The Snow Abides

2007, Durtro/Jnana Records

Michael Cashmore – music

Antony Hegarty – vocals

David Tibet – lyrics

Three extraordinary people participated in the recording of this miniature masterpiece. Composer Michael Cashmore, whose music can be described as impressionistic, minimalist, chamber-like. His 5 piano pieces are present here, accompanied by his string quartet, in the vein of the last unfinished Nature And Organisation album, no guitar.

David Tibet sort of stayed behind the scenes on this record – he wrote the lyrics and that was the end of his role. We don’t hear him – David and Cashmore decided to invite Antony Hegarty to vocalize the lyrics, a person of uncertain age and sex, with an unusual voice. That’s his vocals that gave this record it’s special thrill, that’s Antony to whom “The Snow Abides” owes its magic. (Now he is mostly called just by his first name in music circles – it’s clear to everyone who is meant when they say “Antony”).

The sound of either glockenspiel or a triangle opens the album – these sounds will reappear again and again, creating the feeling of wonderful winter purity and transparence.

The first piece, “My Eyes Open”, is composed in Cashmore’s habitual style – intimate, delicate and fragile, transitions from light contemplation to tragedy barely perceptible.

The second song, “The Snow Abides”, can be considered the main one – not only the fact that it bears the name of the whole album makes it such, but also the versatile lyrics and rendition. We first hear Antony’s voice in this song.

Through the towering streets, greyflecked with the sun,
I’m falling and tumble.
Endomed in snow glass orbed Alice eyes.
America’s dreaming of the restless autumn.

Snow abides.
When I saw you,
My heart arose.

Antony is singing in various voices – it seemed to me at first, that it’s David Tibet supplementing the story in his distinctive manner, but it’s just Antony in fact. It seems that the narration is told by two persons and in addition Antony’s several vocal parts are recorded on different tracks (this is especially noticeable with headphones on) – so is the multiple-voice-effect achieved: different people seem to exclaim, whisper and sing from all sides, but it’s the same voice in fact.

Especially well does this song also evince the uniqueness of Antony’s vocals: he sings in a trembling voice, and when listening it’s really hard to tell if it’s a man or a woman singing. And as he pronounces the few final phrases, his manner changes so dramatically that one can’t help but think that it’s David Tibet himself has eventually joined in. His invisible presence is especially appreciable in this song.

The next composition, “How God Moved At Twilight”, is a very beautiful piece, full of religious allusions, so typical of David Tibet. A splendid combination of Cashmore’s instrumental work and the voice, the soul of the owner of which God is told to have breathed into the wrong body.

God, I heard them say, is love.
I dreamed your eyes reflect my blood.

The last vocal composition on this album is “Your Eyes Close”. Antony Hegarty’s bewitching soliloquy and the rueful ending with bells telling about the eternity. Passions and storms of human hearts pass without a trace, and the snow is still lying on the transitory earth.

Whilst others in sleep follow lambs
I look at my hands
And count the sun making another scar across my sky.

And I close my eyes

The last piece means the end. No longer is it snowing. But the limpid chime reminds that things repeat themselves. Human passions, love and sufferings repeat and drown into oblivion, and then they come and go again, come and go…

This album is a perfect combination of talents of the three strange, uncommon people. Their musical collaboration gave us the album, which could be compared with a clear sparkling crystal of snow; astonishingly beautiful and stirring music.

Michael Cashmore on MySpace
The Snow Abides on Discogs
Jnana Records

Paul Saunders