matt-howden-and-george-by-chris-saundersSieben or else music as a sound maze in three dimensions

This is a band that has traced a path in music since 1999 with the album ‘Forbid The Sun’s Escape’ now out of print and sold out as are most of his earlier albums. Even though the atmosphere and melodies of this first album were never to be evolved or reappear, Sieben has continuously evolved its sound, unveiling, with each new album, different hidden aspects of the band’s personality. The looped nature of Sieben’s music and the dexterous layering of vocals and instruments create invisible spaces with infinite depth filled with multiple and complex meanings. Even though the use of the loop brings to mind a closed circular shape, the music of Sieben is a very open shape resembling the spiral of the golden rule. With the themes of most of the songs revolving around existential matters and paganism (‘Ogham Inside The Night’ was one of the albums where paganist influences were more prolific), Sieben has always advocated a love for nature.

The collaborations

Sieben has collaborated with various musicians over the years in the albums ‘Forbid The Sun’s Escape’, ‘The Line And The Hook’, ‘Ogham Inside The Night’ and the latest ‘Each Divine Spark’. Tony Wakeford was transformed completely when he contributed vocals to the song ‘First Witchwords’ of the first album, while Jane Howden, April Howden, Sarah Jay Howley and Monica Richards have been the backing vocals over the years. Sieben has also participated in the album called ‘Faun &The Pagan Folk Festival Live’ by Faun .

An overview of Sieben’s music

The inclusion of the loop pedal in 2005 has defined the sound of the band and as Matt Howden has already said, this was a turning point on what concerned the way music was composed and the number of instruments that were needed. In addition to this, several other new elements have been added to the band’s sound.

In ‘Forbid The Sun’s Escape’ the musical ‘maze’ that the songs created, was rather simple and even though the violin and the string instruments had a primary role, the layering of female vocals, the performing style and the strong melodies, were the elements that made this album stand out from the rest. The change in style was evident to the next album ‘The Line and the Hook’ where female vocals were backing the male vocals. Percussions could be heard more clearly, the experimental parts of the music was more dynamic with passionate alterations and the sound overall was richer. Three of the songs included lyrics of poems by Keith Howden while songs as ‘My Ideology’ and ‘Old Gods’ could be viewed as early versions of the latest ‘Vonnegut’ and ‘Written In Fire’.

From the next album until ‘Ogham Inside The Night’, female vocals disappeared completely and it seemed that the character of the band was crystallizing. The new element was the layering of male vocals. Melody gave way to rhythmical compositions and the narrating performing style stressed the lyrics more. The inclusion of two instrumental songs is the new element in this album which, as Sieben has stated, also organised the album structurally. I will not forget the duet with Monica Richards from Faith and The Muse in ‘Ogham Inside The Night’, which had similar aesthetics to Nick Cave’s song ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ with Kylie Minogue.

Sex and Wildflowers’ was an album (now sold out in physical form) that was structured similarly to a classical musical piece with the instrumental parts having clear references to classical music. This album added the third dimension to the musical maze the band was constructing all these years through the songs. This third vertical dimension was added with the song ‘Deathwish’ and renewed the audience’s interest to the band’s work. I noticed that this album at times, through the solos and the tremble of the violin, brought echoes of the solos of Tuxedomoon in violin. Fast forward to 2014, where Sieben has released the album called ‘Each Divine Spark’ in CD (by Redroom) and Vinyl (Dark Vinyl records) format. The image of the cover coupled with the title created to me the impression that this album was about self confidence and the belief in the power of each one’s ‘divine spark’. This impression was intensified when I let myself being carried away by the music itself. Jo Quail is playing electric cello using the loop pedal and Michael Eden is playing the guitar. April Howden and Sarah Jay Hawley provide the backing vocals. This album is signed by ‘The Mighty Sieben’ and it is the first time the musician has used this combination of words to sign one of his albums. As is the case with all the albums where Sieben has collaborated with guest musicians, the music resonated in my mind even after the end of each listening. It is a dynamic album where melody is placed at the foregrounsieben-faun-tourd and is very nicely combined with Matt Howden’s vocals. The narrating style is reduced and melody is apparent in the singing as well.

Matt Howden is a very active musician who also teaches music technology, composition, business, performance and arrangement and has been inspiring young students as he further develops his own personality as a musician. Using his name, he has composed instrumental music for films (i.e. ‘ Águas Furtadas & Outras Ausências, Antlers Of Reason’, ‘Torpor Revisited’, ‘Cosmos’, ‘Where Her Dreams End’) and documentaries (i.e. ‘Dambusters Declassified, ‘Robot World’).

“I don’t usually even write a set list until I’ve seen the space and been able to determine whether people will be standing or sitting, or if there’ll be any bounce-back off the walls.  If the atmosphere and acoustic shape of a room makes people calm and settled then I’ll play a gentler set…” (from a recent interview with Sieben)

This is a musician who takes the audience and the space where each performance is to take place, very seriously and this can only be an indication of the unique character of each live concert. It’s been 5 years since I last saw Sieben perform live at the Ship Of Fools on a boat inside Thames and taking all these elements into account I can’t be more impatient for the forthcoming live at Surya on October 18th 2014.

MATAWAN, is a new band that has released a self titled EP which creates an atmosphere similar to dark ambient music. The 23’ long experimental track of this EP is reminiscent of the slower and less dynamic tracks of bands like Lustmord and Raison d’Être.

Fear of The Forest, has a sound which puts this band closer to ethereal and medieval folk musicians such as Louisa John Krol. The band has used instruments characteristic of Middle Eastern, African and Balkan musical traditions (i.e. daf and hurdy gurdy) and has collaborated with Doudou Cissoko a kora player and vocalist from Dakar and Daemonia Nymphe and used ancient strings.

Lloyd James is the lead vocalist of Naevus. He is a musician which we’ve had the chance to see perform live quite a few times in London lately and he will definitely present one more of the band’s hydras in front of the audience.

Finally it is important to mention that this live event will have a dedicated dj Francesca Mendola, who always takes into account the music of the bands and adjusts her play lists accordingly in order to create a suitable introduction before the bands appear on stage.


Blaue Rosenbox

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