Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Ian Grimble and Richard Matthews of Communion Music at 2KHz, Crouch End, London
The floor of 2KHz at Church Studios in Crouch End, London, is the sort of thick timber that we place on the ground for locomotives to travel across. They are those beefy pieces of wood that will never break or wear. We'd swear that each piece was a whole tree, all its own. They feel immovable and unending as you walk across them. They are imposing and they fit the castle-like look of the darkened (even in the daytime) studio, with iron chandeliers dangling high above the planks. You enter the studio from a narrow walkway that lines the entire backside of this enormous, early 1800s building. Still with a working church in the center of it, everything feels right for Foy Vance, this songwriter from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland. He's near enough to the heads and the hands of those religious enough not to understand and he's close enough to a religion, or any remnants of a religion that he likely harbors quite a cautiousness toward.
Then there's the lack of light in the place where the microphone that's set up for him stands. There's some candle wax that's been dripped from old sticks of lights that are jammed into the limbs of the chandeliers and Vance's boots are insistent and firm as they walk over these serious chunks of wood. As the Irishman strode in and opened up his guitar case, it felt like the calm before the storm. The hinges squawked when they were bent backward, further than they wanted to go, and his guitar was lifted from its fuzzy home. It took him just a matter of moments before he was using everything around him to his advantage.
First it was the illusory soul of his, one that expands out with M.C. Escher-like staircases, going up and going down and somehow fitting together and against themselves in illogical predicaments. It's a soul that is so much bigger than the compartment that it's housed in could ever appear. It's something that - when allowed to do what it wants to do - can expand out to five times its size. It gets gigantic, like a parade balloon, hovering like a storm cloud that will never harm you. It will just send out warning shots of lightning and thunder - the fire streaking across the sky and nailing itself into the ground close enough to your feet that you'll dance a touch and the hair will stand up on your arms.
This is the second time that Vance taped a session with us here in Crouch End and the results this time might be even more heart-rending. "Into The Fire" and "Midnight Starlet" will haunt you with light. They'll haunt you with pangs of love. They'll haunt you with the tears of others. They'll make you realize that you've never felt anything even as remotely deep as he has. You're nothing but an apprentice here. He's the master of this bountiful sadness - the kind that we wouldn't entirely mind having in the family, in our own bed.