Half Life, The Eden House’s eagerly-awaited second album, arrives four years after their splendid first album Smoke and Mirrors.
Between the two albums, the collective have extensively played live and released The Looking Glass – a two-CD affair split between a lavish live video and an audio CD of covers – and a mini-album, Timeflows.
The revolving doors policy of the project – by which collaborators come and go for each recording and live appearance – ensures a constant freshness and element of surprise.
Once again, founding members Stephen Carey (Adoration, NFD) and Tony Pettitt (Fields of The Nephilim, NFD) have surrounded themselves with an array of talented musicians and singers: Phil Manzarena (Roxy Music), Simon Hinkler (The Mission), Bob Loveday (who has played with Van Morrison, Bob Geldof and Rachid Taha among others), Lee Douglas (Anathema), Monica Richards (Faith and The Muse), Jordan Reyne, Queenie Moy, Phoenix J and Laura Bennett.
Much like on The Eden House’s previous releases, the music flows in your ears like the most magical of potions; there is real chemistry – or should I say alchemy? – at work here between the various female vocals and the multi-layered, intricately woven melodies. And like every good mythical brew, the recipe of The Eden House’s music remains mysterious and elusive: it escapes categorisation, mixes up genres, influences and moods – prog and gothic rock as well as trip-hop have all been mentioned; it shapeshifts at will to create its very own soundscape(s). No song follows a linear path but instead, each of them takes us by the hand – and ears and heart too! – and leads us off the beaten track to wander around a totally wild and enthralling sonic world.
The backbone of the album is Tony Pettitt’s distinctive bass, to which are added sonorous and virtuoso guitars, thundering drums, dark electronic gurgles and the sweeping flights of Bob Loveday’s violin.
And then, there are the vocals… The six very different, unique female voices stamp their mark on the tracks – or rather singe the flesh of each song with their branding iron of a voice; if the music is the body, then their voices make up the soul of the songs.
Bad Men, The Tempest and Wasted on Me, with their ever-so-slightly tangible sense of menace, have an out-of-this-world beauty in which the ethereal and the hard-edged intertwine.
Indifference features multi-layered vocals and an incredibly infectious chorus, while Butterflies possesses a gripping narrative quality and benefits from the gorgeous, vibrant vocals by NZ musician Jordan Reyne, who, I must admit, is a personal favourite artist of mine.
The Empty Space and City of Goodbyes take things to another atmospheric level; even though the pace has slowed down, we get swept away by the rich, majestic melodies. On hearing the sonorous instrumental section in City of Goodbyes, my feet almost left the ground.
Elsewhere, Queenie Moy’s jazzy and soulful voice dominates The Hunger, an epic, stirring song worthy of the best James Bond theme tunes – and also probably the most ‘commercial’ track on the album.
I like the way Half Life concludes with the brighter First Light, a song peppered with flavours of dub and ska. Towards the end of the track, the sound of the sea and the bird songs communicate an unforeseen sense of inner peace and contentment.
This album is an absolute success and is utterly bewitching.
And now, it is your turn to succumb.