Spirit of Place
Start the journey on a pilgrim\'s path to the tip of North Wales: drink from the well at Ffynnon Fair before the short voyage to Ynys Enlli, the island burial place of twenty thousand saints. Out in a small boat at evening, it looms like a sleeping dragon over there in the West. Do not disturb... High on the downs, in the brief glory of an English summer, you can lie back, look up and sink into \'A Sea of Sky\': a deep blue, lark-infested stretch of the imagination. \'High Plains, Drifting\' concerns a trip across Salisbury Plain on a bright January night in a valiant but unheated old Renault. An unscheduled stop gave us the chance to view Stonehenge through the banks of snow. Unreliable, wishful memories of a warm and drowsy summer: Ralph Vaughan Williams dancing with Glenn Miller. You can wander around the circle at Rollright and try to count the stones, which they say is impossible. Some of those stones go down the hill to drink from the spring, and dance at midnight. An energetic sort of place! The stones sit in a neatly fenced, garden-like enclosure surrounded by trees and orderly fields in the heart of Oxfordshire: as if something profoundly alien had landed in your back yard. The irrepressible John Barleycorn springs up his head in \'Out of the West\': Shepherd Haden\'s song of death, drink, and renewal sneaks into this piece. Can\'t keep a good tune down. When you hear about \'the real Australia\' they\'re usually talking about somewhere you aren\'t. The \'wide brown land\' is all very well, but does suburbia (where most of us live) get a look in with all this ambient landscapy stuff? Not a lot... Here, in an effort to redress the balance, are \'The Umbagong Grooves\'. Umbagong, a stone axe in the local Ngunnawal language, is the name given to the parkland around Ginninderra Creek in the western suburbs of Canberra, now inhabited by evening dogwalkers, kids on trailbikes and the occasional confused kangaroo. Down by the water, near my cosy 1970s bungalow, are some axe-grinding grooves made some time before the suburb was a twinkle in a town planner\'s eye or a sheep put it's pointy feet on the place. You\'ll hear a host of sounds organic and electrical on this album, including lyre, fujara, bass clarinet, hot fountain pen, melodica, soprano sax, distressed banjo, cittern, and subtle electronic textures. Plus a guest appearance from my favourite local artistes: the frogs of Ginninderra Creek. As Nick Beale said in an fRoots review, this is \'multi-faceted and highly inventive music...\' .