I absolutely loved Judy’s “comeback” album Enchanted Garden which came out over two years ago, and when I heard she was to follow it up real fast with not one but two more albums (such was her prolific nature in terms of new songwriting!), well I was exceeding pleased. But then came a hiatus, as I waited what seemed like ages before either appeared. Spindle, though once again a collaboration with Astralasia’s Mark Swordfish, is generally not so heavy on the synths as Enchanted Garden, and it moves more in the direction of Judy’s wyrd-prog-folk vocal personality – in fact, the hybrid music they’re creating together has taken a step further towards a more readily definable sound-world and overall sensibility. Here the distinctive timbres of banjo (Dave Russell) and hammered dulcimer (James Asher) figure quite prominently alongside Simon House’s violin and amongst the other strands of instrumentation on occasion. Enchanted Garden tended sometimes to stretch ideas out beyond their immediate interest value, but the virtue of economy is a lesson that’s clearly been learned now, and Spindle’s nine tracks don’t outstay their welcome at all. The instrumental blending is even more inventive, and really complements Judy’s cool, knowingly pure voice while also reflecting the equally knowing nature of the lyrics. These manage to be poetic, sometimes redolent of traditional song modes and structures but with the twist of ageless (and contemporary) realism. Some (eg. Fingest) are like songs lost and then now found, rediscovered for our delight; the phrases of Misty Morning tumble on out like the stream of consciousness of fresh experience. Honeysweet lies thick with the almost sickly aroma of enchanted love lost. Shining, bolstered by Bob Fripp’s atmospheric guitar lines, weaves and shimmers, lost for words. Darkness To Light is a brave statement that manages to say much in very few words without seeming unduly cryptic. The apparent come-on of Thank You My Dear is more of an admonitory come-off, still smarting from the pangs of bitter experience. And Final Hour is a perfect example of the cynical deflation of stock romantic poesy with timely extrapolation by means of down-to-earth advice or circumstances – it contains some priceless couplets! Finally, there’s a double-quick-time cover of See Emily Play that conveys the excitement and mystery of the original in a fresh, racing gallop. Spindle is an adventurous next-step of an album, and I can’t wait to hear the final instalment of Judy’s trilogy (The Whorl), due out any time now.
David Kidman 2007