Circuit  –  Rowan Coupland (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a1786366840_10Folk music, like any other genre has to move on, it’s only healthy after all. But the trick is not to move quickly and radically but to evolve rather than revolt. And for every Fleet Fox or Mumford and the Whale type chancer, bands who claim to be furthering the folk cause but who are really just indie scensters in ironic knit ware, there are acts like Wildwood Kin, Brona McVittie and this fellow. I suppose we are talking neo-folk, new folk, post-folk, alt-folk…whatever….but it is all really just folk isn’t it? Folk moving with the times, folk talking about its own surroundings, its own time and place. Today’s folk.

And that is one of the great things about the music found on Circuit. Sure, it is unashamedly folk, Coupland being a multi-instrumentalist, bending the traditional instruments you might expect to his will, guitar and harp being his chosen musical armaments. But rather than finding inspiration in dusty traditions and finger in the ear folk clubs, he explores the modern world, his world and talks of it as he sees it.

Musically there is also a nowness at work, the chiming guitars and shimmering harp joined by clarinet to add jazz allure to Silhouette or electric guitar bringing a strange rootsy rock edge to Frozen River. So for all the traditional sounds found on the album, there is also the sound of folk music embracing the modern age, the contemporary world and fresh expectations. Circuit is not only a great album, of chilled and skilled music, it is the sound of evolution at work. It works at a suitably slow and respectfully gentle pace but that is what is going on here.

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We Are The Wildlife – Brona McVittie (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0316862289_10There is always a debate about how you move music on without losing the established base, how you offer something new, but not too new that you lose the people who you brought the last record. Unless you are deliberately throwing caution to the wind, accepting that you are heading out into the unknown and aware that few may follow your new direction, it is all about finding just the right level of newness, the acceptable limits of progress, the right blend of comfort zone and creative thinking.

Brona McVittie has found the perfect balance with We Are The Wildlife as there is much that is familiar and much that is a wonderful new take on folk music. Subjecting traditional songs to new musical treatments and giving original songs familiar musical trappings, she juggles the past and the present, the urban and the rural, the idyllic and dark. Drawing heavily on Irish ballads, Yeatsian themes and Celtic traditions she intersperses these more familiar sonic and lyrical pathways with compositions which link such stories and archetypal tales with their modern equivalent found in the fringes of London’s urban sprawl. Similarly the sound is one of traditional instruments, often doing their age old thing but just as often used in new and interesting ways and some modern studio frippery creating wonderful and unexpected motifs and musical detail.

The result is a debut album which answers that much asked question “Where now for folk music?” without having to result to post-this and alt-that nonsense. This is folk music in the traditional sense but also folk music for the future, music which will appeal to the generation of cool kids who have been turned on to the genre by a whole host of indie crossover bands, but which will also keep the traditionalists happy. Well, most of them. Probably not beardy Brian who organises Wednesday’s folk club with his pipe, Arran sweater and Anne Briggs retrospective box set. But then he’s never happy. The rest of you, however, are in for a real treat.

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