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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Pitchfork SEPTEMBER 17, 2007 - by Matthew Murphy
FOVEA HEX: ALLURE
Allure is the third and final installment in Fovea Hex's Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent trilogy, and it closes the captivating series with an impressive balance and symmetry. For this EP, the self-described "ensemble of associates" has undergone further cast changes, making the project's cohesion all the more remarkable. The primary constant, however, remains former Mellow Candle vocalist Clodagh Simonds, whose voice and koan-like songs anchor Fovea Hex's ambient drones with a deceptive simplicity and frequently breath-taking beauty.
The two previous EPs in the Neither Speak series, Bloom and Huge, had featured appearances by such luminaries as Brian Eno, the Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie, and film composer Carter Burwell. This time around, Simonds is joined by guitarist Robert Fripp, Nurse With Wound's Colin Potter, an assortment of Dublin-based improvisers, and - perhaps most tellingly - musician and wildlife author Geoff Sample who contributes field recordings of Moorland birds and lakewater. As with the earlier EPs, this rotating ensemble ensures a constant evolution of activity and texture within Allure's three pieces, and yet each sound source is incorporated with such elegance that the whole eclectic group can appear to perform with a single, indivisible voice.
A palpable sense of loss and displacement has informed Simonds' songs throughout the Neither Speak recordings, and never more so than on Allure. "I'm like a fish that's breathing sand, so longing" she sings on the album's centerpiece Long Distance, the stark emotion of her voice mirrored by Fripp's shimmering guitar figures and Michael Begg's piano treatments and "melancholia implants." As with her previous songs, the object of Simonds' longing is never given a specific name or identity, so Long Distance and the opening title track might be addressed to a missing lover, or they could be hymns from a disillusioned believer to an absent God.
Throughout Allure, the various members of Fovea Hex continually bolster Simonds' songs with unexpected instrumental flourishes, as with Donal Lunny's exotic bodhrán on Long Distance or with the tasteful Celtic strings on Allure. Intriguingly, Simonds and company have chosen to close out the album, and hence the entire trilogy, with the instrumental Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent. Counterbalanced with Percy Jones' subaquatic bass and Sample's nature recordings, Simonds concludes this series with a prolonged, enigmatic whisper, one that can seem an alternately soothing and vaguely disquieting finale to Fovea Hex's adventure.
Limited editions of Allure come packaged with the bonus disc An Answer, which features the EP's material re-mixed by Andrew McKenzie into a luminous, hour-length meditation. And now that the Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series is finished, Fovea Hex also offers the three EPs together in a handsome boxed edition. Given the project's unified vision, this box set seems the best way to experience Fovea Hex, and putting these three EPs on in hypnotic succession can quite quickly become an addictive procedure. And though it might now appear that the group's work is complete, one can certainly hope that Simonds can someday find further alluring ways to put the Fovea Hex associates to use.