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Fovea Hex \ Biography

Irish singer Clodagh Simonds first emerged at the tender age of 15 as the main writer behind cult Irish psych-folk band Mellow Candle, whose one and only album Swaddling Songs (1972) has since found wide acclaim. Subsequently she played keyboards, harpsichord and mellotron on Thin Lizzy’s second album, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, and sang backing vocals on Mike Oldfield’s follow up to Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge (1974), as well as on his subsequent albums, Ommadawn (1975) and Amarok (1990).

In between, Clodagh worked for Virgin Records on both sides of the Atlantic, and while living in New York played a residency at CBGBs with a band called The Same, and also composed music for La MaMa experimental theatre. By the time she moved back to Ireland in the 1990s she was ready to concentrate on music full time again, releasing an album, Six Elementary Songs, under her own name in 1996.

A decade later Clodagh returned again with Fovea Hex, this time supported by an extraordinary assembly of friends and colleagues, including Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Carter Burwell, Donal Lunny, Roger Doyle and Steven Wilson. The first trilogy of EPs, collected as Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent, were greeted by a rising tide of critical acclaim, and their nascent cult reputation further affirmed by a personal invitation from David Lynch to perform live at the Cartier Foundation in Paris as part of his exhibition, The Air Is On Fire.

As for the collective’s name, Clodagh explains: "The fovea is a tiny indentation in the retina where the sharpest vision is. Hex can mean various things - among other meanings, a jinx or curse. In a way, to me, Fovea Hex means something like 'through a glass darkly'. Ever since I was very small, I've been fascinated by the idea that we don't really get it, we don’t see things as they are. It resounded with that."

In 2008 a full length album, Here Is Where We Used to Sing, arrived to yet more glowing reviews. The album made several end-of-year lists and was awarded album of the year in periodicals in the UK, North America and Italy. A second EP trilogy, The Salt Garden, was issued between 2016 and 2019, consolidating and deepening the high esteem in which this most beguiling of ensembles continues to be held. "If Emily Dickinson had ever been allowed to make a record," enthused The Wire, "this is probably what it would have sounded like."

Comparisons have been made to Nico, This Mortal Coil, Ligetti, Arvo Part, Dead Can Dance, and even Schubert. Outside of Fovea Hex, Clodagh has also guested on recent albums by Matmos, Current 93 and Steven Wilson. Polymath musician/producer Steven is also responsible for the two longform ambient remixes from The Salt Garden collected on this album, originally released on CD-only via Die Stadt and Headphone Dust. Also included is a haunting version of 'All Those Signs' reworked by mysterious Serbian soundscape artist Abul Mogard as 'We Dream All the Dark Away'.

Following completion of the Salt Garden trilogy, what comes next isn't yet clear. "I never quite know what I'm doing until it's done and finished," Clodagh explains. "I think I would get a very strange and contrived result if I tried to aim for something very specific each time. For others that can work well - but it's never worked for me. I work better in a back-to-front kind of way, in the dark. A bit like developing someone else's photographs, you start out with a glimmer and some blurred outlines. You don't quite know what's there, and you just have to be patient and not agitate things too much or turn the light on too soon."

"Be quiet, and see what emerges."

Steven Wilson on Fovea Hex

"I've long been a fan of Fovea Hex, which for me is some of the most sublimely beautiful material ever recorded. In fact in 2008 I invited Clodagh Simonds to guest on my first solo record, Insurgentes. And Fovea Hex is the only music I’ve ever felt compelled to release on my own label, Headphone Dust, that wasn’t me."

"Her songs are dominated by a voice that's too steely to be deigned ethereal, but remains too otherworldly to file alongside more conventional female singer-songwriters. The pace is languid, the arrangements intricate and fragile. Fovea Hex’s closest cousins would perhaps be 4AD artists such as Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil, but really this music is completely unique and exceptional - a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds from instruments ranging from state-of-the-art to ancient and arcane."

Brian Eno on Clodagh Simonds

"Clodagh would never talk herself up in any way at all, and I'm quite happy to do that for her. My feeling is that, having known her for such a long time, I have seen the kind of things that she has become excited about and watched how she has very cleverly woven them into her music, into something that doesn't sound like any of the sources she was impressed by. She gets the important qualities, yet she has picked up the spiritual qualities without mimicking the formal ones. Her music is very evolved and well thought out."

"She has always been that way. She's a very slow, careful worker, not madly ambitious, but totally committed to what she does. I've heard and known some of her music for a long time, watched the band come to life, and while she's not prolific, what's interesting is that she's always earned her money in ways other than music. Music has been something she has done purely for love. She hasn’t been under pressure to do anything other than work at her own pace."

"It shows in her work – it's very considered, and you have a feeling that it's a vision, that it's something she has worked a long time on. She has taken advantage of the fact that she wasn't an instant success in the 1970s, and she has quietly kept on with what she's doing. She has stayed extremely true to her artistic vision."

Fovea Hex
Fovea Hex
Fovea Hex
Fovea Hex