Branches of Sun – Aukai

The Independent called this album ‘stunning’, and who I am to disagree with that august journal?

You can hear the influences – Mike Oldfield on the title track, Ryuichi Sakamoto on ‘Closed Eyes’, Steve Reich on ‘Iztac’ – but each track does more than simply ape another artist.  ‘Iztac’ moves from ‘Different Trains’ era Reich to finger picked guitar and muffled drone.  ‘Barely Above’ cuts its minimalist single piano notes with electronic sounds and (I think) violin, then what could be the sound of soft footsteps on snow.

Apparently the artist walked across a frozen lake every day from his cabin in in the Colorado mountains to the recording studio, and that seems quite apt.  It’s an album which is autumnal as it starts and becomes more wintry as it progresses – the perfect soundtrack for these ever colder days.

If you only listen to one track, listen to this:

CD, Vinyl and download available at https://aukai.bandcamp.com/album/branches-of-sun

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The Defenestration of Prince and Others

It’s presumably the bits and pieces, the warm ups and run throughs, leftover from Martin Rossiter’s debut album The Defenestration of St.Martin (which everyone should definitely listen to), or maybe it’s deliberate EP which Rossiter put together for fans of the LP.  Who knows, but either way it’s a fantatsic companion piece,with four piano led over versions very much in the style of St.Martin. My favourite track is the opening ’27 Strangers’ by a band called Villagers, who I’d never heard of (and whose other songs turned out, sadly, not to be quite so good), but all four tracks are great, and the cover of Prince’s ‘if I was your Girlfriend’ gets bonus points for unexpectedness). If you only listen to one track, listen to this:
Digital only, sadly. https://martinrossiter.bandcamp.com/album/the-defenestration-of-prince-and-others Oh, and here’s the Villagers original, just because it’s ace.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCUAGg2DCTo
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Huntly Town – United Bible Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accoridng to the only description I could find online ‘United Bible Studies is an experimental and improvisational folk band from Ireland, with members in the UK.’  I think (could be wrong) that it’s basically David Colohan of Raising Holy Sparks and a variety of talented occasional contributors, recording a pretty eclectic mix of trad and non trad folk, rural psych and drone.  Whatever it is specifically, it can be very good indeed.

Given that, this mini album is definitely from the more trad end of the UBS spectrum.  It’s a mix of traditional folk ballads and original tracks, and begins with An Cailín Gealach (‘The Irish Girl’), which is in Gaelic and which, consequently, I  understand barely a word of ((it does dip briefly into English, incidentally, as the singer presumably quotes an English speaker), but it doesn’t matter; there’s something in the quality of the singing which makes the meaning of the lyrics less important than the sound of them.

The next track ‘With Ravens On Our Wrists’ is the first instrumental, a pleasant if fairly standard slice of rural folk enlivened by the switch to a jig in the last forty seconds or so.  If I was being a bit arty, I’d say these instrumentals work a bit like sorbet at a posh dinner – cleansing the palate for the next song.

And the next song in this case is perhaps the most traditional song on the album – ‘The Roving Ploughboy-O’.  Don’t be put off by the ‘-O’ though, even if it suggests that Rambling Sid Rumpo is about to launch into song.  With something of the air of the 90s Alisdair Roberts, it’s a straight-forward, and excellent, version of the traditional ballad, played ans sung without much ornamentation.

The best of the original tracks, entitled ‘Ghostwritten’, follows. I don’t know if this was recorded live, or if the muddy vocals are deliberate but either way it works well for me.  It’s a short song (only 01:42) with minimal backing and a pair of voices, and leads into my personal favourite song on ‘Huntly Town’, a version of one of my favourite folk songs, ‘Bogie’s Bonnie Belle’.  The singing is fresh and sweetly done, the instrumentation lush and layered, and the combination – listen out for the little crescendo as the narrator and Belle let their feet slide away down by the banks of Cairnie – is one I could listen to over and over again.  The finest version of the song I’ve heard.

The album closes with ‘Pillars of Cloud’, another almost intrumental guitar piece, with just a quiet chat by an unknown elderly artist, content with his position in the world and wary of the effects of power, dropped into the background.

If you only listen to one track, listen to this:

Avaiable as a digitial download:

https://united-bible-studies.bandcamp.com/album/huntly-town

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Lost Again on Waking – glacis

‘the forgotten time’, a delicate piano line under a layer of oscillating synth sounds segues into the insistent driving of ‘maybe you will find me’, which in turn morphs into ‘we walk long distances through silent sleep’, a seven minute combination of mellow, rolling piano and hazy interference, before  ‘you can still be beautiful’ surprises with the inclusion of a soft vocal – and I find myself intrigued by the images which prompted this release, four photographs by  Heidi Kuisma (who, the internet informs me, is a Finnish born photographer now resident in Glasgow).

They’re not included in the digital download, which is a shame, but raking about in Google Images throws up the photo of a branch at the top of this post and this one and I can’t help wonder which photo links to which track…

If you only listen to one track, listen to this:

Digital only: https://glacis1.bandcamp.com/album/lost-again-on-waking

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World Sprituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

I can’t remember how on earth I first heard this, or where.  Not on bandcamp, because I was pleasantly surprised to find a bandcamp download voucher in with the vinyl release when it arrived,  Wherever it was, thank God I did, because this is a truly astonishing record.

I’ve also no idea what Ms Coltrane et al are actually singing – presumably some Krishna chants and the like, but it doesn’t really matter.  The combination of, by turns droning and soaring, keyboards, sitar and understated percussion, nestled beneath a series of different …well, yes, ecstatic, voices, is one which is designed to sweep you away.

There’s so much beauty and serenity in these tracks that’s it actually breath-taking at times, and me trying to describe them is a fool’s errand.  Just go to the bandcamp page and listen to ‘Om Shanti’.  You wont regret it.

If you only listen to one track, listen to this:

Available as cassette, cd, vinyl and digital.

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