Now here’s a great concept for an EP – base the musical content on a moment of ‘inexplicable otherness’ experienced in your teenage years at a place of great significance in prehistory, combine that with samples of music by ‘two eminent and quintessentially English composers of differing creed’, rework all of that with your own creative content and place a great photo of some transient outdoor artwork (by K. Imanaka) on your cover. And the result of all of this is ? Well, one of the most intriguing and appealing EP’s I have reviewed so far.

Nigel Samways runs the Ephre Imprint label and hales from Brighton and the South East. His previous works are firmly from the sound art stable of the electroacoustic scene and releases have appeared on Authorised Version, Hibernate, Camomille, Taalem, October Man, Experimedia and Ephre Imprint. Much of the early work focussed on sound recordings captured in European cities such as London, Paris and Venice which were processed into evocative soundscapes capturing the essence of each location in a sonic narrative.

The otherwordly sounds encountered in the Nine Barrow Down EP derive from a very personal but unfathomable experience in Samways’ youth close to Nine Barrow Down near Purbeck in Dorset. The back cover of the CD gives a bit more detail explaining that an undefined shape was seen crossing an open field during evening supper with just the sound of a radio broadcast to break the spell of a fleeting moment of strangeness. I was immediately struck by the parallels here with the early 20th century composer John Ireland’s supernatural experience on Harrow Hill in the Sussex Downs where he reports witnessing ghostly children dancing during a picnic lunch – this event was later incorporated into the piece called Legend for Piano and Orchestra (1933).

The first track on the EP has six distinct parts alternating between the unsettling vocal and sonic textures of the opener, which clearly represents supernature at work, while quiter pastoral interludes with birdsong and soft ambient pulses conjure up scenes of a lazy afternoon picnic in the countryside. The sampled orchestral works are so altered from their original form that I could not distinguish them amidst the shifting layers of electronic and field recorded sounds that dominate the piece although some ethereal trumpets may be a remnant. There are hints of melodic phrasing throughout this piece which are subsumed by warm analog synth lines, highly manipulated field recordings and careful use of digital effects. The second track has a wonderully ritualistic flavour full of shakers, rattles, mechanical noises, a female shriek and an owl-like hooting woodwind which all ends very abruptly as if the ghostly ancient revellers have been surprised by some visitor from the modern day stumbling onto the scene. I sense some playful fun in this track with our myth laden and folkloric past.

The EP concept as a whole just works and I was totally drawn in by the sounds and the storyline. The cover art is inspired, depicting as it does a running human form in long grass covered by gossamer threads of some microbial mesh that seems to be consuming the body and drawing it into the ground – great stuff ! I was so excited by Samways’ work that I spent some of the weekend hunting down his other works to date, many of which are freely downloadable. I have produced a list of locations for these earlier works below. This EP comes highly recommended and I hope Samways explores more from our rich past in his future works.

Nigel Samways – Nine Barrow Down. Ephre Imprint Eph08. Released 11/3/11 on CD. Running time: 21 minutes

Earlier Works:

Gazing of the Owl-God EP – Planetarium Records, 2007 – Free Download here

Mestre Full Stop EP – Camomille, March 2008 – Free Download here

Veilleur De Nuit EP – Experimedia, January 2009 – Free Download here

Silver Rain, Green Trees EP – Ephre Imprint, December 2009 – Listen to demo and buy from here

Poor Henrietta Marie EP – Hibernate, February 2010 – Free Download here

Illumine EP – Taalem, April 2010 – Buy from here

Streetcleaner EP – October Man Recordings, 2010 – Download parts 1 and 3 on his Soundcloud pages here