Joined: Oct. 2018
||Posted: Aug. 31 2021, 12:11
I don't really think of myself as a lover of Incantations. I think for me, like many Oldfield fans, it's the album where the line is drawn between the mysterious alchemy of his early albums and the generally shiny, soulless feel of his output from the '80s onwards. Incantations straddles both worlds.
There's much I don't like about it. It's too long and too repetitive. I think a lot of people would agree.
And yet, I keep coming back to it time and time again. Sometimes instead of "too long" it feels "immersive", and sometimes instead of "too repetitive" it feels "hypnotic". So yes, every now and again I get an itch that only Incantations can scratch, and it temporarily becomes my favourite Oldfield album.
There's never really been another album on earth that has the same curious combination of instruments. You just don't get vibraphones mixed with bodhrans and trumpets on "normal" albums. I also notice it's the first Oldfield album not to feature acoustic guitar. Up until that point he seemed equally proficient/dominant on both acoustic and electric guitars: but from Incantations onwards it seems to me that the electric guitar was his dominant instrument.
There's definitely a deliberate spiritual/ magical/ occult feel to it. As he has explained in his autobiography, he deliberately started out wanting to make it explicitly like a magic spell. And although he ironed a lot of that out of it, it's still there in fragments. It still does feel like some kind of spell or ritual. I think he should probably have left in the Kathleen Raine poem "A Spell for Creation" (as heard in The Space Movie) as that would have helped to retain this spiritual theme.
Kathleen Raine was introduced to Oldfield by Keith Critchlow, writer of the Reflection film (featuring a number of Incantations demos) and a devotee/enthusiast of sacred geometry. Oldfield dated his daughter for a short time. Critchlow wrote a great book called Time Stands Still, about the patterns and meanings behind neolithic standing stones and other sites in Britain. I love that phrase "Time Stands Still", and it seems to me like an apt description of how I feel when I tune into Incantations.
The Hiawatha poem at the end of side two... I know that rubs a lot of people up the wrong way, but it's one of my favourite parts of the album. It's maybe the only part of the album I wish was longer, not shorter. Time really does "stand still" in the best possible way when I listen to Hiawatha, and when side two ends it's like waking from a wonderful dream.