That blustery fall evening in Brooklyn seemed awash in afterglow. The stage at St. Vitus was either littered with hay, or… was it all in my head? It turns out that in memory, as in music, the real and ethereal are often interchangeable. Playing as a trio, Wovenhand didn’t merely perform some of the strongest material under their belts, as well as one or two 16 Horsepower show-stoppers, they wove a spiritual that pulled us out of our own preoccupied lives and into their pulsating esoteric ritual. Theirs was a pervasive, anachronistic seance evoking an unlikely rapture in a pair of NYC skeptics. My bassist friend was reticent to approach David after the set, but your humble pundit – devoid of musical training and social tact – lacked the capacity to be daunted by the stature of talent before which we stood. Regardless, we found David and Pascal, both, humble and gracious as they expressed surprise to find a few fans so far from home who claimed to be following since the early days. I may or may not have gushed over Folklore, in particular.
And here I am two decades on, still following along, enamored again. Although they sort of lost me after The Threshingfloor, Wovenhand has always held a special place, and coming up to their imminent Roadburn appearance, have recalimed their thorned throne for me with Silver Sash. They are indeed back at their best and still disarming with consistently joyous performances and surprise admixtures of Rock ’n’ Roll, Electronica, Drone, and a staple of Southern Spirituals. And it is really through the live iterations and spontaneous soulfull channeling of their performances that Wovenhand is experienced (or re-experienced) at their best. The recent Riverwood Arts Festival recording is a good place to go for that. There I relived some of that ethereal nuance of the presence, the voice, the uplifting nature of David’s piercing oratory, the cold finger-picked notes and warm, pulsations of upright bass, the pounding tribal percussion. But meanwhile, along came the surprisingly refreshing Silver Sash. The same way the rekindled interest I felt when Mark Lanegan first embraced electronics and modern production made me double take on this album now.
Silver Sash is right in line with the creativity and energy of the first two LPs as well as the firecracker Ten Stones and has about the same proportion of really memorable, standout tracks – or even a bit more. The focus and brevity of the tracks and lack of meandering drones and tongues helps make this album highly effective. The saturation of electronics on this one, borne of a home-recorded approach makes this both unique and very much natural a step to take. The latter half of the album, especially, gets very interesting as the songrwriting seems to loosen up. David steps out on ”Dead Dead Beat”, a sort of classic Rock ’n’ Roll banger with a flash of southern glam. And again on ”Omaha”, the drama builds. Rhythms that recall traditionals swathed in a cloak of modernism. The theatricality, the soul put into the writing and performance absolutely comes through on track after track. With modern and alt Rock vibes on “Acacia” and overdriven Post-Grunge vibes on ”Sicagnu”, the quasi-Industrial Gospel Psych of ”The Lash”, the Electronica-rich tribal swagger on “8 of 9”, the pulsating dance beat of ”Silver Sash.”
Every track is well proportioned under the 4-minute mark. The writing has a focus born of decades of experience at a level beyond the pale. The gospel poetry is sweet and seldom overpowers the song itself. The production is tuned to accentuate a redoubled variety of musical styles and maintain the gospel thread beautifully throughout the playtime. Silver Sash is, once again, very impressive in the way the core Wovenhand sound is reframed in modern terms. A sort of shade of what they did on the Blush Music, commision, brought back to the future, two decades on.
Although I cannot be there to see Wovenhand again at this year’s Roadburn Festival, I can look back fondly on a brief moment in time when I experience a ghostly thread of revelation from another dimension. And i can never forget the few words of thanks exchanged with a kind, humble preacherman, a dark gleam in his eye from no outside source. If you make it to Roadburn do us both a favor you won’t forget. Catch David’s set. It is sure to be transformative. And let me know!