The modern mixtape emerged as a hip-hop expediency to avoid sample clearance. Stick in the Wheel – former ravers turned innovative folk artists – have cheerily embraced the almost-album form, putting out the collaborative This and the Memory of This mixtape in 2018 soon after the much-lauded Follow Them True(2018), their last full band outing. This year, core Stick duo Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter offered up yet another collected compilation, the many-limbed English Folk Field Recordings Vol 2.
This latest series of “explorations” with medieval roots, Against the Loathsome Beyond, maxes out their innovative impulse. Here, then, are more chilly ancient tunes, re-imagined as drone-rock (Down In Yon Forest) or baroque early synth pastorales (Drive the Cold Winter Away), or as electronic sound art (a remix of Cambridge avant-guitarist C Joynes’s Sang Kancil). Most fist-pumping of all is the instrumental centrepiece Moskeener (British Yiddish for pawnbroker, apparently), a raga that could have gone on far longer. Kearey speaks two tracks, given extra witchy poke by more resonant thrumming. Given that no single version is ever definitive in folk, “anything goes” remains a valid modus operandi.
The ‘token’ jazz, folk and avant garde nominees for the UK’s most prestigious music prize are the ones who stand to gain the most from it – but they are being ignored
The question posed most often, and most crabbily, in the history of the Mercury prize is: what’s the point of the “token” acts on the shortlist? Jazz, folk and classical nominees are only ever there to make the judges of the UK’s most prestigious music award look clever; they certainly never win.Talk to the acts themselves, however, and a different story emerges. “I don’t care if we’re called a token jazz act if we sell 3,000 more records,” says Shabaka Hutchings, whose jazz group, Sons of Kemet, are among the favourites to win. “And it might be a coincidence, but I’ve noticed things happening since we were nominated this year.” Their gigs are selling out more consistently and the band are getting better stages at events. They’re getting support they don’t get from the Mobos, Hutchings argues, as he has before, and don’t start him on the Brits. “That side of the industry doesn’t care. But this is like a little stamp: you are given a level of validation that reverberates. And if it sells more albums or tickets, it helps subsidise our music and push our scene as far as it can go.”
UNCUT calls them “Britain’s most exciting new folk band.” I also like this review from Barney Songeist, Fresh on the Net:
“The trouble with most folk music is that it’s perpetrated by foppish men on stools with fringes and cut-glass accents whispering about flowers. This, on the other hand, is snarled out by Liam Gallagher’s cockney sister complete with lyrics about men beating each other up in pubs.”
That precisely describes the music that The Hobbledehoy aims to celebrate! Cheers to Stick in the Wheel!
Here’s a snapshot of English folk taken by two members of Stick in the Wheel, a recent and famously unvarnished London band. Their plan was to record assorted solo acts in situ – a kitchen, a garden, even a bank vault – and the outcome is a set of 17 intimate performances, many of them unaccompanied vocals, that attest to the simplicity, narrative drive and tenderness of folk craft. There are assured pieces from stalwarts Eliza Carthy and [ . . . ]