Library Of The Occult returns 10/1 with a gorgeous slice of baroque horror in Missionary Work’s haunting new album The Ash Tree, a musical companion to M.R. James’ tale of the same name. Witches, hangings, trees, and things that go scratch in the night are at the heart of James’ tale. Missionary Work gives us an ornate record of brittle beauty and subtle Gothic undertones that captures the spirit of the short story, while giving us something to sink our teeth into. This might just be the perfect soundtrack for the changing leaves and shadowy dusk walks.
Missionary Work is the alias for Massachusetts-based musician Renato Montenegro. Montenegro released the last Missionary Work LP, Seven Sermons, in 2017. Where that LP created woozy chamber music with analog synth textures, choir-like layers, and moods Walter Rizzati would be proud of, The Ash Tree feels very of the time.
I could hear this music playing by candlelight on a cold, Suffolk evening as the moon hangs low. A harpsichord in the parlor as this music makes its way through the house into a desolate woods outside via an open window. This is chamber music for incantations.
Single “Thou Shalt Seek Me In The Morning” rings of melancholy and sadness, while also locking into otherworldly vibes. The lone notes linger in the air, bringing to mind 17th century Italian composers, as well as timeless concertos of Bach. But created on synth and electronics this track gets very otherworldly. It’s like Italian horror meets late 17th century English countryside. It’s both overwhelmingly beautiful and deeply haunting as well.
Montenegro enlists a who’s who of names to create a heavenly choir for this track. The Missionary Work Tabernacle Choir includes Max Bowman, Meyer Brown, Freddy Carrie Cruiser, Noell Dorsey, Carrie Furniss, Tyler Gorman, Sarabeth Linden, Lira Mondal, Renato Montenegro, Brendan Radigan, Lou Rebecca, Meg Reilly, Coco Roy, Chris Talbot, Greg Witz, and Trevor Vaughan. It’s honestly an absolutely stunning track, and album.
The Ash Tree is really quite unlike anything you’ll likely hear this year, and the fact that it’s arriving the first of October feels like a autumnal gift from beyond. It’s like chamber music performed by Mort Garson or Wendy Carlos. Both sound as if they haunt this record. Missionary Work snags their magic to help make The Ash Tree that much more special.
Listen to “Thou Shalt Seek Me In The Morning” below. The Ash Tree will be available on 10/1 via Library Of The Occult. Look for it in one week here.