The music of Wovenhand and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist David Eugene Edwards has always had an unparalleled intensity. Edwards’ rich, billowing and emotive voice is always the driving force of his music, but it’s catapulted by his spellbinding ability to transform instruments that many people might consider mundane relics — be it banjo, accordion, lesser-known folk instruments from around the world, or even an electric guitar — into devices of dark fury and poignant beauty.
From the apocalyptic revivification of antique Americana of Sixteen Horsepower in the 90s to the threadbare balladry of Wovenhand’s early releases, Edwards’ music has maintained its celestial heaviness as it evolved. But now in its current incarnation, Wovenhand is a band that fully expands that power with exacting and inventive skill. It’s a sound so distinctive and compellingly crushing that even the heaviest of metal bands can’t match.
Wovenhand’s current lineup includes guitarist Chuck French, bassist Neil Keener (both of Planes Mistaken For Stars) and drummer Ordy Garrison, now joined by piano/synth player Matthew Smith (Crime & The City Solution). Star Treatment was recorded at Steve Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio in Chicago with engineer Sanford Parker, who also helmed Wovenhand’s 2014 album Refractory Obdurate.
While Wovenhand ought to be a familiar name to anyone interested in forward-thinking music, the album title Star Treatment isn’t a reference to our celebrity culture obsession. Rather, it’s a clever reference to concepts of astrolatry, or humanity’s enduring interest in the stars of the night sky.
“It’s ethereal in its concept,” Edwards explains. “There are many layers, as always. I’ve been paying attention to the stars in the sky and in literature, and it’s a theme throughout the album.”
Star Treatment kicks off full tilt with the anthemic charge of “Come Brave” — the song’s galloping four-on-the-floor drums driving churning swells of droning, chiming guitars and organ as Edwards’ soaring voice compels us to rise and join the fray. “The Hired Hand” takes a more Western bent with swaggering guitars awash in reverb and a throbbing bass line before the chorus erupts with massive open guitar chords as Edwards howls, “give up your dead.” Further, “Crystal Palace” sounds like Eastern European folk driven through a massive wall of amplifiers while a full gospel choir sings just beneath the gurgling surface of guitars. “Crook and Flail” sounds exotic in its twanging acoustic instruments and tabla/dumbec drum pattern. Elsewhere, “Golden Blossom” is a lush and beautifully unabashed love song, strummed out in a simple, catchy melody that builds to crescendo with the chorus refrain, “only you, my love and your light.” Throughout, Wovenhand deftly merge the outer reaches of rock and world folk sounds with increasing urgency and force.