drcarlsonalbion and the Hackney Lass: 'Modern English Folklore' volume one: Hackney
The Wormhole

The first thing one notices about this second chapter in Dylan Carlson's drcarlsonalbion project is, of course, the presentation, with its two seven-inch vinyl discs (black or clear) enclosed within a strikingly illustrated gatefold sleeve; thankfully, the songs on the discs themselves are as striking. For this project, the Earth guitarist is joined by Rosie Knight, a young spoken word poet and activist from Hackney who gives voice to her writings on the first disc's two pieces; the second disc is the same material presented in instrumental form, the voice wholly stripped away. Whereas Edward Kelley's Blues / Drunk on Angelspeech, the inaugural drcarlsonalbion release, appeared on cassette and used alchemist John Dee as a springboard, Modern English Folklore Vol.1: Hackney shifts the focus to ancient myth and occult folklore and the present-day borough of Hackney in London's East End.

On the opening song, “Hackney Iliad,” Carlson's guitar provides a gently drifting base for Knight's distinctive, measured delivery. Sometimes violent in its imagery, the text references familiar mythological figures (Cronos, Orpheus, Odysseus) by way of relating the text to a modern-day narrative rooted in East End. Side two's “Tyler's Hand of Glory” recounts the dramatic story of a man who pursues occult learning, seeing himself as a modern-day Warlock who monitors suicides on a police scanner; a sense of dread and gloom infuses Knight's cryptic text, which Carlson nicely complements with a raw yet unobtrusive backing. As captivating as Knight's presence is, there's a part of me that's drawn even more to the instrumental versions, simply because one gets to hear Carlson's tremolo-laden playing without anything else getting in the way. When reduced to electric guitar and effects only, “Hackney Iliad” becomes a meditative drone reminiscent of Fear Falls Burning in its slow unfolding, while “Tyler's Hand of Glory” presents an even more molten handling of the material.

February 2013