Album Review: Persephone by Wendy Rule
Wendy Rule refers to her 8th major album, Persephone, as her “most important album to date”. Fans, both longtime and new, are taken on a journey from life, death, and life again as they follow Rule’s retelling of the popular and timeless myth of the earth goddess Demeter and her maiden daughter, Kore who becomes Persephone.
This double album features 24 tracks primarily presenting the voices of Persephone, Demeter, and Hekate, though others make a guest-appearance, too. Persephone’s Oceanides (hand-maidens and friends), Hades, and a chorus round out the vocals and narrative of this ambitious musical project. The voices of the chorus mirror the same tone, style, and function of those of ancient Greek plays and lend an authentic sound to the overall album production.
Rule’s passion for this story is obvious down to the finest details. She often speaks of her travels to Greece, the homeland of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, and the inspiration she drew from ancient sites like Eleusis. This sacred landmark is where the Eleusinian Mysteries are said to have been founded, and 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. It’s this story of transformation and mysticism that Rule presents in “Persephone”, a twelve-year labor of love.
Rule’s liner notes included in the CD booklet or via PDF on her website dive deeper into the myth and accompany the listener on Persephone’s journey. In this document, Rule has provided a brief retelling of the myth, as well as a complete track listing and acknowledgements of those with whom she collaborated to present the album in its entirety. This document includes not only contributing musicians, but information on artists who created images of pomegranates and goddesses for the album art, which is gorgeous on its own accord. The liner notes for each track come with lyrics and comments on whose voice is speaking in that specific track (Demeter, Hekate, Persephone, or perhaps others) 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.
There is no right or wrong way to enjoy this album. Some songs hold up well as singles (“Oh Golden Grain”, “Before and After Life”, and “Eleusis”) whereas others have huge potential to be used in rituals (“Pomegranate”, “Thanatos”, “In Life Is Death, In Death Is Life, and “Ascent.”). Persephone can also play as a complete concept album, described as a “song cycle” on Rule’s website. It’s easy to get lost in the narrative, letting the story carry you from Demeter’s abundant golden fields, to the depths of the underworld where one claims their own power, and back up again to the world of the living where one integrates the lessons of both realms.
Rule, of course, is a master vocalist and musician. She’s been creating and performing for decades, and her art is clearly a spiritual practice, a gift that she shares with others. Her guitar playing in “Eleusis” is inspired and blends sweetly with the quivering cello of Rachel Samuel. It’s rare that albums are so versatile, which sets Wendy Rule’s talent apart into a league of its own.
“Persephone” is a work of art, from start to finish, from beginning to end. But of course, through listening to the album itself we learn that nothing really ends, and nothing really begins. With that energy in abundance, this is an album for all seasons, to be enjoyed in various settings – in your car, in your home, within a sacred circle, around a burning fire with other magical folks, as devotional offerings, or as guilty pleasures while cooking dinner. With “Persephone”, Wendy Rule offers a well-rounded and memorable masterpiece.
Persephone by Wendy Rule
“Dark, sensual, sonic theatre…compelling stuff.” – Rolling Stone Australia
“Blessed by a voice that purrs and soars” -The Age Good Weekend, Melbourne
“If twilight has a voice, that voice is Wendy Rule” – New Witch Magazine, USA
“Ever the high priestess, Rule plays a role she is both beloved in, and born into.” The Music, Australia.
“Persephone is a force of nature.” sbs.com.au – Australia
Persephone, the new double- album from Australian visionary songstress Wendy Rule is the culmination of over twelve years work, and although drawing on Wendy’s musical journey over the past 2 decades, is unlike anything that she has done before. Launched in February at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne, Persephone is an evocative retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of the Goddess Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. With subtle textures that reference her early life as a jazz singer in her home town of Melbourne, and the trademark dark, gothic soundscapes and soaring vocals of her previous 7 major albums, Persephone is an ambitious and unique 24 track journey through the realms of Life, Death, and human emotion. Live video from the Melbourne album launch: https://youtu.be/Vnv0oJmY1I0
But then again, Wendy has always carved a unique and individual path. Since the release of her first album Zero in 1996, she has defied categorisation, always walking to the beat of her own drum. Combining elements of gothic, folk, world, ambient and cabaret music, and crossing over into Pagan and New Age catagories with her many mythological, esoteric, and ritual references, Wendy is as individual as she is prolific.
A dedicated live performer, Wendy has toured extensively since her first album’s release – starting in Australia, then branching out with her first international tour in 2001. Renowned for her extraordinary voice and live shows that blur the line between music, ritual and theatre, Wendy has gained a loyal following in Australia, the USA, Europe and the UK. From the most intimate solo house concerts, to festival gigs with her band (featuring long term musical collaborator Rachel Samuel on cello), Wendy takes her audience on an otherworldly journey of depth and passion.
With the help of her loyal fanbase Wendy continues to maintain her musical independence, unbound by the confines of the mainstream. Two successful crowdfunding campaigns have helped bring both Persephone, and her previous album Black Snake (2014) to life. In the past few years she has continued to grow her audience, not only with her dedicated touring schedule, but also with her cameo performance as ‘La Llorona’ in the 2016 feature film Boys in the Trees by director Nicholas Verso (now screening on Netflix), and with her popular monthly Full Moon Magic online concerts.
In 2014 Wendy relocated from Australia to the USA, and is now living in the beautiful High Desert city of Santa Fe, New Mexico – allowing her an even stronger connection to her ever growing US fan base, and providing daily access to the wild Nature that inspires her unique and transformational work.
2019 Persephone – Double album on CD and Vinyl
2017 Vox Solfeggio (with Timothy Van Diest)
2014 Black Snake
2010 Guided By Venus
2008 Beneath the Below is a River (with Craig Patterson)
2007 Meditations on the 4 Elements
2006 The Wolf Sky
2003 The Lotus Eaters
2000 World Between Worlds
LIVE RECORDINGS AND SIDE PROJECTS
2012 Live at the Castle on the Hill (Full length acoustic live album)
2004 A Night of Jazz (Live recording with Roger Perrin and friends)
2004 Deep Within a Faerie Forest (Collaboration with Gary Stadler)
2016 Performance and end-credit song in ‘Boys in the Trees’ feature film
2000 An Underworld Journey (Video release of a musical / theatrical show)
1997 Live album
1996 Continental Isolation (three track CD single)
1999 Artemis (four track CD single)