Wovenhand: Mosaic

Mosaic moves David Eugene Edwards further away from country 'n' western, more towards country 'n' eastern.



Label: Sounds Familyre
US Release Date: 2006-09-19
UK Release Date: 2006-08-22

The constants in the music of David Eugene Edwards are so strong that they tend to overshadow the evolution of his work over the past decade, since his former band, 16 Horsepower kicked up a cloud of righteous dust on 1996’s Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes. Heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) Christian themes and a propensity for minor chords have marked just about everything Edwards has committed to tape. But what makes Mosaic, his latest under the Wovenhand name, different from Sackcloth, or even from WH’s self-titled debut? More than you’d think, actually. Mosaic moves Edwards further away from the gothic hillbilly stomp of his earlier catalog into territory at once more personal and exotic. With the exception of downright sunny instrumental “Bible and Bird”, Mosaic eschews familiar rural American song structures and arrangements, relying more heavily on echo, drone, and percussion drawn from a wide range of cultural influences, from Tuvan throat-singing to Eastern European gypsy folk.

The Tuvan influence shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Edwards covered the traditional “Horse Head Fiddle” back on 16 Horsepower’s Folklore. It was noted then that the horse culture of central Asia and its music have much in common with that of the American West -- making it logical inspiration for a songwriter inclined both toward frontier themes and earthy spirituality. “Breathing Bull” opens Mosaic with sustained harmonica notes floating eerily over lower tones from an instrument I can’t recognize. I’m not even sure it’s a harmonica I’m hearing, so stretched are the tones, ghost-thin, evaporating like fog. It’s a brief intro, not very substantial in and of itself, but it’s an important mood setter, establishing right away that you’re being led into a different world than that of whatever you were doing before you put the record on. “Winter Shaker” follows, built on an undercurrent of ominous roar and layered with hurdy-gurdy, organ and guitar played more for its percussive value than for melodic support. “The circle is vicious / Of thoughts altogether vain / Haunted by battles lost / Still living on Indian land” Edwards rolls out in his familiar, dramatic timbre, and later, a forceful barrage of “hallelujahs” that feel inspired in equal parts by his lineage from a Nazarene preacher and a traveling Native American animal trainer (read Jennifer Kelly’s interview with Edwards here).

“Whistling Girl” is built around banjo and a few splashes of piano, but the rhythm is still the focus, rigid enough to maintain the omnipresent dire urgency of Edwards’s song, yet still varied and full of nuance. Drummer Ordy Garrison has been Edwards’s primary collaborator in Wovenhand, much the same as Jean Yves-Tola was in 16 Horsepower, providing an anchor for songs like “Elktooth”, which would otherwise fly off into the void. Edwards has grown fond of dragging his words over and through measures rather than keeping them confined to a set meter, here repeated “double-minded man” over and over until meaning starts to leak from the words. “He is a tooth tapper / Dressed in cold / As told to the Gauls of old / Arranging his word / In a controlled burn,” he sings, as polite a description of a French-seeming flip-flopper if ever there was. Wovenhand is all about conviction, in faith and in action, conviction so zealous and unrelenting as to come off kind of creepy sometimes to those not used to it, including me. But the appeal of Wovenhand has a lot to do with hearing someone so single-mindedly devoted, with a complete absence of the warm fuzzies that tend to accompany contemporary religious-themed music. Whether declaring “There is a sorrow to be desired” on the highlight, up-tempo “Dirty Blue”, or croaking the lament “It reads lame now written down / It is frail now that it makes its sound” on the murky, frightening “Slota Prow”, Edwards continues to go where he is called whether you follow or not.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.