English-American folk treasure Sharron Krauss, This Old Weird Albion author Justin Hopper and Ghost Box mainstays Belbury Poly are something of a dream combination for fans of the weird and the eerie. The trio make good on their promise with Chanctonbury Rings, an LP that mixes spoken word with musics old and new.
Hopper is the focal-point here, his written passages focussing on his experiences at Chanctonbury Ring on the West Sussex Downs. Chanctonbury Ring is a place of both great historical and occult interest - Aleister Crowley believed it to be a powerful spot - and the import of the site is reflected here in Hopper’s vivid prose. Usually Hopper’s voice remains a portentous rumble ala Ted Hughes, but the times when he becomes more animated are reminiscent of Xiu Xiu’s incantations.
Krauss busies herself in the background as Hopper intones away. Her stately and almost Medieval-sounding folk pieces set the scene nicely for Hopper’s interjections, but it is when Belbury Poly enter the fray that things really ramp up. The group’s buzzing electronics jar with the rest of the mix, either warping the instruments and voices into something new or subsuming them in ominous drones. The overall effect of Chanctonbury Rings is a heady brew pitched somewhere between Richard Dawson and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ soundtrack work.
Alison Krauss’, Justin Hopper’s and Belbury Poly’s Chanctonbury Rings is a rare thing - a meeting of musical minds equal to the sum of its parts.