“Close the Circle, Lay the Stones”
(Heavy Mess)

Jennifer Williams makes acoustic folk music by definition, but the level of sonic experimentation she injects into her tunes elevates them well beyond the genre – it’s really some of the most harrowing and imaginative work I’ve heard in quite some time within the genre. It’s like if David Eugene Edwards stripped all his rockist tendencies out of Wovenhand and just left in the creepy bits. But maybe he couldn’t pull off what Williams does as Gossimer, and I’m pretty sure I’m never going to listen to this with the lights off late at night. Or maybe I will, just to freak myself out. It’s Grimm’s-dark-woods moody, and although the A-side features Williams’s haunted vocal, it doesn’t act as a beacon on the dark paths. Instead, it’s a quiet reminder that you’re out of your element as the listener, you’re treading through secret places you have no right to be. Close the Circle, Lay the Stones is a soundtrack to the witching hour, where spells and magic deeds are incanted and performed against far-removed enemies. Each moment is charged in anticipation, the gentleness of the playing belying the undertones. Ooh, the glitchy work on “Wine Into Water” is chilling! (Although whoever’s performing that miracle is a lot less cool than Jesus was at the biblical party.) The B-side is a stretch of instrumental acoustic menace, its two long pieces, “Close the Circle” and “Lay the Stones,” linger in the atmosphere and raise hackles like electricity before a storm. Oh, and it makes total sense that Williams is half of Orra. She continues to enchant and mystify, offering a pastoral escape hatch from modern life. I’ll take that kind of creepiness any day.

--Ryan Masteller