Dartmoor – The Blood Choir (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Described as a missing link between the first two albums and a planned forthcoming release, these four tracks have been talked about in hushed tones by those in know for a long time now. Having been recorded over a decade ago prior to debut album No Windows to the Old World, there is much here that resonates with the expectations of The Blood Choir‘s fans but also much that is wonderfully new and slightly unexpected.

The title track, for example, which kicks things off is a deft and delicate folk track, bathed in gorgeous vocals and driven by intricate picked acoustic guitars. Compared with the more excessive end of there sonic spectrum Dartmoor, the track, has the same effect that I presume Zeppelin fans were faced with upon first hearing the third album. To some it may be seen as further expansion on their already broad sound, others may feel that it is too much a departure from their cinematic soundscaping. But the reality is that this song is a historical jumping off point for the band’s sound and for me it is a beautiful and genuinely moving song, just as effective and emotive as their bigger creations.

Script Girl is the middle ground between those folk machinations and their now more familiar modus operandi, taking a gentle number and slowly wrapping it in classical textures letting the full weight of the band fall in behind  elevating it to celestial heights before floating gracefully back to earth. Perhaps most interesting of all, at least conceptually, is how the band takes Black Eyed Dog, Nick Drake’s musings on depression, out of his gloomy, half-heard wallowing (and I say that as a fan of the troubled troubadour) and turn it into a veritable anthem that wanders between foot on the monitor rock muscle, sky-scrapping histrionics and chiming minimalism. The e.p. rounds off as it began with the intricate acoustica of Lay With Me Awhile which wouldn’t sound out of place on one of those post-Gabriel, pre-hits, Collins fronted Genesis albums. Again as unexpected as it is welcomed.

As a slice of band history, Dartmoor is a wonderful document. As a new collection of songs it is a fantastic piece of music. It does everything that you expect from the band but more so. It delves into unexpected folky corners at one extreme and rocks out with the best of them at the other. And in-between is the usual genre defying blends, the generic twists and turns and those wonderful mixes of sheer beauty and musical bravado that The Blood Choir have since built no small reputation on.

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