Haress – ‘ Severing’ from ‘Haress’ LP
Based in the Shropshire Hills, the sound of Haress is built on foundations laid by David Hand and Elizabeth Still, ably abetted on this album by a number of others from groups with such intriguing names as Mind Mountain, Grey Hairs and Hey Colossus. Avenues to explore which, if the sound of Haress is anything to go by may be on the darker sides of the contemporary folk coin (the side that slides against the grimy dusts of krautrock nodding prog). There is surely also something relevant in the peculiar pull of particular geographical location to so much of this magik infused contemporary folk. Something in the energies of borderlands, of the darknesses inherent in the timeless tensions between the Anglo-Saxon and the Celtic. We have noted here in the past how Phil Rickman’s series of novels featuring Merrily Watkins have captured the essence of a magikal Herefordshire, and of course that permeates much of the sounds of the Sproatly Smith / Weirdshire collective but it clearly also snakes northwards a ways into Shropshire and is present in much of the sound of Haress.
Yet where the likes of Alula Down and Sproatly Smith closely acknowledge some more charming folk traditions, Haress seem more obviously drawn into the bleaker elements. The sound of Haress then is of a Gothic (not Goth) Folk, a folk that tingles with the spirit of Shirley Jackson, M.R. James and the aforementioned Phil Rickman. There is too the feeling of some of Ralph Emerson Meatyard’s peculiar mask photographs, a notion not dispelled by the album’s cover of a figure on a tree swing, cloaked in traditional ‘ghost’ sheet.
Musically, the record often puts us in mind of Hood, whose pre-Post-Rock landscape imaginings were so influential during the 1990s, but with an additional infusion of Metal (often in the form of razor wire running along the top of rusted corrugated iron fencing). There are times when the sound is almost pastoral, as on the lovely ‘End of Summer’, but more frequently there is a sinister, threatening edge to the music, like a soundtrack to a seedy low-fi Horror movie shot on 8mm and screened in a secluded barn that smells of spilt cider. Nowhere is this sense better captured than on the brooding six minute ‘Severing’. It is a piece that loops around a mesmerising bass phrase and a simple, clattering beat that sounds just like the wooden door to that secluded barn banging in the wind. Across this foundation sweep occasional glowering squalls of guitars, held in check just so, and a vocal that half whispers, half croaks and fully creeps us out. We are eagerly looking forward to hearing more.