Taking cues from Epic45 – whose own Wayside And Woodland label have put out this release – ‘Snailbeach Mines Trust’ is another psychogeography album as EL Heath offers a moving soundtrack to what was once the largest lead mine in England. Heath used to visit the now disused mine as a child and – after moving away from the area – decided to revisit the place which appears to have brought back some haunting and eloquent memories.
As befits an album which celebrates a disused mine, these largely instrumental pieces are high on eeriness, augmented – but not suffocated by – field recordings. Tunes are not high on the agenda but the product is elegantly delivered, save perhaps the clunky tribute to ‘Lordshill Engine Shaft’. Elsewhere, there’s a quietly macabre journey to be experienced from ‘Scott Level’ (curiously reminiscent of John Foxx’s ‘Cathedral Oceans’ project), via the beautifully eerie ‘Upper Works Reservoir’ to the calming drone of ‘Perkins Level’. There is just one vocal-led track, which is ‘Tragedy At George’s Shaft’. It bemoans “the men who washed the blood from their hands” in an accident that occured in the mine towards the end of the 19th Century.
The key to all albums of this type is that not only must it work on a musical level but also convey the emotions and atmosphere of a place without the listener having to be there. On these terms, Heath’s music is challenging rather than addictive but it’s against the latter criteria where he truly excels.
Stars Of The Lid, Epic45, John Foxx