Friday, September 7, 2012

Robin Williamson and the Incredible String Band

Huw introduced me to the Incredible String Band in 2008 and when I listen to them I immediately think of the beginning of our relationship, the late night conversations, the driving from Brighton to Cardiff every weekend, the train journeys, the goodbyes, the irritation, the promise of the future. They are a band who get 'it', they've connected into something greater than themselves, and you can hear it immediately in their music that speaks to the deepest part of your soul.

When I moved to Cardiff I had no idea Robin Williamson (the blonde one) lived here and, working in a deli in Pontcanna, I almost collapsed when he walked into my shop for a scotch egg and a pork pie. I should have told him how much I value his book of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes that I use so much. I often used to see him wandering about the area, and it was so pleasant and unexpected that my life with Huw had converged with the life of someone whose music was so important to me.

The Incredible String Band couldn't be more of a 60s group, strange lengthily songs, lyrics dripping between sitars, guitars, violin and percussion, traveling towards their end with long high notes that wind around the rhythm of the bars, the voices intermingling.

Apart from their distinctive meandering sound, the lyrics are what really sets them apart for me, say this isn't poetry, I dare ya:

The east gate like a fortress dissolve it away
The west gate like a prison O come break it down
Island I remember living here
Wandering beneath the empty skies

In time her hair grew long and swept the ground
And seven blackbirds carried it out behind
It bore the holy imprint of her mind
As green-foot slow she moved among the seasons

I've seen Robin Williamson do bardic storytelling with his harp, do a set with his wife Bina and play at The Point with John Renbourn of Pentangle and they were all magical evenings...sigh, you should go and see him.

Here's a weird film I made in 2009 of Waltz of the New Moon, my second favourite song (this one's my favourite, we used to sing it to the baby when he was tiny to get him to sleep:

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