David Eugene Edwards came up as frontman of the Denver-based 16 Horsepower, an alt-country band that signed to A&M at a time when major labels were signing alt-country bands across the United States (16 Horsepower released their debut EP in 1995, the same year that brought debuts from Wilco, Son Volt, and Whiskeytown). Like their peers, 16 Horsepower evolved far beyond their early sonic palette, to the point that their later albums had more in common with Bauhaus than Uncle Tupelo. By the time they split in 2005, Edwards — who grew up in an evangelical family, the grandson of a Nazarene preacher — had steered his band from rock music altogether. Their final LP, 2002’s Folklore, blended traditional folk songs, archaic backwoods instrumentation, and elements of goth, to create something bleak and haunting.
In 2001, while 16 Horsepower were on hiatus, Edwards formed Wovenhand, a new outlet for his increasingly outré tastes. Since then, Wovenhand have released six studio albums that truly belong to no genre: There are elements of folk, noise, post-punk, goth, and gospel (among other things), but you’d never slot Wovenhand into any of those categories. The band’s closest contemporaries are probably Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Swans, two other units capable of creating mountainous, elemental sounds, both guided by similarly intense and uncompromising visionaries.
Wovenhand are set to release their seventh studio LP, Refractory Obdurate, on Deathwish Inc., the label run by Converge frontman Jacob Bannon. It is a massive, powerful, life- (and, frankly, death-) affirming album, and I recommend it without reservation. The song we’re premiering today, “Hiss,” is the LP’s penultimate track, but the first to be released to the public. I’m not sure it captures the record’s scope and magnitude — although I’m not sure what one song possibly could — but it’s great. Listen.
Refractory Obdurate is out 4/29 via Deathwish Inc.