The strap-line may be considered a touch pretentious but so may the music so that’s probably OK. Steve is a multi-instrumentalist and he throws everything he has into The Enduring And The Ephemeral and then adds Katy Marchant on bagpipes, shawn, recorder and voice, Jane Harbour on violin and voice and a sampled bass viol. So, while the top billing of the hurdy-gurdy suggests folk, the rest is pure prog.
I’m a fan of the hurdy-gurdy in the tradition – or even the pseudo-tradition as some people use it – but Steve isn’t Nigel Eaton or Jon Loomes and he uses it as an orchestral instrument. The first track, ‘The Second Law’, opens with big drums with the hurdy-gurdy coming in as a long sustained drone; something it’s perfectly suited for. On some tracks, even though the instrument is holding the melody, it is rather like catching a glimpse of the sun through a break in the clouds. ‘Chronophage’ begins with some heavily processed sounds leading into a slow melody and Steve’s composition and playing are very clever. Whether I always like it is another matter and it is also very loud. On the first play I thought that I really should turn it down a bit only to find that it was already set at half volume.
‘Utopia Regained’ begins with acoustic and features Marchant’s recorder as does the rather more placid ‘The Great Unconformity’ with its sound of dripping water and Steve’s hammered dulcimer. ‘Exercise Two’ began as a piece composed for hurdy-gurdy workshops – two basic figures with variations – but spinning it out to nearly twelve minutes may not be such a great idea. Great for a workshop group to play, I’m sure, but not such good listening.
And so it goes. If you’re a devotee of early Pink Floyd or Third Ear Band’s improvisations The Enduring And The Ephemeral will be right up your street.
Artist’s website: www.stevetyler-hurdygurdy.com
Not from the album – ‘Exercise Three – 240 Degrees’ is Steve live and solo: