Snailbeach Mines Trust (Wayside & Woodland, 2010)
Back in the depths of last winter, I visited the desolate, alien landscape of Parys mountain quarry mines near on Anglesey, Wales, a collosal, gaping wound in the island’s countryside. Listening to Eric Loveland Heath’s concept album Snailbeach Mines Trust took me back there. Based around visits to the Snailbeach Mines in his native Shropshire, it captures the feeling of these abandoned monuments to Britain’s industrial heritage.
Sweeping ambient drones form the foreboding and beautiful landscape of the album, with clanging, sometimes abrasive percussion and field recordings breaking through like echoes of the past. Running water and a sound akin to metal on rocks on ‘Scott Level’ conjure visions of claustraphobic tunnels and the ghosts of hard labour, while subtle tonal shifts evoke the vast, lonely countryside above.
The vivid story that unfolds is largely told without words, but Heath sensitively, economically tells of lives lost on ‘Tragedy at George’s Shaft’, men who “return to the earth, thought not to work”, their loss a hole in the close mining community. For all the research, Snailbeach Mines Trust never feels like a historical excercise; it’s an emotional exploration of place best listened to as a whole.
The recent release of Snailbeach Mines Trust is being quickly followed up by Shropshire Hill Country, an album that Heath has been working on for a number of years. It’s scheduled for release mid-Autumn on Wayside & Woodland.
MP3: Scott Level
Snailbeach Mines Trust is available from Norman Records.