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Woven Hand - Mosaic

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Artist: Woven Hand

Album: Mosaic

Label: Sounds Familyre

Review date: Sep. 14, 2006

Intense and spiritual, full of ritual drums and driving guitar rhythms, the fourth full-length from David Eugene Edwards's Woven Hand is as terrifyingly beautiful as any of his work with 16 Horsepower. As always, he hitches Americana instruments banjo, fiddle, hurdy-gurdy to industrial strength percussion, in a strange hybrid that borrows as much from Joy Division as Johnny Cash.

Nearly all the songs are bleak evocations of spiritual crisis. What's interesting about Edwards is that he expresses genuine and abiding faith right alongside crushing doubt. In the album-topping "Dirty Blue," he gazes into abyss under modern life. "You're curled up warm / In your own little corner of Sodom / Did you agree to believe that this fall / Has no bottom," he says in his ghostly, possessed voice, evoking damnation and salvation against a circling throb of violin. "I've lived by the book of numbers / And I'm held together by strings," he sings later. If anyone's ever told you that accepting Jesus puts spiritual angst to rest, this is exhibit A to the contrary.

Edwards is interested in traditional music, the kinds of songs and rhythms that older societies use to express and reinforce their most deeply held values. "Slota Prow," a mesmeric cut that is partly spoken in a made-up language, is a Gnostic haze of sound, the slow reverberations of violin and nickelback harp punctured by sudden shots of drum. A galloping beat emerges from this trance-state opening, urgent and mysterious, a call to holy war.

There is respite here in the places that Edwards finds calm family, married life and music. "Swedish Purse," with its eerie church organ and plucked banjo, has a luminous, resonant center. The cut, whose melody was drawn from a medieval song, considers Edwards' love for his wife and children. "She has made place for me / In life for those our children / Sewn into her Swedish purse / I think upon these things," he sings, and though the song is more about solace than joy, it is an island of tranquility. The other break from intensity comes just past the halfway point, in an all-instrumental track called "Bible and Bird." The cut is a ray of sunshine, bright guitar strumming and lifting chords of organ, with none of the darkness and doubt (or the drums) of the rest of the album. You can almost feel Edwards relaxing, enjoying the pure physical and mental pleasure of lovely music. It's a pause to take breath, a relief, but temporary; it leads right back into the vortex in "Dirty Blue."

There are certain kinds of music that seem to put you into direct contact with the person that made them, an unfiltered glimpse into a foreign soul. Mosaic is one of those records, overwhelming, dizzying, serious and beautiful, a spiritual experience even if you don't share Edwards' difficult faith.

By Jennifer Kelly

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