Anglesey is tentatively fastened to Britain by two bridges; yet the Dark Isle is unwilling to surrender its secrets. The mainland’s attempt to extend two iron fingers to the edge of the island could be described as cautious, and such nervous contact with the territory translates to an unwillingness to control what cannot be understood. Long associated with Druids and megalithic monuments, standing stones anchor the island in the Irish Sea. It was in this place of savage beauty and spiritual alertness that Edmund Cottam, aka The Gildings, retreated into periods of self exile and convalescence. Suffering from a thyroid condition known as Graves’ Disease, Cottam endured tremors, fatigue and severe anxiety in a cottage opposite an ivy choked ruin. The onset of the illness had already followed an artistically barren period and somewhat of a crisis in confidence in all facets of his life. This was represented by a brooding hilltop beyond the ruin, at times a protective entity surveying the valley and at others an impossible obstacle willing the illness on.
The ever changing weather battered the isle with gales one day, and calmed the seas with exceptionally bright winter sunshine the next. In moments of extreme exhaustion, he experienced a spiritual connection with the poets Keats, who suffered with consumption, and Christina Rosetti, who like Cottam had Graves Disease. The poetry of Plath and Ted Hughes also filled the hauntingly, empty, hours. As winter passed Cottam wrote. Reflecting on themes of Romanticism, mortality, and the beauty and brutality of nature, he worked while the hill observed. Two months passed and Cottam’s routine was punctuated by songs, guitars, relapses, an upright piano and radioactive iodine treatment. As winter surrendered to the spring the spiritual and artistic awakening was realized and demos were recorded for what was to become The Gildings’ debut album. Before he left the mystical isle, he climbed the hill, his protector and tormentor, to make peace with the past and conquer his illness.
Upon a return to the city Cottam set about recording his album in equal parts on the top floor of an office block opposite Manchester library and in a room overlooking his parent’s garden; recreating the extremes of his convalescence. Teaming up with producer Martin Colclough (formerly of The Answering Machine and currently Label Manager at Heist or Hit Records) and mastered by Ed Woods (Manic Street Preachers, Idlewild, The Futureheads, Tom McRae) The Twisting Vine is a record that lurches between the delicate and the darkness. Mixing classical and folk traditions with contemporary influences and his unique baritone and poetic lyricism, Cottam has made an album of significance.
Simultaneous to the recording process, Cottam assembled a group to realize the record in a live capacity. During its first year in existence The Gildings played festivals such as Tramlines and Carefully Planned, headlined shows ranging from Manchester Scenewipe to The Bluecoat Art Gallery, supported acts such as Bird and Kontiki Suite and were hailed as ‘ones to watch’ by the Manchester Evening News.