Etched In Glass & Water
For Fran, Etched In Glass & Water is a new album from Irish musician Dave Colohan, under the name Raising Holy Sparks. Colohan is a founding member of the respected avant-folk collective United Bible Studies and the Deserted Village label. Raising Holy Sparks began in 2011, after Colohan retired the Agitated Radio Pilot name under which he’d been recording since 1993. The project sees Colohan and a rotating crew of friends exploring music informed by Hasidic mysticism and the landscapes of rural Ireland, achieving an ecstatic outpouring of drone, folk song, and free jazz in the process. Live shows are often chaotic affairs, featuring an ever-shifting line-up of friends and collaborators, improvising their way through anything from ethereal drone to Wolf Eyes-meets-Albert Ayler free noise.
‘For Fran, Etched In Glass & Water’ is the third album from Raising Holy Sparks to see a physical release. Recorded in Ballymahon, Co. Longford during April and May of 2013, it features Colohan on accordion, Appalachian dulcimer, autoharp, harmonium, Hohner Organetta, melodica, shruti box, trombone and sampled Mellotron. The results are more serene than much of Colohan’s recent material, coalescing into a long-form ambience where echo and memory are key.
The recording was inspired by a trip to Sligo to record a video in the caves in the mountains around Carrowkeel, including the tombs of a megalithic cemetary. Having failed to get much sleep the night before, a full day of hiking and filming followed by a full night of alcohol and the company of friends in Sligo town left Colohan in what might be called a shamanic state. The crew stayed the night in the Glasshouse hotel, a building with and entirely glass exterior perched over The Garavogue by one of the bridges in the middle of Sligo town. The place reminded Colohan of somewhere that might have been in Wenders’ ‘Until the End of the World’. He describes the night as such:
“I was experiencing the sort of wakeful dreamlike state that ye get into when ye combine sleep deprivation, climbing a mountain and alcohol, and had, to say the least, a very odd night where I was hallucinating in the company of four friends. Nonetheless, I passed the barrier, so to speak, & when the last place had closed we retreated to the hotel. The lobby was packed with the entire staff of a company that had just collapsed. It was pretty manic, with dancing & singing, all in this colourful modern hotel. I ordered a whiskey & ended up talking to girl – Fran – as wonderful a woman as I’d met in years. We had an amusing conversation in the midst of the partying, the recurring joke being that she didn’t believe we’d been up a mountain filming.
It was exceptionally late/early by this point & after we kissed goodbye, I realised I never got her second name. The entire day telescoped for me & the cave in the bowels of the mountain, the spot where we spoke overlooking the rushing river, the loneliness of the tombs on top of the mountain & the wild crowds of the pubs we’d been drinking in all became a dreamlike play to me. I could hear the music begin then. And so, this album is my take on that & maybe my desperate attempt to recapture the hallucinatory experience of that long day & to recapture Fran too. A very specific take on my more usual approach but one I have to say was very satisfying. Don’t think I’ve ever completed an album so quickly either.”