“Something comes quietly”, offers United Bible Studies senior fellow David Colohan, in a refrain at the end of Spoicke’s first half. Indeed, like a spring raincloud Spoicke enters, takes place, and departs – though, unlike most rainy days, this is one worth braving.
Ireland’s United Bible Studies are a seasoned collective of rotating musical talents, committing consistently formidable experimental folk efforts to disc. Staple member Colohan is joined here by artists from acts as diverse as Fragments of Duration, the London Improvisers Orchestra, Colohan’s own Raising Holy Sparks, Toymonger, and Michael Tanner of Plinth and Cloisters. A collective of such engaging performers of diverse talents lends itself to expectations of promise – which, thankfully, are met with calm ease.
Spoicke began life as a VPRO radio session, finding a spiritual home in Amsterdam. As a live session, a largely improvisational feel is present throughout – albeit somewhat guardedly executed. This near shyness in delivery allows the album’s four tracks to build and subside in a manner that feels organic; like tall grass in the breeze.
Spoicke finds much of its foundations in the harp, which lends itself primarily, and unavoidably, to prettiness. One of the greater triumphs of United Bible Studies’ unique sound is their willingness to contrast this pastoral gentleness with harsher, more electronically based instrumentation. This is particularly prevalent on the album’s two extended compositions, ‘Black Matthew 1’ and ‘Hazlehurst Requiem’. The former compliments each sound with an equal amount of negative space; taking pleasure in the meditative space between notes. These pieces distinguish themselves from the albums shorter pieces, which lend themselves to tender vocal deliveries, which are, for the most part, brim-full of hope, and a gorgeously jubilant air. Indeed, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a recording so effortlessly beautiful this year. Visceral, honest music that might finally usher in spring at last.