The Silver Skein Unwound

Stone Breath

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The Silver Skein Unwound Review

by Fran├žois Couture

The Silver Skein Unwound is a very strong release, but it also shows Stone Breath falling under its own spell. What it means is that the album attains a near-perfect level of cohesion and self-referenced logic, but in order not to repeat itself and sound stale, the group will have to reinvent its approach for its next opus. This album, the group's fourth, presents a dark form of acid folk, where nature symbols are densely laced through the lyrics, along with references to magic and religion. The melodies share a common hypnotic repetition and a certain detachment -- they are often sung like psalms or mantras. The instrumentation is almost exclusively acoustic (except for an occasional electric guitar) and relies on guitar, cello, banjo, selected percussion, and vocals. The low and mysterious voice of Timothy Renner is joined by two female voices, Prydwyn and Sarada, one of them almost lower than his. There is something deeply funeral about their three-part choruses. Each song is slow, pensive, reminiscent of various musical styles out of time: Native American chants, medieval folk tunes, the traditional songs of heartland America. Think of the Iditarod stripped from its cuteness, of Tower Recordings without the psychedelic experimentations, of Current 93 without the electronics (the mood and imagery often cross paths with the latter group). Highlights include the opening "Wasp-sting, Thorn, and Arrowhead" (coming back in an a cappella version at the end of the album), "Last Lost Love Song," and "Let the Towers Fall." Some people will find The Silver Skein Unwound a bit unbearable in the long run -- too dry or macabre -- but its aesthetic is so clearly defined and mastered that it exerts a strange kind of fascination.

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