[sic] Magazine

Alison Cotton – All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre

All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre is the darkly alluring debut solo LP from London violist Alison Cotton, an artist who – on many a project and now her own – is stealthily doing for the viola what Helen Money is doing for the cello. One half of the very English psych-folk outfit The Left Outsides and one quarter of the rootsier folk project Trimdon Grange Explosion, equally originally of the cultish Eighteenth Day Of May and so too of United Bible Studies as well, Cotton’s a string-slinger for hire and All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre is where the profits of her endeavours lie. Out on cassette earlier this year on Bloxham Tapes, Cardinal Fuzz have now done the honours with a vinyl edition and, over five lengthy tracks, she conjures centuries of tradition and weaves it impressively with contemporary, Avant-soundtracking nous. The result is minimal, ghostly and powerfully organic and, yet, stick it on back-to-back with, say, Tim Hecker’s Konoyo and the segue from one to another is seamless.

The ten-minute title-track and its multi-layered, wheezy drones is a good place to start, Cotton’s vocal melodies echoing around the rafters with an otherworldliness that brings to bring that of Julianna Barwick, a dusting of barely-there chimes and recorder strains ultimately leading to a low rumble of drums as things start to get experimental and ritualistic. This menacing ambience is then slashed straight across the face by the razor-tight draws of “The Last Sense To Leave Us”, truly sorrowful post-classicism filling the buzzing shadows with hinterland reverb. Treated to a lesson in Warren Ellis atmospherics, “36 Dramatic Situations” grumbles in turn through a succession of low notes that clear beautifully for the viola and the way it hangs in the tense miasma of simmering drones is quite breath-taking.

Cotton’s emotive vocal is for the most part devoid of syntactic meaning throughout, which makes it that more striking when she then rolls out a haunted folk melody with all the pastoral purity of a vestal virgin on the pin-drop “The Bells Of St Agnes”. In cinematic mood again to close, the teary string line in “A Tragedy In The Tithe Barn” houses shades of a minimal orchestral score along the lines of that of The Last of The Mohicans, and hence also therefore of Clannad, but don’t let that put you off for Cotton is an artist of profound talent and her mastery of her chosen instrument deeply impressive. All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre is consequently an album to stand proudly in any collection.

Best track: “36 Dramatic Situations”

~All Is Quiet At The Ancient Theatre is out now the collaborative efforts of Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube.~