Wovenhand
Mosaic
Sounds Familyre
2006
B-



if it's typical to see David Eugene Edwards, whether recording as Wovenhand or as 16 Horsepower, as using a dark intensity to deliver Old Testament fire and Southern gothic brimstone (the requisite terms), it's also typical to miss out on his earnest faith. Yes, Edwards occasionally sounds like the type of Bible-thumper that’ll curse you to hell before going home to beat his wife and down some bourbon—but, more often than not, it’s because he’s a man more comfortable in his faith than his music lets us be in ours.

Fear not, though, unbeliever. Wovenhand's newest release, Mosaic, turns slightly from the fear and trembling of religion towards the possibility of hope. After an instrumental opener, Edwards sings the album's first line, "The circle is vicious," suggesting a continuation of violence, but he then turns the lyrical wheel to use the ferocity to drive a ship home, resulting in the simple praise of "Hallelujah, hallelujah." Sure, Edwards know the race is never fully run: the next track, "Swedish Purse," comes from a moment of distance and alienation, using a sailor's homesickness to underline the need for spiritual comfort in crisis, as well as the crisis caused when we realize the lack of proximate comfort can bring.

But these sorts of lyrical tensions run throughout Edwards's career—and here he even breaks away from the sinner-barely-saved mood to occasionally bring some brightness into the atmosphere. "Bible and Bird," one of several instrumental tracks, provides some of the most open music Edwards has given us under any alias. Avoiding tormented arrangements, Edwards opts to clear the air with some acoustic guitar work and some organ drones. It's a gorgeous moment that keeps the hope part of faith alive.

Even so, Edwards doesn't shy away from the outlook that the world is where we fall. The track follows “Elktooth”'s critical stance on the "double-minded man" and proceeds "Dirty Blue" and its meditation on sorrow. While the former reveals the despair of the worldly life, the latter, softened by "Bible and Bird," is more forgiving. It moves from fear into the sense of an endless fall into having "come apart," but it admits, "There is a sorrow to be desired / To be sorrow's desired." The contradictory (potentially masochistic) statement turns sensible in consideration of the Biblical "man of sorrows" (arguably Jesus).

Ultimately, Wovenhand marks a turn to fully spiritual communication to escape worldly sorrows, as Edwards sings in tongues on "Slota Prow" (even providing an odd transcription in the album's liner notes). After that moment, Mosaic seems to add to its offering of possibility, moving through the armor of contrition and meekness in "Full Armour" into the hope of a Godly touch (like "a woman's touch") before pulling down "a burning coal of kindness." Ultimately, Edwards appears to reach a spot of loveliness with "Deerskin Doll." Beauty abounds, along with the faithful cry of "yes," but the final lyric rests in the dark: "I hear a mocking voice." He leaves us with the instrumental "Little Raven," part hopeful prettiness and part dark moan, which sums up the preceding 40 minutes pretty well.


Reviewed by: Justin Cober-Lake
Reviewed on: 2006-09-28
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