Artist: A Stick And A Stone
Genre: Avant-Garde / Doom / Psychedelic Folk / Darkwave / Drone / Choral Music
Release Date: 15th January 2021
Label: Anima Records
A STICK AND A STONE were formed in 2007 by transgendered vocalist and composer Elliott Miskovicz and on first listen I am reminded of the choral darkness that emanates from that German Chanteuse of dark self-reflective cynicism and despair, SOPOR AETERNUS. Whereas SOPOR AETERNUS uses Baroque stylings to imbue the music with its miserableness, Elliott Miskovicz uses more classical, avant-garde themes. What we have here are 11 tracks of slow dark meanderings through wooded mists and fogs that's not only beautiful but disorientating. ‘Versatile’ explores themes such as the versatility of queer love “with songs for friends and freedom fighters, woodlands and waterways”. The album was recorded off grid after Elliott had spent a lifetime in the urban jungle that is Philadelphia. The area where this all transpired, I assume is within the green canopies that surround Portland Oregon.
The album is very earthy and mossy and the images conjured are of tall trees, dampness, the smell of pine and earth and organic decay, dew and cobwebs and the flitting of life from here to there. In places it’s ethereal and dreamy and in others it’s sleep inducing. I totally get the premise that a quieter environment invigorates the creative juices and the healing process, whether physical or mental. Whatever you need you seek if it works for you. This works for Elliot because the whole piece is rich in tone colours and depth. This is a piece for putting thoughts in order, 11 spells that inculcate whatever feelings and processes are needed to get you into that “space”. There is no self-pity here, just questions, observations and musings that conjure up the answers to coping with new situations. And old ones!
The album opener, ‘The Husband Of Wind’ is lamentable in feel and has eerie triplets that dip in and out near the centre of the track and again towards the end along with a simple hypnotic and slow drum beat. The track sets the foggy and dreamy scene perfectly. I have an image of an androgynous nun knelt in the woods by a fallen tree with the silence for witness. The next track ‘Horsetail’ follows a similar path but with a more emphatic thump of the drum. This is where the vocal of Austra sets in motion my reminiscences. And the drone note of the Viola has the effect of sticking down like a spider’s web.
The howl of wolves motivates the ‘Hunter’ into motion and remains in the background throughout the track. The cello is evocative and woody with an overall sound similar to the band DARKHER. My mind’s eyes see open moorland scattered with the odd gnarly tree under grey skies that carry the wolves’ howl. Love this! ‘Heart Of A Whale’ moves along spectrally to the plucks of harp whilst ‘Sullivan’ makes use of the warmer tones of Spanish Guitar and the alto voice of the Viola. The finale is the BJORK sounding ‘Homewrecker’. It sounds like I’m sat in an echo chamber of harps that confounds the senses whilst the voice jumps in and pummels me with open palmed hands. It’s as if the ethereal dreamscape has to be slapped out of me before I succumb permanently to slower brainwaves.
Now, the experiences of Elliott Miskowicz are experiences that the majority of us will not experience, don’t understand and for a fair few, don’t want to understand. That could be for many reasons but one of them could be that they are trying to understand their own experience and don’t have time for others. But in listening to this music, you will have feelings, memories and experiences of your own condition conjured up into consciousness. This will be the universal feelings that all of us feel regardless of who we are. And if this album achieves anything it is to help put you in touch with yourself.
Also, the vocal reminds me of Austra but with more “gnarled bark” in it. Austra tends to sing with a voice that smiles whilst being melancholic or reflective. The vocal on this album does not smile. In places it’s austere with a Jarboe, Sinead O’Connor feel to it! Having said what I have said above, I shall sum up with this. It’s a very good album but like a good whiskey you don’t “get it out of the drinks cabinet” like you would a bottle of beer, you know what I mean dear reader?
01. Husband Of Wind
03. Monster Men
07. Languages Unspoken
08. Oslo In Snow
09. Heart Of A Whale
Elliott Miskovicz - Vocals, Composition, Pump Organ, Piano, Marimba, Kalimba, Classical Guitar, Wood Flute, Percussive Branches, Bass Drum, Found Sound Excavation, Home Recording and Production.
Billy Ray Dover - Viola
Stelleaux Peach - Violin and Cello
Myles Donavan - Viola, Lever Harp and Crystal Glass
Sei Harris - Cello
Darian Scatton - Pedal Harp and Harp Recording
David Fylstra - Mixing, Tape Manipulation, Percussion and Percussion Recording
Total: 7.5 / 10
CD Review: A Stick And A Stone - Versatile
- Written by: Claudia Black
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