Pitchfork AUGUST 1, 2006 - by Matthew Murphy


Fovea Hex's Huge EP is the latest installment in their Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series, an ongoing trilogy that has served as a captivating introduction to this self-described "labyrinthine ensemble of associates." As with their recent debut Bloom EP, this second edition has once again united an impressive roster of collaborators - including Brian Eno, film composer Carter Burwell, and the Hafler Trio's Andrew McKenzie - around the talents of former Mellow Candle singer-songwriter Clodagh Simonds. And despite Fovea Hex's rotating cast of supporting players, it is evident on Huge's three tracks that the experimental collective is truly starting to get their legs beneath them, as their assembled voices can sound as closely attuned as a single shivered bowstring.

Prior to the late 2005 release of Bloom, Simonds' recording career had been largely dormant for the better part of the past two decades. Since her reemergence, she has gone on to collaborate with acts like Current 93 and Matmos in addition to her work with Fovea Hex. Perhaps as a result of all this sudden activity, her vocals on Huge have taken on an additional glint of confidence, and her cloudless voice now drives these tracks with increasing authority. Her unique, asymmetric songs are written with an obvious self-assurance as well, as Simonds bypasses traditional song structures to instead interlace her gossamer-thin melodic and lyrical strands until they're sturdy enough to withstand nearly any degree of electroacoustic reconstruction.

Bloom was largely assembled and mixed by Andrew McKenzie; this time many of those duties were done by Colin Potter (Current 93, Nurse With Wound), whose deft touch is most evident on the instrumental A Song For Magda. Woven from assorted fragments of layered voices, psaltery, and Potter's electronic "shifting and sieving," this drone track's striking subaquatic bass gives it a vivid depth of field and provides an atmospheric interlude between the collection's two lyrical meditations, Huge (The Joy of Trouble) and While You're Away - both of which seem borne from the same hypnagogic state between sleep and waking.

"Night returns dissolving all / And leaving me no face at all," sings Simonds on Huge (The Joy of Trouble), her tranquil words overshadowed by nameless dread or, as she puts it, "Some sense of a missing thing... the light of ill-ease." This vague sense of anxiety is mirrored in the song's arrangement of Eno's evocative keyboards, Hugh O'Neill's shimmering trumpet, and Simonds' various sound effects listed as "recycled glass and waltz bed." But on finale While You're Away Simonds takes a more comforting view of the transition to nightfall. "Between the mystery and the fact arrives the sweetest sliver of the day," she proclaims, her voice joined by the ethereal harmonies of Laura Sheeran and Sarah McQuaid. Before its closing, the piece is turned over to Cora Venus Lunny's delicate string arrangement and Burwell's ghostly piano, while field recordings of songbirds call out across the ever-dimming meadows.

For Simonds and the far-flung members of Fovea Hex, Huge is another impressive achievement, particularly when considered as a continuation of the music on Bloom. With a running time of just under twenty minutes, however, it's hard to know exactly why the group have chosen to release this cohesive, unified work in such piecemeal fashion. Perhaps it is simply that their collective enthusiasm for this project is such that they wish to deliver their freshly created music to their listeners as quickly as possible no matter the portion size, and if this is the case one can hardly blame them for their zeal.