A Journal Of The Dark Arts
La Belle Epoque (2010 – 2014) is an Atlantean opium dream – a sub-aquatic star portal to extradimensional space. La Belle Epoque is what it might sound like if Arthur Machen’s Lucian Taylor had formed a New Wave band and signed to Cherry Red Records instead of succumbing to faerie madness on top of that hill. Equal parts post-rock, dreamy minimalism, sci-fi, and pagan folk, La Belle Epoque (2010 – 2014) is a sonic voyage that you undertake, again and again.
Palace Of Swords is a shifting line-up of musical magicians, under the tutelage of longtime Forestpunk friend and supporter Peter Lyons. La Belle Epoque (2010 – 2014) is a limited edition cassette compilation on the mighty Reverb Worship, which has been fast becoming one of our favorite labels of late – our go to for atavistic magick, on tap.
Palace Of Swords favor a blend of organic hypnotic organ mantras, repetitive kosmische beats, pillowy basslines, and ritual percussion in a style that is reminiscent of classic British psych folk, a la Pentangle, Terry Riley-minimalism, and the instrumental post-rock of the 2000s, but stripped down, refined and efficient. It would be fair to place Palace Of Swords in the Hauntology tradition, as they seem to be making soundtracks for wild films that don’t happen to exist, as can be seen on the stand-out track “The Castle Spectre.”
But where you might expect creepy, crepuscular funereal organs and dirgey percussion, instead you get a skyward, star-kissed sci-fi adventure. This is the sound of adventure, of exploration – playful, instead of dour. More “Canterbury Ghost” than “The Stalls Of Barchester”. Palace Of Swords is rewinding the clock to a more expansive, imaginative, optimistic time, before the edges began to crack and get sinister.
Although it is unclear what the precise connection is, the only reference i can find to the “Palace Of Swords” is the 1983 compilation from The Fall. We might assume that Peter Lyons and co. is attempting to set the Palace straight, turning Mark E. Smith’s mutant crumbling rusting dystopia on its head. Is this Lyons’ attempt at hacking the mimetic genome, burrowing down into the source code of Old Albion and resurrect the Britain that is wild, windswept, passionate, and free?
Whatever it is, Palace Of Sword’s music is remarkably free of cynicism, plumbing depths unknown and taking you along for the ride.
Of late, it is not that unusual for a band to draw inspiration for the endless Klaus Dinger motorik grooves and interlocking hypnotic minimalist organ riffs. Psych has been making a comeback in a big way, but this is not psych rock, not exactly. It IS, but not only. La Belle Epoque (2010 – 2014) presents its aural visions in a pallet of paisley and greyscale, in a way that brings to mind the first two Felt records. It takes us back to when post-punk was still psychedelic, and not afraid to be beautiful. Early 4AD would be another sonic touchstone.
Lyon’s organs and drums seem dappled in ocean spray, rippling and oceanic. These wavering tones are met with the intermittent tip-tapping of a tambourine, as if a gypsy caravan were rolling across the ocean floor.
La Belle Epoque‘s 10 tracks repeat on both sides of the cassette, which makes us think this is a journey that is meant to be taken repeatedly. It’s a perfect soundtrack for underwater daydreaming, contacting yr favorite dearly departed divinity, writing drowned world science fiction, or wandering the streets in a daze.
There are still a few of these beautiful antiquities left. Consider yrself advised.
Get one from Reverb Worship (via eBay)