Track by Track: Owen Tromans

Tomorrow sees the release of Between Stones, the new album from Hampshire based singer-songwriter Owen Tromans. The album is released via Tromans’ imprint Sacred Geometry and follows his previous album, Winter Tape, released in December 2016. It was recorded by Tromans with long-time collaborator and highly acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and producer Joe Bennett at the legendary Truck Studios in Steventon, Oxfordshire.

The album’s title track Between Stones tells of visions among Britain’s ancient megaliths, while the epic Grimcross carries this mood further, into a fantastical world somewhere between Alan Garner and Nigel Kneale, a story of hidden power within standing stones unfolds over nine undulating minutes of narrative, the band mirroring the story’s ebb and flow. Below, you can listen in full to the album and be guided by Tromans own words through the mythical landscapes conjured throughout. For those that this strikes a chord with, be sure to also check Weird Walk, an acclaimed journal, of which Tromans is a co-founder, concerned with rambling and the landscape and lore of the British Isles:

Between Stones – Track by Track

Danebury Rumination

I had been annoying various members of the household with this tune for ages, but could never find a lyric or progress it from that opening section. One afternoon, I was walking Danebury Hill, the site of an Iron Age hill fort not too far away from home, and I got a real sense of how the song should move forward. The words speak to age-old concerns – although we can’t cheat the great bird that comes for us all, we can choose to live our lives well.

The wonderful strings were arranged and played by Joe Bennett, who is joined by Louisa Lyne on cello. As ever, I feel incredibly lucky to have such friends in music to help bring the songs to life. A Dialogue

Troy is always with us. Julian Jaynes, in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, states that the Iliad, Homer’s epic poem set during the Trojan War, was “neither consciously composed nor consciously remembered, but was successively and creatively changed with no more awareness than a pianist has of his improvisation.” For Jaynes, Homer was simply the first recorded teller of a tale that had been worked into its crystalline meter over centuries of recitation; the gods too were hallucinations, stepping stones on the path to the fully conscious lives that we enjoy today. Jaynes’ book, although flawed, is an interesting read and, with so much of it focused on the Iliad, it got me thinking about Troy.

And when I think about Troy I reach for Christopher Logue’s War Music, a stunning innovation of Homer’s epic, and a heart-pounding, cinematic poem in its own right. I saw Logue’s handwritten drafts for War Music at the Bodleian Library recently: reams of old-school computer paper studded with Post-it Notes detailing the action, including that initiated by the gods. Of course, removed from Jaynes’ analysis, these gods are searingly real in the epic itself.

There is a moment in Logue’s account of the Iliad when Patroclus, who is single-handedly dispatching Trojan after Trojan, is put in his place by the god Apollo who cries, “Greek, get back where you belong!” For Troy will fall, but only when the gods deem it fit. Patroclus fights on regardless, seemingly ready to bring the whole city to its knees, and so Apollo must act. Logue preludes the god’s hit magnificently:

His hand came from the east, And in his wrist lay all eternity And every atom of his mythic weight

Was poised between his fist and bent left leg  Patroclus was not long for this world. But the gods are not always to blame.

I’m sure you’re aware that humans can do plenty of damage on their own. This song sees a Greek soldier summon Zeus himself, to ask why he is embroiled in a seemingly endless war on a foreign plain. The answers, as in history, have more to do with men than gods.

Happiness You don’t need me to tell you to beware gurus bearing easy answers, but I’m pretty sure I saw through the pursuit of happiness as a goal from quite an early age. I’m not Thomas Ligotti by a long stretch, but I have always been suspicious of relentless optimism; far better to embrace life and all of its ups and downs than to try to trap something as elusive as happiness.

I tend to find it creeps up on you when you least expect it anyway. Also, I’m particularly fond of the guitar solo on this one. Between Stones

I have always been entranced by standing stones and their relationship to the landscape. This song isn’t about a particular megalithic structure, but it does hint at the majesty and mystery of these places that have been handed down to us from the Neolithic. Martin Pale’s Ghost

Dr Martin Pale (1485-1567) was the son of a Warwick leather-tanner. He was the last of the Aureate or Golden Age magicians. Other magicians followed him (c.f.

Gregory Absalom) but their reputations are debatable. Pale was certainly the last English magician to venture into Faerie. (Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, 2004)

On one island I heard tell of ghost-ships bearing the dead to another world. It is said that these ships only sail when an aurora borealis is exhibited in the sky, and all mariners know to let them pass without word. (James R.

Fergusson, Islands of the Far North, 1806) This song was born from the unlikely collision of two books that stirred something up in my head. I imagined corrupt mariners upon a far-flung northern sea in the world of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange.

Hard-bitten but superstitious men, they were transporting an unholy cargo to nefarious strangers for financial gain. I also took inspiration from Lovecraft here, and you’ll find me pinching the famous (albeit reworded) line from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – “Do not call up that which you cannot put down.” Vague Summer

Summerdrummer. There’s a whole bunch of drummers I have played with over the years – all great in their own way. There was Paul who had that thing with the car, and who just wanted to play Hendrix and then disappeared.

Then there was Nick, just a kid when he joined, and with the most beautiful rolling flow. You can hear it on endless Tascam song searches. He was there for the big stuff and we love him for that.

Then there’s Will, who gave songs depth and precision. When it got strange he went with it and pushed it further. Ben was a catch – star man and real skin pounder.

He gave a backbone to the strongest works and I am forever grateful for that. On this record it’s Mike, a dream of a drummer – he adds just the right things in just the right places. Others too, but these especially golden.

Drummersummer. As far as summers go, mine is wrapped up in stories that I have told many times, in songs and on stages. I guess the issue is that we don’t know it when it’s there, only when it’s gone, and then we can spend a long while trying to get it back.

Burying the Moon King Ludwig II of Bavaria was an unusual chap. Best known for his fairy tale castles and apparent descent into madness, he liked to be known as the Moon King, the umbral counterpart to Louis XIV’s Sun King.

His is a fascinating, tangled story and the circumstances of his death remain shrouded in intrigue. This is my take on the man, told from the viewpoint of one of the king’s trusted retainers. Grimcross

This one came as a stream of consciousness initially. I was headed off to work when I pulled over and began getting the lyrics down on my phone. It’s a song about hidden power within ancient monuments, of beginnings and endings, and a girl called Rose.

Electric Wessex I grew up on a hill. It’s a place I have written a lot about in the past – I used to love sitting with friends at night, watching the lights of the built-up spaces below lap against the sides of that hill.

When I moved Down South, I was captivated by the risen ground in more rural spots. I am lucky to live on the edge of so much beautiful countryside, and sometimes it’s still good to be up on a hill at night. I like to look west, towards wilder counties, and imagine lives on the hill long ago and those still to come.

Order Between Stones via Bandcamp:

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