EPs / Cassettes / Singles
A Small Murmuration
Throwing Snow (aka Ross Tones) and Augustus Ghost (aka Hannah Cartwright) are the forces behind Snow Ghosts, which, two years on from its Lost At Sea EP (Black Acre Records), is now issuing its debut full-length album. As it turns out, A Small Murmuration is a somewhat misleading title, sonically speaking, as Snow Ghosts' sound is hardly reticent. It doesn't murmur all that much and neither is it small; instead, it's powerful, albeit in its own thoughtfully considered way and on its own terms (in actual fact, the title was chosen to reflect Tones' and Cartwright's respective interests in chaos theory and nature).
Snow Ghosts' not-so-secret weapon is Cartwright's voice, the project's primary distinguishing sound and the thing that gives it identity. What's also interesting is that her singing exudes the kind of timeless folk purity one associates with a group such as Fairport Convention or Arborea (as heard clearly in songs such as “Gallows Strung” and “Time Listens”). Yet Snow Ghosts' instrumental backings are rarely folk-oriented and instead seem more informed by electronica, dubstep, bass music, and gothic-blues. The pairing of such contrasting vocal and instrumental resources generally makes for a striking combination, as captured in “Untangle Me,” for example, where the natural vocal's backed by an electronic house-flavoured groove whose Burial-like snap seems like it might have originated from found sounds, and “And the World Was Gone,” a storm-laden electronic lament that's a tad reminiscent of Portishead in its trip-hop feel and foreboding tone.
Snow Ghosts' style is established powerfully at the album's start when the ultra-dramatic “The Hunted” underlays Cartwright's whisper with a slowly intensifying electronic roar. Oozing portent, the music plunges even more deeply into a gothic-blues zone with the advent of “Murder Cries,” which offsets impassioned singing and orchestral strings with a bass-heavy, double-time pulse. Comparatively subdued but more haunting is “Secret Garden,” where Cartwright's multi-layered voice is at its most entrancing, especially during the lines “And you know the waters will rise / And wash it all away.” Elsewhere, Blue Daisy guests on “Covenant,” whose writhing rhythms and sludgy mix suggests faint connections to industrial and drum'n'bass. By CD standards, A Small Murmuration is short at thirty-five minutes, but that certainly proves to be long enough for the group and album to leave a strong impression on the listener.