Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: The Holy Sea for Tom Magazine

For TOM Magazine, original article here

 The Holy Sea
Ghosts of the Horizon (An Ocean Awaits/Fuse)
There are a handful of stunning records released by Australian artists every year. There are less unashamedly Australian records, fewer still ambitious offerings commentating an exclusively Australian experience. I dont want to prematurely jump on the bandwagon of those hailing Ghosts of the Horizon as an iconic Aussie record (The Holy Seas own team suggest it "has the hallmarks of a landmark Australian album"). I will say it is refreshing to hear something both musically accomplished and politically important; an aurally appealing voice with something of worth to say.

s easy to compare lead singer and writer Henry F. Skerritt to Nick Cave and other predecessors, but what he, and the entire epic seven-man (and woman) folk-rock outfit present, is a unique sense of characterisation. With strong imagery, and ballads written from the perspective of real-life figures such as Seargent Chris Hurley (the moving King of Palm Island) and Van Diemens Land Governor George Arthur (Arthurs Lament), this is folk-rock poetry. Throw in a pinch of personal reflection, some contemporary suburban tales, guts and fire and you have Ghosts of the Horizon. The whole package seems to ache with the residue of our colonial past, our own ghosts, without feeling irrelevant to its contemporary listeners.

This begs to be bought, borrowed, copied off the radio using an old tape recorder, if not just for the vulnerability and clever concision of Skerritt
s lyrics. Throughout the nine tracks, Skerritt writes modern bush poetry, with a bitter, lonely stain.  From the contrasted landscapes of single Bad Luck; "I groped to find your stars unlit as the wilderness turned winter in your sullen breast" to the melodies of This River; "like a general in her kitchen, she keeps it ship-shape/and one day, well her ship might come in/she always did like the ocean".

This record benefitted from each listen, as another poignant lyric, a greater resonance, was uncovered. Give it time to gestate, and who knows, maybe it will become a pivotal Australian album, or maybe you
ll just grow to really appreciate The Holy Sea after eleven years of music making.
[Anna Angel]

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