Trembling Bells’ song ‘Christ’s Entry Into Govan” has been called a “Leige & Leif slice of freak folk, that has this startlingly brilliant arrangement, full of intricate guitars and lovely harmonies, (and) so packed full of ideas and melody that its staggering.” (Backseat Mafia review). The Hobbledehoy could not agree more.
Since this 2018 release, the band has sadly broken up, with chief songwriter Alex Neilson and lead singer Lavinia Blackwall now producing well-recieved solo records.
Trembling Bells have never been concerned with keeping with the times. Instead of angsty modern themes, they deal with gigantic archetypal forms like love and death, their clattering folk rock writ large in primary colours of bold, crashing chord progressions and songs studded with references to mainstream poets like Dylan Thomas.
They’re anachronistic, but not in a shallow way. Far from the psychedelic folk revivalists they’re often portrayed as, they’re much more redolent of a classicist impulse informed by lead songwriter Alex Neilson’s love for Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, which has in the past made for some potently emotive, sky-punchingly romantic music. Their last album, 2015’s The Sovereign Self made gestures toward more conventionally progadelic moves and scaled back on the impassioned folk tonalities, and that approach still holds some sway over Dungeness. However, while they perhaps aren’t producing skyscraping bangers in the vein of ‘Goathland’ and ‘Willows of Carbeth’ at the rate they once were, this album claws back much of the wonkiness that initially made them so unique. Continue reading →
Seems like we’re only a few days into 2018 and we’ve already had some brilliant new tracks. Here’s another one, maybe the best. Trembling Bells return with ‘Christ’s Entry Into Govan, a Leige & Leif slice of freak folk, that has this startlingly brilliant arrangement, full of intricate guitars and lovely harmonies, but it’s so packed full of ideas and melody that its staggering. And if that wasn’t enough, it winds up into a wild, folk wig out to close.
The influences that seeped into oth the track and the forthcoming album Dungeness are perhaps not what you’d expect. “I’ve never studied music for fear it would kill my interest, or at least railroad my sense of what was creatively possible” says the bands Alex Neilson, which perhaps explains the beautifully elusive metaphors he uses when describing his own music. “Instead, my musical activity has always been nourished by an interest in other things” “Christ’s Entry Into Govan” was inspired by Flemish Expressionist James Ensor’s painting Christ’s Entry Into Brussels.
Wild and rebellious British folk band enter adolescence with a howl of song and a glint in the eye.
How strange it is that folk music is so often hampered by politeness, when its subjects are life, death, murder and sex. Subtlety has its values, of course, but it’s still rare to hear a folk artist strain at the leash, bare their teeth. Enter Trembling Bells, one decade and six albums old, about to enter adolescence with a glint in the eye.
Still pivoting around the wild writing and playing of singing drummer, Alex Neilson (recently the percussionist on Shirley Collins’s Lodestar) and the extraordinary soprano of Lavinia Blackwall, Trembling Bells have always sounded quite beholden to their late 1960s influences, recreating Fairport Convention’s longing loveliness or the Incredible String Band’s whimsy without whipping up something of their own. But Dungeness plunges us into louder, darker territories. Named after the shingly Kent headland to which the band made a trip, Neilson said the place felt like the end of the world, and this album’s themes follow suit. The music is a mixture of avant-garde racket and crossover doom-pop potential – fans of PJ Harvey, Nick Cave or Nadine Shah will find entertainments here.
Big Nothing begins softly but bleakly, with a man who can’t be knocked down (since he’s “already on the ground”), and ends with a spiralling, smile-raising, out-of-tune squeal. Death Knocked at My Door is belly-deep soul fed through a folk-horror filter. Knocking on the Coffin is utterly fantastic, a wah-wah-pedal headbanger tailor-made for an Italian horror film, while I’m Coming sees Blackwall’s singing climax wildly. A technically gifted singer who can obviously hit every note perfectly, she lets the seams tear and split here, and the results are addictive [ . . . ]