Twelve years in the making, Persephone is a celebration of an oft-overlooked and mis-understood myth. Weaving earthy vocals with the flights of a songbird, as well as throaty chanting in Greek, Rule brings the listener a heady and transformative journey through gentle folky guitars, moody soundscapes, ambient guitars, choral harmonies, tribal percussion, cello, and marimba.
While one might label Persephone a concept album, it is only to perhaps induce or create some kind of visual experience to add to the music's richness. As I listened, I found myself imagining a modern dance infused Greek chorus hybrid of rich symbolism and deepened understanding of Rule's lyrics.
The primary voices (by Rule) are Persephone, Demeter, and Hekate. The latter may be surprising to any who only know the myth from Edith Hamilton, but the oldest known version of the myth is Homer's “Hymn to Demeter” which reveals Hekate's role, and places her as an equal to both Demeter and Persephone. Through these three women, the three stages of (ancient Greek stereotypical) womanhood is displayed. Rule is joined by a Greek Chorus of five female singers from around the world: Callie Galati (Athens, Greece), Melody Moon and Talie Helene (Melbourne, Australia), Cyoakha Grace (Faro, Portugal), and Mauro Woody (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA).
In her lyrics and sound, Rule does her best to not only convey Demeter’s grief and anger at haven lost her daughter, but also the awe and respect of the people who received Demeter’s mysteries of life and death as the Goddess revealed to them the secrets of nature’s cycles. These are the same mysteries that are reflected in Persephone’s transformation from a maiden (Kore), to the Queen of the Underworld, and back again to the earth and her mother’s companionship.
The liner notes that accompany the CD retell the myth briefly and each track comes with lyrics and comments on whose voice is speaking in that specific track as well as a brief synopsis of the story told within that individual track. That said, many of the songs tell their own tale and can be enjoyed independently, though the complete double album is a masterful epic, a journey unto itself.
Twenty-four songs is a lot to take in, and not every song is a winner: some end abruptly (Flowers), which I found jarring. ; others are perfect for ritual (“Pomegranate”, “Thanatos”, “In Life Is Death, In Death Is Life, and “Ascent”). Overall it is very easy to lose oneself into the narrative as it takes the listener along with Persephone from the abundant fields of her mother down into the underworld where she reclaims her power and then returns to the world of the living.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Artist: Wendy Rule
Wendy Rule, 2019
CD $30, download $20