Saturday, June 19, 2021

Gawain And The Green Knight: “A Sleeping Place” (2021) CD Review

Gawain And The Green Knight is the tale of one of King Arthur’s legendary Knights of the Round Table accepting a challenge from a mysterious knight who seems unaffected by death. Gawain And The Green Knight is also the name of the duo of Alexia Antoniou on vocals and guitar, and Mike O’Malley on Irish bouzouki, keys and vocals, a couple with a clear interest in legends and mythology. On their new EP, A Sleeping Place, there is a track titled “Dionysus,” and another in which Aphrodite plays a part. These guys have their own distinctive sound and approach, creating songs with a wonderful literary quality. Joining them on this release are Sam Weber on bass and Derek Swink on drums, both of whom played on earlier releases as well, and Michael Sachs on flute and clarinet.

The EP opens with “The Dressmaker,” a surprising, well-written and completely original song about a woman whose marriage is ending. Certain lines make me smile: “Upstairs our neighbors our fucking/Through the walls, I think I hear my name.” And the lines that follow those are striking: “I hide behind my own teeth/I hide below my own brain.” This is a lively number, though with some introspective moments. It is an honest and exciting ride through a troubled domestic setting and through a woman’s mind as she manages her own way out of the situation, emerging triumphant as her own person. Yes, it is ultimately an optimistic number. That’s followed by “Dionysus,” which begins in a mellower place, but is striking in its own way, particularly in that repeated line “I don’t want to be, I don’t want to be in my mind,” which begins the song. This past year, when we were left on our own, isolated, I bet a lot of people found they didn’t like being alone in their own minds. This track features some really nice vocal work. “And the god with bloodstains/On his teeth/That’s the god for me.”

“Bridget” is about immigration, immersing us in the story and feelings of one person who is writing to her family still in the home country. There is something sad and lonesome about it, as a good deal of her life is spent in memories, in her mind. A song of an internal, personal struggle. As it is occurring to me how pretty this song is, I hear Alexia Antoniou sing “I say pretty things, pretty things.” And I love these lines: “And if I’m kind to myself/If I’m kind to myself/Don’t think poorly of me.” That’s followed by “In My Dreams, A Perfect Chair,” which is as delightful as its title. When Alexia sings “Somebody tell me I’m not good at this, so I can just go home, please/Thank you very much, please,” I fall completely in love with this song. “And it’s looking pretty bad, but I know I can make it worse.” I think we’ve all been in touch with that sort of anxiety at one time or another.

There is a strange joy to “Birds & Wine,” the song that features Aphrodite. Check out these wonderful lines: “I can make you happy/I can make you beg for me, make you beg for me/And maybe I will.” Her voice builds as she sings those lines, and then there is some light, fanciful work on flute as if to keep her from getting too carried away. And then that clarinet is so good. What an interesting and unusual song. It ends with some beautiful vocal work. The EP concludes with “Fingers,” which was the first song that I heard from this release, the one that drew me in. It is gorgeous and gentle and loving, and features more striking and memorable lyrics, such as “I will share my grave with you/As you have shared your bed with me/How I hope/Our ribs and our bones/Lace like fingers.”

CD Track List

  1. The Dressmaker
  2. Dionysus
  3. Bridget
  4. In My Dreams, A Perfect Chair
  5. Birds & Wine
  6. Fingers

A Sleeping Place was released on June 11, 2021.

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