For someone who grew up around both traditional folk music and the dreamscaping post punk machinations of the 80’s, Parabola West is the logical and latest point on a musical journey through the sweet spots of my record collection. It links back to the likes of Kate Bush and Bat For Lashes and also rubs shoulders with a whole host of indie musicians fusing roots music with more pop accessible sounds and just as many dyed in the wool folkies working out ways of keeping their genre relevant, fresh and perhaps even lucrative.
Micronations sounds like the result of a computer achieving a sentient state and then as a result leaving the IT world to become a folk musician. Its a wonderful clash of worlds, of the organic folk sound and the hushed and clinical inner workings of what a computer might be singing to itself when it thinks no one is listening. For folk music this is, but it is folk music embracing and perhaps even predicting the future, and the result of the meeting of that ancient and the organic form with the cool, technological driven potential next chapter is both intriguing and beautiful.
Andrew Howie, armed only with his trusty compact synthesiser, converted songs originally written on guitar and piano into, ambient an reworking of their original or, for want of a better word, folktronica. There is a hushed gorgeousness to the songs from pulsating opener Memory Verse to the washed and brooding Look At Her Go and from the claustrophobic depths of Pick Axe to the shimmering dream-pop grooves of Fragile.
Micronations reminds us that the instruments are merely tools, means to an end and if the songs are good enough then they will stand on their own two feet whether built from acoustic guitars or synthesisers. It is safe to say that Andrew Howie has created an album that is both fragile, gentle and beguiling yet robust and striking in its beauty.
Some music has the ability to sound ancient, tribal, primitive yet simultaneously modern and of the here and now. River from Talitha Rise’s debut album, the evocatively named An Abandoned Orchid House, is just such a piece. It is a clever blend of ambient electronica, modern folk, world music harmonies that in part conjure memories of Karl Jenkins musical experiments, outsider alternative pop and classical grandure. The genre and generation hopping nature of the song is reflected in the video too which features a similarly eclectic collection of cool revellers and creative rebels.
Words such as ethereal, heavenly, otherworldly might be overused cliches but they also happen to be perfect for River which seems to flow and meander between worlds real and imagined, fantasy films, folk festivals, historical re-imaginings, the past and the present. Ethereal but not fey…a very important difference as this gem bristles with confidence too.
In short if this is the calling card for the full album then I just need to know one thing…who do I give my money too to get a copy!
Somewhere around the halfway point of the effervescent Climbs, the first calling card from this new album, I realised that I wished I still took drugs! There is something about their wonderful musical chemistry experiments, their mixing of hypnotic background drone with trippy folktronica, sweeping strings and brooding undercurrents that feels like a euphoric trip. It is music which seems to roll over you in waves, it builds slowly cocooning the listener in fuzzy warmth and claustrophobic loveliness. And whilst it does all of that it also feels like a defining moment for music, it feels as if barriers, which up until now have kept certain genres from socialising, have been crossed and trampled to dust. This feels not just an important musical step, this feels actually groundbreaking.
Yes, I know that similar electronic experiments have been going on for many years and many new musical forms have sprung forth because of it, but with Broads, and Field Theory in particular there is something new at work. An ability to create celestial music on the one hand and evocative electronic dance at the other, both worthy in their own right but it is when this musical duo weave the two halves of their collective musical brain together that the magic really happens.
One half of that brain is responsible for the neo-classical minimalism of tracks like Romero, all space and mournful piano, silence punctuated by sound, the other gives us shimmering and more structured song moods such as Tiamat or the more conventional dance floor vibe of Us And The Buzzing. But when those two hemispheres met the result is glorious. The Lecht wanders from brooding soundscaping to widescreen electro-rock drama, Built Calypso is a Floydian cinematic soundtrack and Lund is dark, dystopian and atmospheric.
This Norfolk duo, hence the name I guess, stride a number of genres on this, their forth album, from vibrant synth-pop to ambient drone and pass through any number of post-rock, shoegaze and post-punk sub-genres along the way, throw in some film score, geographic interpretation, the sound of isolation and incidental meanderings and you have a startling and exciting leap forward. Okay, I don’t miss taking drugs, and after all why would anyone need to when you can now inject Broads straight into the brain…in a manner of speaking.