US based band JOY SHANNON AND THE BEAUTY MARKS is the creative vehicle for Irish vocalist, composer and musician Joy Shannon, a venture that has been ongoing since 2003 with 6 studio albums to their name so far starting with “As in the Wilderness” in 2008. “Aes Sidhe” is their forthcoming seventh studio production, and is set to be released in early April 2017.
Joy Shannon’s band is a self-described Celtic pagan folk/neofolk affair, with Shannon herself leading the way with her vocals, harp and cello. Those three elements dominate the greater majority of the material here, and it is a set requirement to enjoy this album that the combination of those three elements as dominant feature is deemed interesting.
Most of the songs revolve around fairly slowly plucked harp, underlying mournful cello textures and Shannons’ subtly chilly, crystal clear vocals creating natural contrasts between the relatively sharp plucked resonating light tones of the harp, the gliding dark textures of the cello and the clear and cold mid to light toned voice of Shannon. The contrasts between those elements are explored to good effect, with some percussion and occasional drum patterns adding momentum and drive, male vocals added to strengthen the contrasts between the light and the dark, and occasional textured, dark electric guitar details emphasizing the more brooding and haunting dimensions of the material explored. The album as a whole has a good amount of variation within the general context outlined, with some compositions revolving around a more sparse arrangement, others focusing on a more layered and subtly intense one, while others alternate nicely between the spare and the more details, layered arrangements in an efficient and nifty manner.
The album as a whole stays put in moods and atmospheres of a dark and solemn nature. Melancholic and mournful at times, but at least in my perception even more honing in on a haunting solemn mood that touch upon stronger emotions such as fear and despair, albeit in what might be described as a distanced manner. Theatrical and dramatic excursions are rare, and when present primarily of the former rather than the latter nature. My experience as a listener is that this production approach such emotions from an observational rather than a recreating point of view, that the darker emotions are described rather than acted out. In that context I’d describe this production as one with more of an intellectual bent than an emotional one. Which is a subjective experience obviously, and may not at all be an intended one.
Those fond of the darker side of Celtic folk music inspired and oriented music should find this forthcoming production by Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks to be one well worth to lend an ear too, especially if the combination of harp, cello and female lead vocals is one you tend to find intriguing.
My rating: 78/100
Fall from Tír na nÓg; Cŵn Annwn; Volva; Himmelstraße; A Pause; Entering the Mound; Under the Whitethorn Tree; Folkvang; Tír na nÓg; Grey Havens; Valhallavägen; Mag Mell; Tír Tairngiri