**Edition of 300. Sold out at the label* Here is the second solo LP by the wonderful London-based singer/multi-instrumentalist Alison Cotton. Originally issued on cassette by the mighty Bloxham Tapes, just about everyone who heard Only Darkness Now suggested it might make for an excellent LP. And hey -- they were right. Alison's debut LP All Is Quiet at the Ancient Theatre (FTR 424LP) received wide ranging critical acclaim from placing in the Guardians Writers 'Album Of The Year' to placing in the Quietus 'Albums of the Year'. Ms. Cotton has a storied past performing with Saloon and The Eighteenth Day of May, and she still may be found doing likewise with The Left Outsides . . . Only Darkness Now begins with a sidelong instrumental track, 'Behind the Spiderweb Gate,' during which Cotton displays her immense drone chops, organizing rich, thick layers of viola, Omnichord, and voice into the soundtrack for a totally immersive trip. The effect is such that seconds become minutes and as time stretches till eventually, in the peak, time ceases to have any meaning whatsoever -- a beautiful state to be transported too as everything slows down. You could spend a whole year listening to this one. The second side starts with 'In Solitude I Will Fade Away,' a collage of Alison's voice, twinned and then some. It's short and sweet with just a little drumming to move things along. 'How My Heart Bled in Bleeding Heart Yard' brims with as much longing as it title suggests. It opens with a long instrumental passage, emphasizing the human pace of a harmonium's breath patterns, soon joined by a viola, also offering tones of a very human quality. All of this swells into a chorale of immense and mournful depth before being joined by Nico-like vocals that raise a wordless alarm. 'The Hill Was Hollow' is a short mystery for percussion and violin. Unravel at your own peril. Finally there is 'Shirt of Lace.' This is a studio recording of one of Alison's regular live covers. The song is by the late Dorothy Carter (a visionary American musician whose work bridged experimental and medieval musics) and Cotton's version is a sheer blast -- her vocals curling and twisting high above a supple bed of key drones, string plucks and sliding arco passageways . . . one of the very few albums I can name that matches the cold fire of Nico's Marble Index and it does so without taking a single step that isn't purely Alison's own..." --Byron Coley, 2020 Edition of 300.
The first solo album from Alison Cotton, All Quiet at the Ancient Theatre, was a masterful set of pieces that evoked ruined temples, heat shimmer and smoke curling from smoldering herbs. In her work as half of The Left Outsides, Cotton uses her wide open vocals to create electro-folk songs that sound as though they’ve been around forever. Recording solo, she strips the music back to make the sounds contained in fields and stones audible and eloquent. Only Darkness Now, originally out on cassette, is now available as a full release. Her second LP contains mysteries that unwind at the pace of a season changing, a time lapse of a record. Only Darkness Now consists of one long track and four shorter pieces. ‘Behind the Spiderweb Gate’ (20.37) weaves viola over drone and wordless vocals that seem to come from a landscape suspended in time, moving and changing at its own pace. There is an entire world in here, from darkness to light, a complex track that seems simple at first but continually unfolds new layers of sound and association. ‘In Solitude I Will Fade Away’ is an eerie interlude with Cotton’s multi-tracked voice intoning strange lyrics of loss and retreat. ‘How My Heart Bled in Bleeding Heart Yard’ which, like all Cotton’s tracks, has a great title, features a harmonium in deep mourning. A further interlude, ‘The Hill Was Hollow’, taps legends of secret realms through an expressive viola. Finally, ‘Shirt of Lace’, a cover of a song by the American psych-folk-medievalist singer Dorothy Carter, sounds like a Gregorian hymn echoing across the hedgerows.
This is an expressive and thoroughly absorbing album, which envelops the listener and takes them to places that seem both familiar and terrifying, halfway between inner and outer worlds. Like Laura Cannell, with whom she shares both instrumentation and a powerful ability to communicate the uneasy groans emerging from the earth, Cotton has tapped into a rich vein of music that seems urgent and essential. Only Darkness Now pays the same microcosmic attention to place that many have found themselves exploring, often involuntarily, during lockdown. Cotton shows us how we can pull the curtain aside and step beyond time to confront ourselves in new forms. Worlds can be discerned behind the veil of reality, and Only Darkness Now opens the door.