The Fields of Hay: Songs for Nine Ladies
Fourth Dimension

Songs for Nine Ladies by The Fields of Hay (aka Theme member Stuart Carter) arranges meditative acoustic-electronic soundscapes into an uninterrupted, forty-three-minute flow. Perched midway between ambient, folktronic, and drone musics, Carter's five pieces relaxedly meander, with his electric bass often heard soloing against a semi-psychedelic background of synths, samples, electronic effects, field elements, and, in the case of “Gabriels Golden Wing (Naked in the Clouds),” voices. Though Sonic Boom (EAR, Spectrum, Spacemen 3) lends a hand on the first two pieces and a few others (Richard Johnson, Leon Bennet) contribute too, Carter's clearly the project's driving conceptual force. The material's loose, explorative feel isn't unappealing, and the generally becalmed ambiance isn't objectionable either. “Morning in the Early” opens the album nicely with a becalmed, stately waltz that merges bird chirps, bright synth, and electric guitar melodies into an attractive whole, and “Solaar Afternoons,” where samples suggesting the steely, reverberant hum of electrical transmissions pair with pretty acoustic guitar playing, is appealing too. But while there are some good moments, there are some not-so-good too. The longest piece at twelve minutes, “Welcome to Mantra” grounds itself with a repetitive, Phaedra-like synth pattern whose rhythm feels more tribal than those used by Tangerine Dream, but the piece's dark undercurrent isn't entirely convincing and “Welcome to Mantra” ultimately sounds, frankly, a tad banal and undistinguished. Slightly better is “Miracles and Saints,” where Carter's bass solos amidst a whirring, sputtering school of swimming synths. In general, Songs for Nine Ladies would impress more if its sounds were themselves more fresh.

July 2007