Mercy Oceans
Heart of the Sun


Tall Trees EP
[Abaton Book Company,]

What I know about Pantaleimon is that it serves as a moniker [name she most likely borrowed from St. Panteleimon - whose name means "all merciful"] used by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andria Degens. What I also know is her music pours out onto the page like a bleeding heart. Music she holds within her was only released after she took an extended trip around the world. It was then she realized the need to give birth to what we can now all take part in. I've not followed her musical whereabouts since the beginning when she was a floating member of Current 93. All is not lost as her latest batch of releases confirms she is someone whose endearing, restrained talent is something to cheer about.

Her second album "Mercy Oceans" is a sort of catharsis that one needs to undergo during ones lifespan. It's music that is whispered. Notions are suggested while Degens' heart bleeds all over the speakers. This is as naked as music gets - where the soul is left barren, where possibilities exist for a better and greater tomorrow. One would like to believe that people will start their own private revolution upon hearing these songs. Degens has a keen ability to hold ones attention. Each phrase is uttered with utmost attention to details. Each breath is filled with meaning and holds weight. With each minute, one gets a sense of floating mere inches above a large body of water in a state of weightlessness. Every time she strikes the dulcimer, plucks the mandolin, or adds drones to the mix, one is struck by the wonder of it all. With guests such as Baby Dee [harp], Isobel Campbell [cello, piano, glockenspiel and vocals], Keith Wood [guitar], the music takes on the aura of near hallowed beauty. "We Love" comes across as one of the most striking examples of Degens at her peak. The vocals are sung with graceful lift, while the whispering dulcimer and cello melodies send shivers down the spine. Later, on "Born Into You", the string instruments and drones add up to bliss as Degens sends waves of shimmering cascades from her mouth. The crowning peak comes on "I Am", where the vocals are austere, dulcimer particularly hypnotic and the piece ends with dead silence. "Mercy Oceans" is a hill of peace and calmness spread across time and space.

"Heart of the Sun" turns out to be more than just "Pantaleimon Remixed and Realised" as the subtitle suggests. Project came about when Clodagh Simonds [Fovea Hex] asked Andria Degens if she could remix one of the tracks from "Mercy Oceans". Result was a shimmering remix of "Under the Water", which sparkles with haunting stillness. The project also involved a new track - Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "Even If We Love" - which was altered by Band of Susans' Susan Stenger. There's an inclusion of some new tracks especially crafted for the project. One of these is "Heart of the Sun (Shimmering)", which was a collaboration between Degens and Strings of Consciousness. Its delicate start builds up to orgasmic guitar-harp-keyboard-laptop proportions, only to be pulled down again into a sea of string ether. Another surprising remix is one by Stephen O'Malley. His edge-sharp drone starts off rough, then stops for a couple of minutes to allow Degens' vocal magic to filter through, only to break-out again in blistering fury. Larsen re-interprets "We Love" with much precision and care, while Lilium churn out a mesmerizing take of "I Am". With each track, there is fresh beauty that is waiting to be unwrapped.

This brings us to Andria's latest offering, the very limited EP "Tall Trees". Mastered by Andrew Liles and produced, recorded and mixed by Degens, the release is only four songs in length but what striking pieces these are! Starting off the proceedings is an instrumental "The Warming". Its hypnotic beauty is amassed in gentle swaying melody that ends much too abruptly. "Dance of the Honey Bees" makes everything alright again. With Michael Tanner on dulcitone, guitar and Nick Palmer on accordion and harmonium, the melody is quickly established, which then serves as the propeller to Degens tender murmurs. "Sing Night Swallow" is a gentle drone piece that features ghostly vocals and generous slabs of harmonium. The release ends much too quickly with "Tall Trees". The only piece on the EP to feature actual decipherable lyrics, the mood is haunting. Yet, there is hope. There is light! Her name is a mystery?Pantaleimon.

- Tom Sekowski

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