Posts Tagged ‘Folk’

14th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve likely mentioned it before, but on the one hand, Leeds has quite a distinctive sound, albeit one that’s evolved over the last decade, bit on the other, its scene is characterised by its diversity and eclecticism. It’s too be expected, of course: it’s a big city with two massive universities and a lot of small venues where artists can try out and develop their style and draw influence and inspiration from others. Time was when everyone was either doing instrumental post-rock or making a massive fucking racket.

Leeds based musician and recording engineer Rob Slater AKA Carpet belongs to the eternal production line of acoustic-based artists that’s not so much a Leeds thing but a music thing – but he himself is an integral part f the Leeds scene, having played in a number of standout bands, including Thank, Mi Mye, Post War Glamour Girls, and The Spills, as well as ‘working as a recording-engineer/producer from his own Greenmount Studios in Armley where, this year alone, his credits include Yard Act’s debut ‘The Overload’, as well as debut albums from Leeds peers Thank and Crake (with whom Slater plays drums, and who I reviewed just the other day for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’.

The press release promises ‘four tracks of thoughtful and introspective beauty, offering a compelling and unhurried insight into Slater’s musical world’. And it does that.

There’s nothing remarkable about the songs or their execution: Slater’s songwriting and execution is simply exactly as it should be: tight, emotive, melodic. It’s not exciting or dramatic by any means: it’s overtly introspective and thoroughly accessible, with easy-going songs. It’s clear that Slater simply has no interest in going massive. This may not be his choice, so much as a limitation of the medium. That’s certainly not a criticism: Carpet has a wide, if low-level appeal, and while it is, in many ways, a functional indie folk work, it’s also musically entertaining and easy on the ear, and does the job.

What is the job? Of being music. Yes, sometimes, that’s enough.

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Edinburgh born Kendall based artist Celestial North has shared ‘Yarrow’, a haunting atmospheric ‘botanical’ soundtrack.  For fans of Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds or Sigur Ros, this reflective and meditative piece gently sways with a wash of pianos and sighing melodies. It’s a tantalizing other side of Celestial North’s artistry and a teaser for her album released later this year. 

Watch the video for ‘Yarrow’ here:

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She says of the song:  “I often think in ‘music’. My thoughts are usually awash with colours and sounds. I was sitting trying to meditate, or contemplate, beside the yarrow patch in my garden. I was finding it difficult to articulate how I was feeling and started to feel a bit frustrated. I decided to sit quietly and start again. I realised that I didn’t really have any words to write down as such but I did have a tune playing in my head. I decided to record this tune on my piano and added some other elements that I felt benefitted the song — a bodhran drum, a choir, the rustling of the yarrow patch and the roses recorded from my garden and some simple electronic sounds.  This botanical soundscape is representative of how I felt whilst I was sitting with the yarrow and the tune played on the piano is the tune that was playing in my head whilst sitting with the plant."

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Curation Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Elkyn is very much about the slow burn, the gradual diffusion, both musically and in terms of career trajectory. Joey Donnelly unveiled elkyn in 2020, having made the subtle shift from performing as elk and releasing the magnificently understated beech EP in 2019. Since then, he’s continued to release a steady stream off beautifully-crafted singles as teasers for the album, the most recent of which, ‘if you’re still leaving’ emerged in March of this year. Interestingly, the melody bears certain parallels with U2’s ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, but nothing could be further from the bombast of the stadium-fillers’ epic: this is introspective bedroom indie, quiet and contemplative; there’s no ego, no pomp, no big production. ‘So this is it,’ he sings with a weak resignation.

So while progress certainly hasn’t been slow, it’s not exactly been swift, either, and listening to holy spirit social club seemingly explains why. To begin with, there’s the level of detail in the arrangements: on the surface, they’re fairly sparse, simple, acoustic works, but listen closely and there is so much more to hear, from delicate bass and washes of synth, rolling drums and incidental interludes with rippling piano and more. Reverb and layering are applied subtly and judiciously, too, and these things don’t happen by accident, but through a close and careful ear on every bar. The absence of capitalisation may niggle a pedant like me, but it’s clearly another conscious decision and rather than coming across like an irritating affectation, feels more like another aspect of elkyn’s self-opinion, the small ‘i’ indicative of a kind of abasement, while in no way seeking sympathy or validation. It’s a cliché to the point of a running joke when musicians say they write songs for themselves and aren’t bothered if anyone likes them, but with elkyn, it seems genuinely plausible: these songs are so intimate, it’s as if he’s playing them under the assumption no-one else will ever hear them.

If ‘found the back of the tv remote’ (another single cut) sounds like dreamy, winsome indie, it’s equally reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s more stripped back moments, and Donnelly shares that sense of almost being embarrassed to be audible as he sings comes through in J Mascis’ delivery. But then, this leads us to the second reason why elkyn isn’t banging stuff out every few weeks – these songs are intensely intimate, and filled with vulnerability and self-criticism, and one suspects that tendency to self-critique extends to his recordings in the same was as social situations, relationships, and life in general.

But while the tone is plaintive, mournful, regretful, sad, that isn’t the vibe of the songs in themselves, because elkyn manages to infuse every song with a certain optimism, the melancholy flavoured with hope. There’s a breeziness, a brightness, I might even say a ‘summeriness’ about many of the songs on holy spirit social club that renders them uplifting. But even at its saddest, most disconsolate and dejected, holy spirit social club brings joy simply by virtue of being so achingly wonderful in every way.

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5th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The pandemic may be over – or not, depending on your viewpoint or your government – but there’s no question that the pandemic affected us all in some way, shape, or form, and that as much as people are getting on with their so-called ‘normal’ lives, we’re not all fully over it. Some of us may never be.

‘The Day the Drum Stopped’ was penned during the height – or depths, depending on your perspective – of the UK pandemic lockdown, and captures the instantaneous psychological spasm of the moment everything halts abruptly. ‘The Day the Drum Stopped’ is perhaps another way of phrasing ‘the great pause’, and it was a strange time to say the least.

For many – not least of all musicians, those in hospitality and retail – everything stopped. For others, who continued to work from home, while also trying to manage home-schooling, the pause was less pronounced, marked more by the absence of people and traffic in the street when venturing out for the prescribed daily exercise or trip to the local supermarket in the hope of scoring both loo roll and pasta. But no question, it was strange, a plunge into the unknown, the unpredictable, and this was a cause of major anxiety for so, so many.

Kristina Stazaker has articulated this succinctly and in a most accessible fashion on her new single, propelled by some sturdy percussion and ‘builds up to a powerful ending where the drums restart and the electricity of life flicks into action again’. It starts with a solid march, before loping away like a galloping horse, and there’s optimism there, as Stazaker remains positive that ‘the drums will come back again’, and it’s a rush and then… it stops, and you’re left, vaguely nonplussed, wishing there was more. Which seems like life, really. Cracking single, though.

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 Artwork - Kristina Stazaker

Wardruna are releasing an official music video for the streamed live performance of ‘Fehu’. Einar Selvik says, “Fehu is a song inspired by ancient runic poetry. The word itself refers to cattle/livestock and wealth and the song discusses the duality of wealthiness. "Fehu" was originally released on the album Runaljod – Yggdrasil in 2013. It has been a permanent song in our live-set ever since the release and thus, it feels great to finally release a live version of the song.”

The release date of Kvitravn: First Flight of the White Raven has been moved to 10th June. A statement from Einar is as follows; "Due to a very unfortunate production issue, we are forced to move the release date of First Flight Of The White Raven in all of its formats to June 10th. On a more positive note and due to popular demand, we will make the DVD available as a standalone item and offer the concert as VOD (Video-On-Demand) through our World and US online-shops." He continues, "the DVD presale starts April 22nd along with a new digital single and video from the upcoming release. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause and we are grateful for your understanding."

Watch ‘Fehu’ here:

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Photo Credit: M12 Kultur

Prophecy Productions – 15th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

As Darkher, Jayn Maiven lives up to her moniker. Since beginning her career in 2012, progress has been slow but steady, with an eponymous debut EP in 2013 being followed by a second EP, The Kingdom Field in 2014 paving the way for her full-length debit, Realms in 2016. The Buried Storm, then, has been five years in the wait, but it was most definitely worth it.

‘Sirens Nocturne’ sets the bar with a low, slow, brooding drone of strings providing the backdrop to Jayn’s haunting vocal. That backdrop gradually swells with layers of tremulous violins, and her voice heads skyward, a glorious choral sound that’s spiritual beyond verbalisation.

What’s striking is just how deeply steeped in folk this is, the sparse, haunting melodies evoking rugged moorlands and windswept mountainsides. This isn’t a matter of cliché: this is music that touches the naked soul. A tribal drum thumps way off in the distance on the funereal ‘Lowly Weep’; it’s majestic and it’s moving, and over the course of its eight-minute duration, the swelling sound conveys so much more than mere words. Utilising post-rock tropes, it tapers down to quiet chiming guitar around the mid-point before bursting into a monumental thunder of slow, overdriven power chords, a slow-burning crescendo that’s both heavy and mesmerising in its graceful execution.

For its brevity and simplicity, built around a picked acoustic guitar and mournful strings, ‘Unbound’ is intense, but it’s on ‘Where the Devil Waits’ that we really feel a closer connection to Jayn; the vocals are more prominent, and we feel as it we’re riding the waves of a tempest – both literal and emotional – with her.

The true power of The Buried Storm lies in just how much Maiven does with so little. That said, ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ packs a dark density, and brings with it a slow, doomy trudge that invites comparisons to Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, and not simply because these are female artists exploring heavy terrain – although I suppose that is a factor, in that we have a crop of artists who balance weight and ethereality, all wrapped in a mist of gothic enigma.

It’s on ‘Immortals’ that everything comes together in a slow-building crescendo – the distant rolling thunder of drums and growing tension that finally breaks into a bold sweep of sound at around the mid-point of its eight-minute expanse.

The piano-led closer, ‘Fear Not, My King’ plods down into the darkest depths. It’s dolorous and dank, and sucks you down toward the depths of reflection, and places you may not want to go.

The Buried Storm is truly beautiful, elegant, with grace and poise and power – and for all its softness, its gentleness, it’s a difficult and at times harrowing album, and a magnificent artistic achievement.

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11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Elanor Moss seems to be drawn to water, but not necessarily in the most soothing of ways. You’re more likely to find her gradually sinking than floating on the crest of a wave of soaking in the soothing ebb and flow of a coastal tide. Her debut release, the five-track Citrus EP finds the York-based artist reimagining Millais’ ‘Ophelia’ for the twenty-first century on the cover art, while the video for ‘Soundings’ finds her awash and adrift in a bathtub, water threatening to plunge into her mouth as she sings of her ‘Drowning / the sound of my heart / As I’m sounding / the depths of this whisky jar’.

If the metaphor is obvious, it’s also highly effective. The sensation is relatable. When things become too much, and you start to feel overwhelmed… drowning is the closest simile in the common vocabulary. While few of us have actually experienced drowning, there’s an innate sense within all of us of what it would be like – struggling for air, to stay afloat. Most of us have felt that way at some point, and the beauty of Moss’ art is articulating it so succinctly.

According to the bio, ‘The Citrus EP is a collection that addresses the tension that arises within yourself when you need to muster the courage to will yourself well again. The protagonist in this collection of tracks is someone teetering on the edge of pulling themselves out of a hard time, resisting ‘getting better’ with force. You go with her through a series of unfortunate events; each one she knows full well what is happening but does anyway. But this is not a hopeless record, not at all. Their reflections from the other side and recorded from a place of empathy, strength and kindness towards a bruised past self.’

I’m not about to press the alignment of art and artist, and knowing nothing of Moss beyond her art, I’m in no position to comment on whether or not her life informs her art, but it very much feels like she’s speaking and articulating and assimilating her experiences through her songs, where certain themes recur, subtly, but undeniably. ‘I want to drink ‘till I’m too drunk to think’, she sings on ‘Sober’, while on ‘Soundings’, she croons that ‘this whisky is burning’. ‘His breath was like a heart attack / the whisky stung me like a slap’ she recounts on ‘Citrus’. But not to dwell on this unduly, the songs are ultimately positive, empowering, and the realisation of the songs is magnificent, balancing sparseness and directness with multiple layers of vocal harmony and reverb. It’s a slick production, but one that doesn’t impinge on the intimacy of the songs and their delivery, essentially centred around acoustic guitar and voice. Only a fraction below the layers and reverb is a collection of acoustic folk-flavoured songs that are raw, sincere, and relatable. Citrus is bittersweet, and-pretty special.

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Wardruna release an official music video for their song ‘Skugge’ (meaning Shadow). The song is an eerie sonic journey, voicing a dialogue between man and shadow or as Einar Selvik puts it; “it is a song about shadows, echoes and the balance between seeking answers and wisdom internally and externally”. The video was filmed and produced in Norway by Ragnarok Film in January 2022.

To shorten the wait for their upcoming release Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven (out on April 22nd 2022), the live version of the song is also released on all digital platforms via Music For Nations/Sony Music/Columbia Germany/ByNorse. Watch the video here:

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In 2022, a year after the release of Kvitravn and as a prelude to the forthcoming and much anticipated live dates, Wardruna are presenting Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven.

An immersive audio arrangement that underscores the experiential paradigm shift and masterful musicianship of their superlative and boundary-pushing virtual live experience First Flight of the White Raven of March 26th 2021. This new release captures their special set list consisting of songs from Kvitravn and a selection of favourites from the discography, and will be released on a 2LP, as well as 2CD that also features the original studio album track listing. To mark the event’s exceptional impact, it will also be available as a limited Boxset Edition including 2LP (black), 2CD, DVD with livestream performance and bonus documentary material and three videos (only available in the boxed set), flag of the CD album cover, certificate of authenticity for the box and an exclusive autographed card signed by Einar Selvik.

As a taster, they’ve shared the performance of ‘Solringen’ from the release.

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Wardruna’s UK tour commences in March. About the tour Einar comments “It has been more than two years since we last gave a performance in front of an audience. Needless to say, this long and unwanted hibernation has made us very excited to finally be able to realistically plan our return to the stage.”

Full list of dates in the UK and Ireland below:

Thursday 17th March: Southbank Centre, London

Friday 18th March: Albert Hall, Manchester

Sunday 20th March: Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Monday 21st March: Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Tuesday 22nd March: The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Wednesday 23rd March: Vicar Street, Merchants Quay, Ireland

​Plus more live dates can be found here: http://www.wardruna.com/tour-dates/

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Prog icons The Flower Kings recently announced the release of their 15th studio album By Royal Decree, set for 4th March 2022.  Now, the band are pleased to share the second single from the album ‘A Million Stars’. Watch the video here:

Roine comments: “Never to shy away from simple melody, this is The Flower Kings at their more accessible end, but still with a trademark TFK sound and symphonic textures.”

Flower Kings

Photo Credit: Lilian Forsberg

The band are back at their most creative, flowery and playful – mirroring the 70’s melting pot of folk, symphonic, electronic, jazz, blues, funk & prog. On the new album they have looked for more organic and vintage sounds, still centered around the foundation of drums, bass, guitars and the iconic Hammond, grand piano, mellotron & Moog synthesizers.

The album also sees the return of founding member Michael Stolt, who takes up bass guitar and vocals, alongside the line-up of Mirko DeMaio on drums, Zach Kamins on keyboards, Hasse Fröberg on vocal & guitar and Roine Stolt on vocal & guitars and Jonas Reingold on bass. The band convened in the middle of 2021 at Fenix Studios in Sweden to record through the fully analogue Rupert Neve mixing desk. The album also features beautiful cover art, once again created by Denver-based artist Kevin Sloan.

This year’s tour will also see the band revisiting their early years, performing tracks from ‘Retropolis’, ‘Stardust We Are’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Space Revolver’ and ‘Back In The World Of Adventures’. This will coincide with the release of newly remastered editions of The Flower Kings albums on CD & Vinyl later in 2022. The first confirmed live dates are as follows:

30th March 2022 – Katalin, Uppsala, Sweden

31st March 2022 – Musikens Hus, Gothenburg, Sweden

1st April 2022 – Södra Teatern, Stockholm, Sweden

1-7th May 2022 – Cruise To The Edge, USA

11th May 2022  – TBA, Quebec City, Canada

12th May 2022  – TBA, Montreal, Canada

14th July 2022  – Rootsfestival, Notodden, Norway

4th Sept 2022  -  HRH Festival , UK