[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
I’d suggest you sit down for this one.
If you’ve been following along for the last year or so, Sieben gave us three digital EPs worth of material which completely upended his sound; we’re now given the final product in the form of this album, a collection of eight searing entries in the band’s catalog which certainly justify the wait. I figured I had heard everything this era of Sieben had to offer and then tracks like “A Hart for St Hubertus” appear and once more I lose my bearings, where did this piece originate? How long had it been stewing on one of his numerous back-burners? His collection of outtakes and revisions has to be beyond counting by this point; there’s no beginning and no end to them, is there?
‘The Old Magic’ is concerned with demonstrating what it’s title alludes to, this is Britain before the Romans and well before the time of kings and queens. What I am hearing is primordial, the bogs and marshes of yore under that howling harvest moon. Primitive man looking up at the stars and attempting to chart his place in them; underneath all the ceremony and ritual a deeper, darker current runs… the elemental forces of rhythm and repetition conjure up their own kind of guide while the wheat billows, rots and comes to meet it’s end in the pitch black soil beneath. Howden’s style of composing takes a definite detour with these tracks, the full vision he had at the start of this massive undertaking has now reached completion.
What comes next? Well, there’s a companion album to go along with this one I’ll be getting around to next week which is more straight-forward and doesn’t cut to the core of one’s mind the way ‘The Old Magic’ does.
Matt calls these entries labors of love and the effort involved in creating what I’m hearing is more than evident. Sieben have yet again managed to completely shed their skin and emerge as a radically different creature; mood maker and loop shaker indeed, just the design side of things ought to reel in anyone who comes across this release. One has to take a good, long look at what’s been presented before all the symbology involved starts to make any kind of sense. I’d admired what Martin F Bedford created for the digital offerings but seeing them now in physical form there can be no denying the power which emanates from within their cleverly executed lines.
As I continue to play ‘The Old Magic’ I continue to be amazed at just how many layers each of these eight are comprised of, there feels like a constant feedback loop of occult confluence flowing across centuries of time; nothing is as it was and yet we feel as though we’ve not moved at all. I’d never expected Sieben to be this harrowing nor had I suspected how disquieting his new record would wind up being. On top of all this, you’ll be unable to sit still while you’re in the midst of this sort of magic; beautiful, baleful, sublime and serene…