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Celtic pagan neo-folk act, Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks, continue their creative prolificacy with album number seven, 'Aes Sidhe'. Another concept piece, the themes, this time, centre around "the ancient Celtic and Nordic mythologies about death and rebirth into the afterlife." Of the album's title, which is Irish for "people of the mound", Joy states: "The ancient Irish buried their dead in a mound, which symbolized the pregnant belly of the goddess, who would rebirth the dead into the otherworld." So, just like Donald Trump's elaborate comb-over/wig combo, we're firmly in enigmatic territory here. Fascist dictators aside, Joy's opted to explore, through both music and lyrics, philosophical contemplations of two of the world's greatest enigmas (greater even than Trump's symbolically deceitful hair) - life and death. And beyond life and death (pun intended), she incorporates even more provocatively abstract ruminations on the afterlife.

Considering the subject matter, I guess it's rather apt that listening to the songs on 'Aes Sidhe' frequently becomes a transcendent experience. I don't mean that in any kind of Kantian appropriation of the term; rather, such is the music's emotional potency, sentiently mystic depths and poetically powerful symbolism, it elevates my consciousness in the most pleasing of ways. Rather remarkably, this is all achieved through ostensible minimalism. Ethereal, graceful and elegant throughout, it's all about the subtleties in the compositions, their arrangements and delivery. Melodies are intricately interwoven through both minimalist, harp-led instrumentations and entrancingly pensive vocals. As such, songs have no "wow" factor... it's all about the slow-burning affects that emerge in their own good time and within their own uniquely aesthetic space, through the album's reflections and introspections on its esoteric themes.

The music's also subtly epic. While songs are generally centered around Joy's Celtic harp and dulcet vocals, with subtle layers of further instrumentation brought into the mix, there's a great majesty to proceedings as the album progresses and reveals its true beauty. This is a grower, I hasten to add... the best kind of album... one that continues to improve with each new listen, to the point of transcendence (as was my own experience). Joy's vocals, in particular, on this outing, have a discernible emotional fragility throughout (particularly in her vibrato), yet they have an inherent, mesmeric grip. Together with the music, it all sounds of another time - like sonic echoes of yore - yet, simultaneously, timeless... which could be said is a sonic/lyrical marriage made in heathen, whereby the album's retro/timeless duality is wholly reflective of its life-death-afterlife themes. All in all, a mightily fine follow-up to 'Mo Anam Cara'.
Triple Goddess Records
Review by Mark Holmes
3rd April 2017
1) Fall from Tír na nÓg
2) Cwn Annwn
3) Völva
4) Himmelstraße
5) A Pause (feat. Xasthur)
6) Entering the Mound
7) Under the Whitethorn Tree
8) Folvang
9) Tír na nÓg
10) Grey Havens; 11) Valhallavägen
12) Mag Mell; 13) Tír Tairngiri
"...it all sounds of another time - like sonic echoes of yore - yet, simultaneously, timeless..."