Record Review: The A. Lords

Our Song of the Day [that day being August 10, 2014 – Hobbledehoy] is a beautiful unreleased improv from what would have been the second album from The A. Lords. Like their first album released in July 2011 on Rif Mountain, which sold out soon after, each track ‘was a very slow and deliberate paean to the oft maligned (and rightly so) fields of Dorset.’ This is so tranquil & serene.

By Folk Radio UK

The A. Lords was a project started by Nicholas Palmer and Michael Tanner. Nicholas is better known for making short elaborate instrumental music as Directorsound and Michael has a history of making longer, gloomier pieces as Plinth. The A. Lords peversely straddle the two, looking down at us with an expression of woe. Although their eponymous debut was released in 2011 the recordings that featured go back several years prior.

If you’ve yet to experience The A. Lords then you should hunt it out, it’s available via bandcamp here.

Source: The A. Lords – Improv, Dorset 2011 (unreleased)

Lankum review – eerie, overwhelming radical Irish folk already feels centuries old

The Mercury-nominated four-piece play every song as if they’re fighting with it, gasping for air before verses

By Katie Hawthorne

A menacing rumble fills the Queen’s Hall. Four empty chairs line the front of the stage, crowded by instruments: fiddles, guitars, hand organs, pipes, pedals, a harmonium. Slowly, the rumble builds into a fidgety clatter, as if a ghostly orchestra is preparing to play, and Lankum walk on stage, their first notes bleeding into the din.

Such eerie theatre is a fitting introduction to the Dublin folk band, who turn traditional songs into fresh horrors and write stormy, gothic elegies to modern life which already feel centuries old. Their latest album, the Mercury prize-nominated False Lankum, is bound together by similarly haunted atmospherics, and yet it still feels a surprise when the band – Radie Peat, Cormac Mac Diarmada and brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch – pull their first song proper out of this mist.

They have a ferocious physicality to their musicianship, and although Daragh describes new (old) song The New York Trader as a “workout, every time”, just moments later he is hunched over his guitar with a violin bow, sawing as if cutting a thick rope. The Rocky Road to Dublin is sung with such intensity that the band collectively gasps for air before each verse, both meditative and ominous. The weather worsens further for The Pride of Petravore: pipes roar and Mac Diarmada’s fiddle turns into a horrifying groan.

Then, as if the evening has been breezy entertainment until now, Peat offers a blunt warning: “We wrote this one during level-five lockdown. Probably why it’s so intense.” Go Dig My Grave is the showstopper of False Lankum, a bone-crunchingly heavy ballad about love and death. Peat’s astonishing voice cuts through the dark, and the song builds around her: four-piece harmonies, guitar strummed like a funeral march, and a doom-laden siren with the circular swing of a lighthouse’s beam.

“We always sing, even when we’re losing,” goes their first single Cold Old Fire. This mix of grief and joy is why some songs live so long, and to close the night Lankum offers the latter: a rowdy version of Bear Creek has the audience whooping and stamping in cleansing release.

Source: Lankum review – eerie, overwhelming radical Irish folk already feels centuries old

Review: The Unthanks’ “Sorrows Away” 

After assorted diversions, the sibling duo and co release a straight-up album of traditional songs and self-written work

The Tyneside group have secured an enviable position among British folk acts: beloved of the faithful but recognisable to casual listeners. Much is in part down to the distinctive sibling harmonies of sisters Rachel and Becky and to the Northumbrian tradition they champion, be it tales of Royal Navy press gangs or tributes to the region’s industrial past; here, for example, Rachel has an original song called The Isabella Colliery Coke Ovens. The group have played their hand cannily in other ways, bringing ambitious arrangements to their work – an outing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra included – and exploring so-called “Diversions” – albums of songs of the shipyard, Robert Wyatt, Molly Drake; another with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band – plus soundtracks for revamped children’s TV favourite Worzel Gummidge.

The Unthanks don’t falter on what is their first “proper” album in seven years, though the nine minutes of the Sandgate Dandling Song, a Victorian ballad about domestic violence, inclines to the ponderous. They are better when airborne, as on The Old News or Royal Blackbird, a Jacobite song given a lively violin arrangement. The much sung Waters of Tyne is an obvious standout, as is the title track, which has become an anthem on the group’s ongoing tour.

Source: The Unthanks: Sorrows Away review – from ponderous to airborne

The Essex Serpent: Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston in gripping, gothic TV

For better or worse, this is serious, thinky telly where the serpents are metaphorical

By Ed Power

With Game of Thrones on the way back with a dragon-enriched prequel series, many of us will suddenly be in the mood once more for stirring tales of long-necked beasts losing their tempers in a variety of destructive ways. Being unfamiliar with Sarah Perry’s 2016 bestseller The Essex Serpent, I therefore went into Apple’s adaptation (Apple TV +, Friday) foolishly expecting at least one CGI monster before the end of the first episode.

But this, for better or worse, is serious, thinky telly where the serpents are metaphorical and the biggest special effect is the stubble dappling Tom Hiddleston’s A-lister chin.

He plays a worldly rector aghast when his flock starts to pay heed to rumours of a long-necked monster prowling his parish of Aldwinter in coastal Essex in 1893. Hiddleston is best known as charming anti-hero Loki in the Marvel films. Here, however, he is rigorously buttoned down as a man of reason opposite Claire Danes, who portrays Cora Seaborne, a well-to-do widow who has taken up amateur palaeontology following the death from throat cancer of her abusive husband.

With Netflix having gone all in on reality TV and Shonda Rhimes capers, Apple is one of the few remaining repositories of what used to be called “prestige television”. This, as we all know, means slow-moving fare featuring big names grappling with big ideas – and typically adapted from a middle-brow novel.

All those boxes are ticked with The Essex Serpent. Now, obviously, this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. As one of those who likes their serpents very much nonfigurative and given to biting people’s heads off, I find myself constantly yelling “get on with it” while hoping that Hiddleston would suddenly transform into Loki, the whole fandango revealed to be a secret Marvel spin-off.

Yet it is solidly assembled. Danes’s English accent is impeccable – even better than Joe Alwyn’s in Conversations with Friends – and Hiddleston gives good “hunky vicar” as he casts meaningful gazes as Cora (despite being married to Clémence Poésy’s Stella). In other words, it has everything apart from the actual serpent – and, as reminder why prestige television is important and we should continue to watch it, adds up to a gripping gothic slow-burner.

Source: The Essex Serpent: Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston in gripping, gothic TV

Nora Brown “The Very Day I’m Gone” – take those trains no more

Nora Brown

Want that authentic folk sound?  Then record your new album in mono, live to tape in a large 19th century vaulted stone cellar, below the streets of Brooklyn.  It’ll give you that raw and immediate quality of a folkloric field recording. If at the same time you can play banjo and sing, whilst arranging a well-known song into a haunting new shape then so much the better. That’s what Nora Brown has done.  Oh, and she’s only fifteen – and already has a lot of appearances under her belt – including NPR Tiny Desk, Washington Square Park Folk Festival, Brooklyn Folk Festival, as well as month-long residencies at Barbès in Brooklyn NY.  Got a feeling we’ll be hearing more from Nora Brown.

Her album ‘Sidetrack My Engine‘ is out on Friday 24th September.

Source: Nora Brown “The Very Day I’m Gone” – take those trains no more