Songs We Learned In Cornish – Hanterhir (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

As the accompanying anthology to Our Hour, Songs We Learned In Cornish, makes up one half of a retrospective look back at Hanterhir’s writing to date. As the title suggests this is the half of the offering that connects them to their Cornish heritage via songs sung in the language of that region. As front man and songwriter Ben Harris is happy to point out, there is a lot to be said for bands sounding like the place that they are from and Hanterhir have always embraced their homeland’s rich culture. But chasing to sing in Cornish isn’t the act of defiance that some might be willing to read into it, especially in these times of cultural and national questioning, rather a way to celebrate the non-English part of their musical make up. There is a lot to be said for not forgetting where you come from.

I personally find music sung in a language I’m not familiar with to be fascinating and rewarding to explore. For, without the direct communication of the lyrics, you can instead appreciate the vocal almost as an instrument, talking to you emotively, connecting with the heart rather than the head and colouring the songs meaning’s in musical rather than literal terms.

And this a fantastic ride through their gloriously original back catalogue to date, and a wild ride at that, one that takes in everything from folk to freak out, raw, garage rock to trippy psychedelia, post-punk directness to proggy noodling, a blending of old traditions and new horizons and the constructive destruction of generic barriers. And that’s just Arloedthes A’n Lydn! Elsewhere tracks such as Om Gonfort Suite is a drifting cinematic score which evolves into the sort of raging Celtic drama that Horslips would have been proud of and Whatever Happened to Whitford? is an off-kilter pop piece that ends up in a maelstrom of searing guitars and soaring sax. Genres, who needs them? Not Hanterhir it would seem.

Musical collections are great places to start exploring a band and whilst I’m sure many will prefer the familiarity of the language and communication that Our Hour offers, for me, to really get what the band is about, what beats at the core of their music and their very identity, this is the place to start. Have you ever been lost in a foreign city and just allowed yourself to embrace whatever comes at you, the unfamiliarity and the strangeness, the disconnect and the unexpectedness and then you realise that you are in love with the place. Well, this is that.

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