Thursday, 21 October 2010

Yet another review but...lawks a lawdy...this one is pretty upbeat

Buy this fantastic record! I mean it! Buy it now!
In 1942, while deep-ploughing for sugarbeet in Suffolk, a farm labourer named Gordon Butcher, whom history records had a curiously pointy head, though it's never clear why history bothered to record it, accidentally dug up what has become known as The Mildenhall Treasure. It is widely regarded as the most extraordinary Roman treasure-trove ever to be found in the British Isles. The pieces were of such extraordinary quality and workmanship that there was some doubt that they could have been found in the manner descibed at all. How could such splendid, important artifacts be found by a pointy-headed man in a Suffolk sugarbeet field?

Gentle reader, I am that pointy-headed man and the internet that you see before you is my virtual sugarbeet field: for I have unearthed a treasure. Get ready to thank me.

Rough Trade Shop's "Psych Folk 10" isn't the tenth record in a series nor does it contain ten artists. This is a sprawling 21 song joyride across the sonic spectrum stretching what folk music means in the twenty first century. And there's not a bad song here. It's all good. Out of 21 songs there are no duds. That in itself is an amazing achievement and it does rather neatly illustrate the elasticity and robustness of the genre.

Jack Rose's "Moon in the gutter" is a sweet droning introduction and a nod to Claude Vasori's "Folk Guitar". This is followed, in marked contrast, by Wood's "Pick Up" - the sound of a castrato playing a single stringed guitar while people move furniture in the room up stairs. Espers introduce proggish synths and tricky time signatures alongside Meg Baird's crystalline folk voice and Sam Amidon's evocation of early seventies folk giants is extraordinary, managing to sound like both Nick Drake and John Martyn simultaneously - "Way Go, Lily" is a wonderful piece of music.

At the centre of this record, like a black-eyed spider in a bejewelled web, sits Alasdair Roberts. His "Spoils" may have been my favourite record of last year and "You Muses Assist" is presented here - a flute-impacted gem of a song. The sing-along chorus of "sterile rams and simulacra" accompanied by the most tone-deaf backing singing ever recorded shouldnt work, should in fact be breathlessly funny. And it is funny but it's also magnifficent, life-affirming and triumphant. It's followed by Men-An Tol's "Borrow my bed" and it's a tale as old as time: a young man with a taste for adventure decides to neck a load of pills and ends up in hospital. Kath Bloom's "Heart so sadly" is odd and affecting. Kath sounds like a pissed mum at a wedding but the song is so beautiful and the music so full and strong beneath her fragile delivery that effect is incredibly uplifting. Sleepy Sun augment their his 'n' her vocal trade-off with odd Lyndsey de Paul trills and Lau Nau (who disappoint only by not calling their album "Brown Cow") delight with the woozy miasma of their voices. They sound like you're staring at the sun through half closed eyes beneath a canopy of trees on a sunny day. Yes they do.

Six organs of Admittance introduce drones and a shoegazey lustre to proceedings as if to point out that modern folk is a very broad church indeed and Hush Arbors, Voice of the Seven Wonders and Ulaan Khol give us three variations on smoking psych-rock as well as three very silly names.

This is a fantastic record.

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