Monday, 26 March 2012

Review: Folk & Acoustic Albums

A selection of folky records landed on my desk recently and as such they find themselves tethered together by this tenuous testimony for the purposes of the following combined review post...

Tawse – ec.dy.sis

What do you expect in a recording from a quartet whose live covers have ranged from The National to Daft Punk? ec.dy.sis is safely more the former than the latter given its folky delivery. Chirpy opener ‘Rehab’ takes on various sides to the genre. Initial joviality gives way to inequality-fuelled emotions of anguish and insecurity (“Profit is a dirty word / It’s the dirtiest word that I have heard / There are people in the ditch / And others getting rich”) and finally a rise into remedying crescendo.

Again on the topic of medication for life’s labours and toils, ‘Painkiller’ murmurs in the same bittersweet breaths as Radiohead’s classic ‘High And Dry’, while ‘Carrion’ is higher tempo all round with its Wild Beasts-esque falsetto, but it is the percussion that has the final say; closing on a crashing cymbal. Those rhythmic guides are significantly dampened for the pensive wordplay (“I’m afraid that I don’t love you / I don’t love you ‘cause I’m afraid”) on closer ‘Why Did You?’ and although they don’t go as far as to roll out the synths and take on Daft Punk’s guise wholeheartedly, Tawse do achieve a variety within four tracks that leads the listener both high and low.

Captives On The Carousel – Turn Off The Sun / In The Bleak Midwinter

With a sparse aural arsenal, Captives On The Carousel offer voices against a vacuum; cellist Ben Eckersley (also of Legend Of The 7 Black Tentacles) backs the earnest lyrics and occasional acoustic strums of Sarah Morrey.

Without an interfering beat, Morrey’s saccharine vocal stillness is allowed the space to linger; Eckersley’s restrained cello strings permeate an otherwise untouched subtlety with rhythm in stifled staccato. Although the more upbeat, ‘Turn Off The Sun’ stays as static as ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ in a wintry air where, like footprints in newly fallen snow, too much movement might have spoiled the imagery.

Rook And The Ravens – The Judge EP

Rook and the Ravens have been reading from a different songbook for their latest record. Like that Judas reincarnation Bob Dylan gone electric, they are an indie / folk quintet led astray by the allure of alt rock.

Although previously evoking vague similarities with The Band and other 20th Century folk rockers, this EP veers clear of folk music roots. The title track is explosive with shrieks almost Cedric ‘The Mars Volta’ Bixler-Zavala in pitch – although nearer James Dean ‘Manic Street Preachers’ Bradfield in substance – and tightly contained drum lines; a marching progression is curtailed, simmering down while keyboard patterns peacefully lay the dying embers of the blaze to rest. It is followed by ‘Miss This Boat’, which holds onto more of melodic folk rock feel – aided by diminished drumsticks – until its chirpy guitar flourish, whereas final jive, ‘Horses’, is theatrically presented in the tones of rock opera.

Ivan Campo – What Went Wrong?

The trio evoke not only a fuzzy-haired, fan-favourite footballer, but also sunny days and sing songs, even in the midst of coldest wintry chills.

By comparison with the above artists, these north-westerners are veterans. With What Went Wrong? they’re touching double figures, making a habit of recording long-EP / short-LP hybrids of their progress since 2003 while gigging all the while.

The palm tree in one of their logos tells a tale; with minimal percussive input, many songs are laid back and agreeably lacking in urgency. Opener ‘Dice Man’ is a fine example with a languid piano lament matched with undercurrents of clarinet preceding solemn harmonies of reminisce and its successor, ‘Wolf’, displays the other side of their coin in all its summery chirpiness.

While we’re on the topic of folk music, locally based folky website Thank Folk For That [dot com] launch their monthly Monday at Castle Hotel this evening (26th March), headlined by Ruarri Joseph. I’m told it’s now sold out, but next month’s sees Sam Airey take top billing so get in early for that.

Words: Ian Pennington

Tawse appear on the bill of the next Now Then event; an all day Easter Sunday folk festival at Dulcimer in Chorlton, which also includes David A Jaycock, The Existence of Harvey Lord, TE Yates, Dan Melrose, Greta Santagata and Shen. All in association with Imploding Inevitable. Tickets available here or from the bar at Dulcimer.

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