"A Thread, Silvered and Trembling"


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About "A Thread, Silvered and Trembling"

Scottish experimental/electronic musician Drew McDowall’s lifelong interest in an elegiac solo bagpipe style called pibroch (ceòl mòr in Gaelic) has been an inspiration for much of his previous work (including Coil’s legendary Time Machines). This form, often traditionally used for laments and for tributes to the dead, fuses modal drones with flickering dissonance and plaintive melody evoking an ancient, solemn mood.

His latest work, A Thread, Silvered and Trembling, both incorporates and transforms these elements via exploratory electronic processing, weaving an electro-acoustic tapestry of strings, shudders, voids, and voices, alternately disembodied and displaced. Co-produced with engineer Randall Dunn at Circular Ruin Studios in Brooklyn, the collection’s four pieces capture McDowall at his most elevated and elusive, in thrall to "the ineffable – that which refuses to be spoken." Additionally, McDowall reconnected with visual artist Nina Hartmann to provide the artwork and design for his most recent endeavor.

McDowall’s palette here is unusually eclectic, sourced from a dynamic orchestral ensemble arranged by Brent Arnold and comprised of cello, viola, violin, harp (Marilu Donovan of LEYA), and french horn. Ebbing between shrouded electronics and enigmatic, sometimes spectralist orchestration, the album moves with a seething, simmering energy, surging into elegant, uneasy crescendos. The first two pieces are inspired by a liberatory hijacking and inversion of a grim biblical story (and by a cryptic and strange UK simple syrup branding). Opener "Out of Strength Comes Sweetness" shivers with short echo and resonant pads, before shifting into the album’s centerpiece: the 14-minute saga "And Lions Will Sing with Joy." A murmuring electrical storm of keening strings and disorienting drones gradually grows darker and denser, until suddenly there’s a crack in the clouds, revealing mutated choral voices and sparkling harp. McDowall describes the track as "an incantation to help usher in a break, and a new beginning."

The record’s latter half evokes a deep untamed animism shot through with spiraling radiance. "In Wound and Water" sways with harp, plucked strings and eerie cello undertows while lush layers of disorientated electronics hang in the dusk. There is no resolution, only a faint gradient of fragile dissipation, leading into the album’s harrowing and climactic closer, "A Dream of a Cartographic Membrane Dissolves." Processed voices (credited on the liner notes to "The Ghosts Who Refuse to Rest") contort, whisper, and gather as the rest of the ensemble sharpens, poising to strike. Then it does – grand, tragic stabs of strings and horns lashing the sky, storming heaven by force.

The fallout is poetic and inevitable, raining embers into a dark sea. But the journey and catharsis of A Thread linger long after it goes silent. Like so much of McDowall’s -multifaceted catalog, this is music of immanence and alchemy, attuned equally to the sacred and the profane, to the tile and the mosaic.


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    Out of Strength comes Sweetness
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    And Lions will Sing with Joy
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    In Wound and Water
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    A Dream of a Cartographic Membrane Dissolves


  • Red / White Cornetto Vinyl LP | 200 edition
  • Clear Red Vinyl LP | 700 edition
  • Black Vinyl LP
  • Digital

Release date

May 31, 2024

Catalog No.