Review | Songlines

Spell Songs II: Let the Light In

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details


Spell Songs Ensemble


Quercus Records/Thirty Tigers


You might just catch the diminutive cheep of the wren at the end of ‘St Kilda Wren’ – blink and you’ll miss it. Which is precisely what this project aims to highlight: the beauty, the significance, the magnetism, the fragility of the natural world, as illustrated by the formidable partnership of Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris in their books, The Lost Words and The Lost Spells. But, before we get any further, the second half of the title, Let the Light In, is worth emphasising, for this is not an album to castigate its listeners into action but inspire them with hope for the future. In ‘Swifts’, the sunny kora is matched by Rachel Newton’s sung line ‘spin, world, spin / swifts are here again,’ while subsequent spell ‘Jay’ continues playtime with a call-and-response led by Seckou Keita that grows ever more hypnotic, much like the bright colours of a jay flashing in the darkness of the canopy. While lead vocal duties are shared between tracks, this is a genuine ensemble album. The 1970s folk rock chorus of ‘Oak’ is particularly captivating, expertly anchored by Lau’s Kris Drever, while ‘Thrift (Dig In, Dig In)’ thrives thanks to closer, closer-still harmony. Enchantment indeed.

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