Scott Fox | The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Out November 9th exclusively as a digital-only release via Ant-Zen, this work, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Canadian artist Scott Fox is based on a lengthy poem written in 1834 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge of the same name which you can read in its entirety here. Fox has also engaged three others in the making of the record: Brien Hindman provides additional synthesis & sound design, Jay Watamaniuk is the narrator and Jamie Blacker on acoustic guitar. Right from the start of this forty-three minute journey a sonic boom of sorts goes off and reverberates gently in deep drone. Obfuscating fog ensues, with a wavering thumping beat and another boom. Is it the wind, or imagination, or both. That industrial roar and sets up a dark, chilling atmosphere.
A male voice emerges like an operatic aria open to the skies, and presumably the murky seas ahead. Watamaniuk begins to orate the poem, he’s captured in a simple style, with a slight echo effect only. The swirling effects freeform around the speaker. “Through the drifts and snowy cliffs…the ice was everywhere….with thy crossbow I shot the albatross.” Visionary words immersed in an infectious rhythm that manages to catch up with the timbre of the solo voice. The abstract blends with the over two-hundred year-old writing in a way that plays on the timeless quality of the power of dramatic words. Of course the wild scenes of work by British painter Joseph Mallord William Turner comes to mind, a contemporary of sorts of the poet. Imagine the wonder of the horizon, and what may lay beyond long before modern navigation. Imagine a new world.
The record is part campfire story, part lively historic re-telling, and all in shapeshifting electronics. The way they synthesize around the narrator’s lip-service, playing slightly on the syllabic presentation as he speaks of hoarfrosts, a dusty heart, a curse, and slimy things. The annunciation sweetly delivered, as the buzzing electro-static convulses into a church-like organ melody that flees.
Not big on literary work in this format in general – however Scott Fox (also of iVardensphere) with his collaborators has pulled off a striking radio play, that to me sounds like an audio book. In the final ten minutes there is a sweet guitar solo that sounds Spanish in origin in its twirling delivery. There are moments of fusion, and then its flatly minimal and in fleeting moments I’m reminded of early new wave music (Flying Lizards, The Normal…), moments before it was subjugated by MTV. The one thing this avoids is becoming a parody by using only field recordings of wild ocean waves, and thunderstorm effects, etc. This ancient folktale, so lyrical in its own right, beats to its own drummer – fully frontal.