THE BLUE HOUR "Evensong"
eyes of nature
a tree stands alone
a garden in winter
i am the wind
mirror of october
my lady upon silvery pool
procession of the sun
silence my dress
temple of ice
The Blue Hour (formerly The Dawn) was created in the Summer of 1993 as the solo project of Brian Hodges, later a member of Black Atmosphere. Since that Summer, the Blue Hour has played numerous live shows, supporting the likes of Sol Invictus, Gitane Demone, Switchblade Symphony, In Gowan Ring, and the Wake.
The Blue Hour has released one cassette EP "The Dawn" and two cassete LP's., "The Landscape of His Dreams" and "Stones in a Well". The CD compilation "Evensong" represents the apocalyptic folk and ambient material from these three releases. The new EP "A Murderer's Heart" represents the Blue Hour's dark orchestral and ambient compositional style.
The Blue Hour blends traditional folk melodies with haunting ambience and some classical structures. The overall sound is hard to define, but creates an otherworldy and hypnotic effect. The songs are generally arranged around some organic sounds, on top of which are leyered keyboards, classical and steel stringed guitars, flutes, chimes and ethereal vocals.
The Blue Hour is:
Brian Hodges - voice, classical and acoustic guitars, flutes, tapes, programming, keyboards, mandolin, percussion and assorted noises
Christoph Gladis - 12 string and electric guitars, additional programming
Zaac Aubrey - guitars, vocals, spirit
Tom Moller - select percussion
c/o Black Atmosphere
PO Box 20836
Seattle, WA 98102
Perun Contact: Tomasz Zrabkowski, skr. 437, 00-950 Warszawa 1, Poland
Middle Pillar catalogue:
Excellent Folk-Noir, male vocals with neoclassical and post-industrial touches. Beautiful and delicate atmospheres of acoustics and percussion with interludes of melodic sound collage. Current 93/ WSD fans will not be disappointed! From the new Polish label, Perun.
Brian Hodges, like Steve von Till of Neurosis, shows once again that a lot of musicians from the metal scene are sliding little by little towards quality romantic neofolk. Leaving aside his initial band Black Atmosphere for the duration of this solo album, Brian Hodges fits in perfectly with the world that is familiar to him, paying homage to a musical genre he particularly affections. As proved by the Sol Invictus cover, Lex Talonis. Yet it is not a simple copy of the sounds of formations that have belonged for ages to the industrial neofolk scene, but an original and honest work. Superb folk ballads, sweet and bitter, of apparent quietude. It is difficult however, to put a label on the music, with neofolk blood in the veins. The reminiscences are hard to determine, yet it seems that one can hear, with a certain dose of imagination I agree, Martyn Bates of Eyeless In Gaza doing covers of Current 93, Lady Morphia or Lux Interna, or In Gowan Ring playing at making Nick Drake songs sound more cheerful. Many fragile and lunar emotions flow from these melancholic tracks, always on the razor's edge, on the verge of going under at any moment, but that keep a proud and vengeful poise. Fine notes of acoustic guitars mingle with Brian Hodges fragile voice, which carries in them a sensibility laid bare. Along with the tracks, sung with accompanying guitar and tambourine, are inserted a few instrumental pieces, solemn and grave, dark and atmospheric. They add to the album an autumnal hue of a world of ruins and scorched lands. Lost moors where respect inspiring mortuary songs suddenly ring out. "Evensong" is released on the Polish label Perun, a young structure run by Tomek Zrabkowski, who is also the founder of the zine Cold, and whose label is to be followed attentively, in view of the musical and graphic quality of this first production.
A very nice album, that leaves aside the trodden path, offering a cure of youth to the folk noir genre, whose undeniable qualities appear clearly with each listen.
Stéphane F. Eté 2002
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Seattle's Blue Hour is primarily the solo project of one Brian Hodges. This debut release "Evensong" is a sedate, romantic collection of dark folk ballads with a twist of Pagan mythology to colour the lyrics. The music is very relaxing, mellow, and depressively introspective. The listener feels as though they have snuck up behind a lonely troubadour in the forest, pouring forth his heart upon his lute (in this case his guitar). There are shades of modernity to be found in sparse and subtle keyboard work, which is employed for the most part for a few scattered ambient interludes throughout the disc, but as to flesh out the musical backdrop of the remaining tracks.
If the song titles alone didn't hint of Mr. Hodges' admiration for Sol Invictus, his cover of "Lex Talionis" will solidify any suspicions you may have had. And indeed, his version is a unique and perhaps more minimalist interpretation. A much starker and more intimate version than the original, The Blue Hour version is simply much creepier and more foreboding. This of course, is a good thing. I was very pleased with his cover of a very familiar and timeless apocalyptic folk classic.
Unlike Tony Wakeford, Brian's voice is very clear and commanding, sometimes a hint of Thanatos' vocalist shines through while at other times he sounds like a more sincere Johnny Indovina from Human Drama. He has a very 'youthful' voice, which suits the music quite well. Sometimes his voice soars smooth and heartfelt, while at other times he relies upon a chilling, malevolent whisper, as in the masterful closing track "Red Sands" (Which also feature a few lines from metaphysical poet John Donne, and you can't go wrong with that!)
My only problem with this CD is a very minute one, and that is I feel the ambient interludes sort of disrupt the momentum of the CD, certainly it disrupts the seeming medieval simplicity of it all. I see the reason behind their inclusion, to stir things up a bit, but I wonder if it is really all that favourable a mix? Perhaps something more striking and complex might due. At worst, some with more demanding attention spans may find the CD to be a bit too mellow. While I enjoyed the moody gloom of the CD, I do think it could stand a bit more moments of tension and musical expansion. The Blue Hour mp3 site suggests influences by the composers Mahler and Shostakovich, so perhaps there is much more to come. Regardless, I definitely see a healthy future for The Blue Hour. With those small things aside, Definitely one of the better CDs I have heard recently, and perfect for late night lamentations and for moments of melancholic relaxation.
... Keyboard layers, classical and steel stringed guitars, flutes and chimes are dominant factors on this album, plus the peculiar high and little theatrical voice of Hodges, who is sometimes almost whispering. The music on this album is generally very quiet, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. Traditional folk melodies are combined with ambient moods and classical structures.
As a whole this album has a beautiful intimate sound, it is hard to pick out individual tracks. That is also my main criticism: there are no real highlights, the music is continuing slowly till the end. Well, nevertheless a few tracks stand out a little: 'Eyes of nature', 'I am the wind' and the Sol Invictus cover 'Lex Talionis'.
"Evensong" is a nice album though, with subtle acoustic atmospheres, alternated with delicate sound collages. Although it is a warm summer day today, this album gives me an autumn feeling. Recommended for lovers of tranquil, acoustic folky music with classical touches.