I Am Providence
by United Bible Studies
Jellyfant : jayf 12 : 2013
Recorded in one day in Providence, Rhode Island on their 2008 US tour, I Am Providence is utterly unique even in the discography of United Bible Studies. The band performed a musicial ritual at HP Lovecraft's graveside then an a capella house show that evening with locals Alec K Redfearn,
Orion Rigel Dommisse,and Manbeard and their touring companion Sharron Kraus.
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All I remember from that day in Swan Point Cemetary ….
My several thousand miles of dad rock-beaten ears were looking forward to the silent tranquillity of a graveyard. How unrealistic. We were more than 2 weeks into the tour. It was 2008. It was hot. With some help we found Lovecraft’s grave. I was never the greatest fan, so I took the opportunity to wander off, find some shade, and lounge (which is prohibited at Swan Point Cemetery, although 5 Europeans singing or dancing around a grave seems to be okay). It wasn’t long into my illicit lounging that I started to hear the music, drifting. The music was not clear to me, more undulating, like a warped tape. This was better than silent tranquillity. I am Providence.
At Chris and Sandra's house that night, UBS performed a very special show, improvised and without any instruments. That day in Providence was a particular highlight of the tour, and these two recordings capture why.
- Michael Lawrence, October 2012
Review by Simon Lewis (Terrascope)
Recorded live on 1st July 2008 in Providence, Rhode Island, this unique disc highlights why the musical collective known as United Bible Studies should be part of the collection of every Terrascope listener.
Performed in the evening at Top Shelf (Tobey Street), the two part title track, that opens and closes the album, is a stunning acapella piece, that has a depth and compositional sense that is almost overwhelming. Featuring nine singers including Sharron Kraus, David Colohan, Gavin Prior and Orion Rigel Domisse, the music has a sad and sensual beauty that reminds me of Faure's Requiem, the voices blending as if conducted by a higher power, washing both time and the mundane from your mind, allowing free reign of the senses. With voices adding both rythym, harmony and dissonance, the sounds twist and curl around themselves, the whole track an ever changing and truly beautiful composition that compels you to listen.
Between the title track are four pieces recorded at the graveside of H.P.Lovecraft, that writers huge gothic tales os cosmic terror, seeming the perfect backdrop for the sombre and haunting music created. Opening with droning strings, “Chtonic Spiral” mixes dark chamber music with ghostly folk melodies, stuttering vocal noise only adding to the atmosphere, this mood lightened with the arrival of “Tributaries of the Styx Under Providence”, a lone banjo introducing a more traditional folk tune, with a lovely vocal line and perfect harmonies, the whole thing ending far too soon, although the disappointment is quickly removed as a rippling banjo keeps time on “Swan Point Petrichor”, a haunting and gorgeous track that has an undercurrent of drone and an aching sadness at its core. Ending the graveside selection, “Grave Trudge” has droning vocals, birdsong? And footsteps on gravel, these simple elements creating a monochrome funereal dirge (in the nicest sense), another piece laden with emotion and atmospheric disturbance. Finally, the title track returns the second part as equally wonderful as the first, leaving the listener drained with the intensity of the listening experience, but strangely at peace
Reviewed by O.S. on Evening of Light
There is something distinctly kvlt about what United Bible Studies have done on this most recent album: improvise music over the actual grave of Howard Phillips Lovecraft at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island. We could nerd off about how awesome this is, and about how this 2008 US tour incarnation of the chimeric group captured the old master’s cosmic horror spirit in music somehow. But frankly speaking, that’s not what’s going on here at all.
To me, Lovecraft’s horror seems firmly based in a deep-seated fear of the irrational that lurks in all mankind, but projected onto the foreign, the primitive, and the alien in a way that I can only describe as xenophobic. The music of United Bible Studies is profoundly different, however. Rather than tapping into one writer’s creative and paranoid spirit, it feels as if they’ve opened up all the graves at Swan Point, not in the least afraid of having a bit of a weird, dejected Halloween with the New England ghosts. Eerie voices like some strange corruption of choral singing form much of the intangible substance on I Am Providence, with banjo, organ, and strings rounding out the sound in some of the tracks.
I can almost see the band sitting there, on a windy night, spirits of the deceased moaning softly about their heads, in the eye of a gentle storm of revenants. It’s way more melancholic and liminal than it is terrifying, spiritual more than horrific. The album also builds upon the band’s own past, in a good way. The short re-enactment of “Tributaries of the Styx” takes us back to 2006?s The Shore That Fears the Sea, while the gorgeous vocal layerings remind me of the same year’s “Spoon of Haar” on The Northern Lights and The Northern Dark. This one, however, is easily one of the most powerful albums the band has ever produced, focused and urgent in its sound.
This is ritual, improvised and real, channelling folk and religious themes like so much intaken breath, and spitting it out in half an hour of ghost music that bridges the boundaries between this world and the next. Phenomenal and essential.
Review on Prog Archives****
For a H.P. Lovecraft (the writer more than the band) fan, this album has a very particular meaning.
The band spent a night jamming by the grave of H.P. Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island, and this is obviuosly reflected in the music.
The album is opened by a choir containing some little dissonances. The kind of dark rituals often suggested by the novelist. If the choir doesn't sing "Cthulhu Ft'agn" it's only because it could have been too "easy", but it's horrorific enough. I wonder if a footage has been taken. Imagine a dark cemetery and a bunch of people singing this choir...I hope they have informed the neighbours before making it. In the last minute of this "I Am Providence Part I" some instruments add their effort to the choir, and the result is even more weird and horrorific than the choir alone.
Strings and female mute vocals start "Chtonic Spiral". It's not the music of Eric Zann (I know there's an experimental British musician with this name but I mean the Lovecraft's character). It's not because it's not so parossistic as described in the novel. It has a celtic flavor instead. It gives the idea of dancing driads, something that's still in line with the Lovecraft's mythology. When young, the writer was highly fascinated by the celtic legends as well as by the One Thousand and One Nights. Regardless the sensations that it can make emerge, this is an excellent track. For a while I have heard a relationship with the Japanese Ensemble Geinoh Yamashirogumi. I think who likes that band can love this album as well.
Things become more "normal" with the banjo and vocals of "Tributary Of The Styx Under Providence", which is a celtic slow ballad with a bit of psych added. Really a lovely song, quite an elegy. Less than 3 minutes for a two chords song which I think will remain impressed in my memory.
"Swan Point Petrichor" is another slow ballad. Havign vocals but no lyrics makes it a bit darker than the previous, but the feeling perceived is more sadness than other. I didn't know the meaning of the word "Petrichor", which now I know is the "scent of rain". Swan Point is the name of the cemetery. With this information in mind we can fully appreciate this sad and crepuscular song.
The weird choir which started the album is back with "Grave Trudge". There's a bit of electronic noise behind , like ghosts have started waving around the singers. The melody is dark and sad and proceeds very similarily with "I Am Providence Part 2". This reprise is more weird than the previous, more in line with what one can expect from the Providence's night owl. Even if this band is in the prog folk subgenre, this album has a RIO flavor. Who likes Art Zoyd and Shub-Niggurath will probably love this album as well.
For me it's a 4 stars album, and it has been done in one night!