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Trembling Bells - Dungeness

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 31 / 5 / 2018

Trembling Bells - Dungeness
Label: Tin Angel Records
Format: CD


Darkly powerful latest album from genre-defying Scottish group Trembling Bells, which was inspired by inspired by a visit to Dungeness on the East Sussex coast

This latest release from Trembling Bells has already received a great response from reviewers and fans. As a group of musicians, they defy description. Labels like ‘psych folk’ don’t always make a lot of sense. I saw them play live in Sheffield recently and suddenly that description made perfect sense. The first time I saw them was at one of the early Green Man Festivals. Lavinia Blackwall’s mother had died earlier in the week and yet she had the courage and spirit to appear. I saw them again in an abandoned department store in Sheffield as part of a special event that included a showing of the TV drama ‘The Stone Tapes. Very dark, very strange. I mention these occasions because descriptions of their music include words like ‘heroic’. Alex Neilson himself refers to the “two jump leads of my mind; self destruction and desire.” There’s an apocalyptic mood to this album, inspired by a trip to Dungeness on the East Sussex coast. The end of the earth. There is a psycho-geographic aspect to the resulting work. It’s dark, it’s possibly dangerous and it’s utterly inspiring. I have never been to Dungeness, but I associate it with Derek Jarman, the extraordinary filmmaker, who made his home and his famous garden there, in the shadow of the nuclear power station, at the ultimate edgeland. So, it is unsurprising that there are dark and disturbing lyrics, including references to the poetry of WB Yeats and Ted Hughes, religious imagery and inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s film ‘The Seventh Seal.’ Lavinia Blackwall’s supernatural singing voice is the siren’s song that leads us into these worlds. The instrumental arrangements are swirling and energetic, building to climaxes at the end of the songs. Another quote from Alex. Referring to the audience, he hopes “that it appeals to their sense of human frailty as much as their pelvis.” I was part of a hippy dance troupe in the early 1970s and this music takes me right back to those heady and energetic times. From my own references, I’m also taken back to Fairport Convention, Incredible String Band, Joan Baez’s voice and Siouxsie Sioux’s vocals. I know some of these influences are part of the Trembling Bells story too. Look at the imagery and iconography of the song titles – ‘Big Nothing’, ‘Knockin’ on the Coffin’ (inspired by ‘The Seventh Seal’) ‘My Father was a Collapsing Star’ (Yeats and Hughes), ‘Death Knocked at My Door,’ ‘Christ’s Entry into Govan’ (referencing James Ensor’s painting, ‘Christ’s Entry into Brussels’), ‘The Prophet’, ‘Devil in Dungeness’, ‘This is How the World Will End’, ‘I’m Coming’ and finally ‘Rebecca Dressed as a Waterfall’. Alex Neilson’s quirky vocals on ‘My Father was a Collapsing Star’ and ‘This is How the World Will End’ could trick you into false sense of security. These songs are just as darkly powerful as any of those where Lavinia takes the lead. Trembling Bells are a genre-defying group of musicians and it’s great to see this latest album gaining the reception it deserves.

Track Listing:-
1 Big Nothing
2 Knockin' on the Coffin
3 My Father Was a Collapsing Star
4 Death Knocked at My Door
5 Christ's Entry into Govan
6 The Prophet
7 Devil in Dungeness
8 This is How the World Will End
9 I'm Coming
10 Rebecca, Dressed as a Waterfall

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