This is the second offering from Wormhook, and it is a fine blend of cathartic inner voices with something akin to ancient incantations from the great beyond, augmented, but not swamped, by hand-chamfered electronics and fragile guitar. Umpteen lyrical references to clouds, nature, stones, rain, and heaven, cannot obscure that Wormhook's radical psalmody is far from the tangled common or garden variety of free folk hedgerow bustle, approaching instead the trance-state wisdom of a delirious time-traveling street corner prophet deciphering Sumerian inscriptions to an audience of none.
Which is not to say that the record is anything less than rather holy and crystal clear. Wormhook may sound at times as if they are channeling the spirit of a Beckett character, joyfully and defiantly hauling themselves through wet leaves by their elbows, but they never sound as if they are channeling the confessional voice from author Adam Thorpe's unforgettable chapter "Stitches" - only decipherable every thirty or so readings after a midwinter nap, four glasses of sherry and a game of naked Twister. Indeed, the lyric sheet enclosed with the vinyl version of Workaday Strangeness is hardly needed. Unless, like me, you simply can't believe that double glazing is mentioned not once but twice (in separate songs) and to good effect.
The feel of the album is unique—as much rain-washed urban outsider crying space dust into the neon-tinged gloom as spectral presence singing sacred 12th century hymnal—but here and there I hear, mostly in Wormhook's anguished and alluring voice, some accidental echoes of the plaintive warmth with which Sandro Perri sang on his Tiny Mirrors record, and Jacob Olausson wailed on Moonlight Farm. The album needs to be heard in its entirety, on repeat. Paradoxically, I could highlight any track for praise, but will limit this to mentioning "Shiver," as it sounds like it might be the apparition of a disappeared cantor haunting the night shift of a factory assembly line. Another key piece is "Folk From The Vaults of A Death Cult D&B Version," which could hardly be more beautiful if it were a magic carpet woven from the unpicked woolen sweaters of a choir of octogenarian virgins praying for forgiveness in the ruins of a wave-battered stone chapel, on the coast of a newly discovered island halfway between Devold and Fair Isle.
The album also reminds me of the medieval poem Pearl in that it similarly benefits from offering up almost-but-not-quite understandings, and an exotic mysterious quality which will not easily be dissolved. I applaud that Wormhook has plunged into deep creative waters, determined to "swymme the remnaunt, thagh I ther swalte"—to swim across, or die trying.
Wormhook is Martin Steuck. They are a Glasgow artist into a broad range of different but connected creative mediums. The physical album has their hand painted labels and there's an optional 24 page book of their paper cuts. Workaday Strangeness is reportedly born of a therapeutic necessity, and this is made plain from the track "Disappear" and other allusions to ancient pain, rain, demons, disease, and modern disconnect. Yet what emerges is a defiantly poetic anti-manifesto pleading, nay fighting, for solidarity, joyful inclusion, and mutual survival.