Out of all the people associated with the Neofolk scene, I find Ian Read to be a most intriguing, quiet figure. The reasons for this perhaps boil down to the fact he doesn't see himself as a musician, but rather a person who uses his musical gifts as an extension of esoteric, arcane beliefs. Germanic paganism, runes, sorcery, it's all part of a profound cycle to Read, who is a qualified Rune-Master in the Rune-Gild, and the once head of the now defunct Arcanorium College Department for Rune-Lore and Germanic Magic. In short, Ian Read has other interests to attend to. Which is fine, but unfortunate as when Read does decide to lend his talents to songwriting, he is capable of producing albums like Hollow Ways
This sense of pervading mysticism is a big part of what makes the music of the Neofolk scene what it is. It a strange conception in reflection, that a focus on marrying their ethos with earthy folk music could have been born of industrial music and post-punk, by a bunch of modern occultists who, if you are to believe the rumours, are also into neo-nazism. It happened however and Ian Read was always behind the scenes, whether in the personal lives and studies of his musical contemporaries, or contributing guest appearances on albums such as Current 93's Swastikas For Noddy
The music is lush traditional folk, with crisp, beautiful guitars, employing piano, string and wind instruments into arrangements. Whereas previous album (and Read's first), Gilded by The Sun
, employed some eccentric nods to ambient and rock music, Hollow Ways
is a pure folk album at heart. Read is a very careful writer, the lyrics to all songs here (especially Lord of Secrets, The Old Grey Widowmaker
and The Rising Of The Moon
) are top notch. His vocal delivery isn't much different from Douglas P. or Tony Wakeford in that kind of barmy, British way, but Read is by far the better singer of these three. Dutch occultist writer Freya Aswynn makes a vocal appearance on Seeker
, spicing things up a bit with her ancient sounding voice. It is a beautiful song.
Read has crafted one of his best albums in Hollow Ways
. Though the Fire + Ice discography is small, one gets the sense that when Read sets his compass towards music he spends his time wisely, carefully constructing his art as some kind of spiritual rite of passage. Whether or not these mystical qualities communicate anything meaningful to the listener, at the end of the day Read's patience has gifted us with an excellent slice of modern folk music.