Trial Of The Bow
1. The Two Sacred Tapestries Of Persia
3. From The Mountains Of Tangier
Recorded shortly after the break-up and demise of Australian doom death band Disembowelment, Ornamentation found two of the band's key members moving in the largely unexplored terrain of ethno-ambient music. While explored by atmospheric bands like Dead Can Dance and dub outfits like Bill Laswell's Possession project, such music was largely produced by a mere minority and never at the level that the fledging Trial of the Bow attempted. With Trial of the Bow, Renato Gallino and Mathew Skarajew (the guitarist/vocalist and bassist of Disembowelment) set out to explore the more exotic regions of contemporary music and created intense ambient tapestries in the process.
Ornamentation is a four song EP representing the earliest attempts by Trial of the Bow at creating ambiance through a reworking of traditional instrumentation and ancient motifs. Gallina and Skarajew draw on the various musical traditions of India, Persia, and the Mediterranean (with emphasis on northern Africa) and create a rich synthesis of sounds and atmospheres. Intense trance inducing polyrhythms (played with traditional percussive instruments) forms the base, while the e-bow drones in unison with sitar and sparse guitar melodies float hazily above. Vocals are used sparingly and simply enhance the tightly woven threads of the music with eerie chanting and hymnal singing.
The four tracks have a tendency to drone on in repetition, but that is a strength rather than a weakness; the music is trance inducing and any radical deviation from the basic rhythm would shatter that quality. While often intense, the music is never harsh or grating on the mind. The overall atmosphere is both haunting and exotic, invoking images of long abandoned Mosques, endless desert sands and the sun setting on the Ganges River. The music immerses the listener in otherworldly ambiance, at once foreign and welcoming, mysterious and romantic, intense and addictive. One could see in Ornamentation the vast future potential of Trial of the Bow, a potential that still remains largely unexplored.
Review by James Slone
Review date: 05/2000
1. Father Of The Flower
3. The Promise
5. The Eyre Of The Awakening
6. Ceilidh For The Sallow Ground
8. The Court Of The Servant
9. As Night Falls
Renato Gallina and Mathew Skarajew return to the world of ethno-ambient music with Rite of Passage - surely a fitting and poetic title for their first full-length album. The sound of the record is a great deal more refined than that found on the debut Ornamentation EP, but also a good deal less ambient taken as a whole. There are the occasional trance inducing ambient tracks scattered throughout the album, but the greater part of the album is comprised of rather traditional music (ripe with rustic charm) from scatter-shot sources throughout the Mediterranean and Near East brought together and bound in tightly woven numbers. This is probably some of the hookiest "world music" you're ever going to hear.
A whole hoard of guest musicians were assembled for the album with most of them providing a wide variety of string and woodwind instruments (the violin family, harp, double bass, flute, recorder, etc.). The inclusion of the woodwinds is really essential to the album and what really distinguishes in many ways from Ornamentation. The music is largely an infusion of North African, Iberian and Middle eastern (as well as some obvious references to Indo-Iranian) music - the various influences are infused to the point where the exact origins of certain sounds become ambiguous. Some of the better tracks flirt with combining intense poly-rhythmic African music with slight (almost playful) European melodies. The catchword of the album is definitely "variety" with "fusion" coming in at a close second.
Rite of Passage is a very good album, a beautiful collage of disparate musical forms. It's one of those rare works that truly treads the line between "art" and "popular" music; the concept is complex and enlightened, but the infectiousness and simplicity of the overall arrangements gives the music a nice, holistic feel and bundles the package nicely for a mass audience. The music shimmers with life and passion, full of sensuality and romance, or as one critic described the experience- "music to make love to". Well said.
Review by James Slone
Review date: 05/2000