Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Andrew King - Deus Ignotus

The Amfortas Wound, Andrew King's last solo album of traditional song was well received. That was 9 years ago. Over the past few years Andrew King has been active in Triple Tree (with Tony Wakeford), collaborated with Brown Sierra and been a member of Sol Invictus, a position he has now relinquished for reasons unexplained. Throughout this period he was busying himself with Deus Ignotus, an album he has referred to as his "magnum opus". Deus Ignotus finally saw the light of day in 2011.

'Corvus Terrae Terror' introduces Deus Ignotus with ringing harmonium, alongside solid spartan drum beats and the shaking of bells. It achieves a near ritual feel and sweeps into 'The Three Ravens' with a colossal drum roll. Here the traditional folk singing of King stands proud over looped sounds and the ritualistic processional percussion of this 17th century ballad. On Deus Ignotus King uses traditional folk instrumentation such as harmonium, violin and drums. What set Andrew King apart from others in the folk scene is in his use of loops and electronic sounds derived from his past musical roots and acquaintances in the post-industrial scene - once again various members of the polyrhythmic outfit KnifeLadder, including Hunter Barr and the acclaimed percussionist John Murphy, have been enlisted. Deus Ignotus never strays too far from traditional folk but the settings as a result of the collaborators are much more modern and contemporary. King's extensive studies of vernacular culture ensure the lyrics remain true to the spirit of the originals, even though these readings, as explained in the accompanying booklet, may be based on numerous versions passed down over generations.

On Deus Ignotus, some songs, such as 'Edward' and 'Lord Lovel' are sung a capella while on others the arrangements act as mere embellishment. 'The Wife Of Usher's Well', is a case in point, where the poignant tones of King are delivered over atmospheric keyboards furnished with location recordings of footsteps on a shingle beach and seagulls swarming overhead as he tells of a mother who grieves for her three dead children. There's more death to be found in the fratricide ballad 'Edward', where his voice remains unaccompanied. Its stark rendition cuts through the years with a timelessness, due to its simplicity and the purity of King's unadorned vocal.

As Andrew King is now no longer a member of Sol Invictus it's ironic that several tracks link back to Tony Wakeford's dark folk group. The opening tracks appeared in a nascent form on a Sol Invictus tribute album, while 'Edward', as well as appearing on an earlier Sol Invictus album King & Queen, reappeared on the recent release The Cruellest Month where it was sung by Andrew King. It also appeared on Sintra, a live recording from Duo Noir, a collaboration between Tony Wakeford and Andrew King.

The central pieces of Deus Ignotus concern the events of the Last Supper. While it may seem a highly ambitious project King pulls out all the stops to produce his most impressive work to date. 'In Upper Room' arrives in two parts, with the first part 'The Elders Of The People Took Counsel' sung beautifully by the Choir of Saint Stephen's Church, Gloucester Road, London. The second part, 'In Upper Room' features King's stern voice over harmonium, with words taken from David Jones's The Anathemata and the Gospel of Mark from the King James Bible. At times his voice here is impassioned and powerful as drums roll, backed by the Chorus of Apostles, an agglomeration of voices featuring King alongside, John Murphy and others. It all ends on war sirens as it segues into 'Judas' with powerful martial drums and ominous sounding keyboards. Here King channels the protagonist in an affected stern voice, over discordant electronics and pummelling beats, and a haranguing chorus of voices decrying "Judas". It's worth mentioning that King notes that 'Judas' is the oldest ballad recorded by Francis Child. The entire section is completed with 'Could Ye Not Watch With Me One Hour' once again featuring the Choir of Saint Stephen's Church.

The accompanying booklet is studious and littered with references to the texts, the arrangements and their varied origins. And while King is regarded as an English folk singer, and the majority of tracks have their roots in Scottish and English folk song, Deus Ignotus stretches to include songs sung in Latin and German. King looks to the Carmina Burana for 'Sic Mea Fata Canendo Solor' which is sung in Latin over flute organ and harmonium drone unfolding with rolling drums and shakers, while 'Fröleichen So Well Wir' is sung in German to a waltzing melody carried by drones and processional percussion. While the melody is pleasant, the instrumentation is quite shrill; though the effect is softened somewhat by the female chorus of voices that accompanies this romantic 15th century Austrian song.

Deus Ignotus is brought to a close on 'Sir Hugh' through tolling bells and passages of harmonium distortion. The rhythmical rolling drums act as a backdrop for King to lay down a passionate vocal, delivered forcefully which at points has his voice rising to an impassioned cry. There are copious notes in the booklet about this contentious "blood libel" song.

Once again Andrew King presents a selection of ballads once confined to the past. In doing so he has given fresh birth to them. His expert knowledge in this area is well known from past releases but on Deus Ignotus his artistic vision is given full flight, especially on the songs relating to Christ's betrayal. Delivered with such care and passion, one can't help but be impressed with the passionate readings and studious notes he provides. His approach to folk song remains singular but if you're interested in folk song you really should be checking out the music of Andrew King. Deus Ignotus is self-released by Andrew King's Epiphany Records label and can be purchased direct from