Words by Tim Cumming
They have picked up three consecutive awards for best group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and for their third album, messrs Drever (vocals, guitar), Green (accordion, Wurlitzer, electronics) and O’Rourke (fiddle) have inveigled American producer Tucker Martine (Sufjan Stevens, REM, Laura Veirs) to invest their sound with touches of electronica, post-production splicings and special effects. It works brilliantly in terms of the music –the sounds and spaces of album opener ‘Saint Monday’ are striking.
That spirit of experimentalism is not applied to Kris Drever’s vocals, and his lead on the opening track is less compelling than the music around it. This matters not one whit, of course, on the instrumental tracks. ‘Far From Portland’ is built on a little shunting, cut-up rhythm, with some heavy, woody instrumental drones under the soloing of O’Rourke’s fiddle – which is as much jazz as it is folk, full of probing intelligence and feeling. The 38 seconds of ‘Missing Pieces’ is brilliant and odd, with Green fingering the Wurlitzer, before it segues into ‘Save the Bees’, driven by Drever’s low guitar chords and O’Rourke’s fiddle moving at a slow and compelling pace before rising up to its feet into a fast dance tune.
‘Torsa’ is another densely structured, wonderfully nuanced instrumental in two parts, with subtle touches of electronic intervention on the bass lines as the melodies cascade around it, delivering the kind of intensity they provide for their audiences at live shows (they are even holding their own Lau-Land festival this autumn). The Lau of the Land is looking good.
Track to try: Far From Portland