of 33 copies are available with lenticular prints but these will probably have gone by now. For more information go to arsregia.free.fr/