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Diamond Family ArchiveDiamond Family Archive
Album: Roaring Kings Of Honour
Label: Map Makes Recording
Tracks: 9
Website: http://thediamondfamilyarchive.blogspot.co.uk/

Here’s another frustrating discovery – one I’ve only made quite by chance when receiving this disc for review. Frustrating because it’s the very tip of another enormous (I might say titanic!) iceberg of creativity, the vanished or submerged portion of which I may never get to hear. Over the last couple of years alone, the Diamond Family Archive have (has) quietly released records, tapes and CDs through a handful of labels scattered around the world: one source cites five albums and 15 EPs, together with a host of short films, numerous field recordings and several collaborations. Now you need to know that the grand name of The Diamond Family Archive actually conceals Laurence Collyer, a reclusive artist who writes, records and performs music and folk-song. Other than the fact that he’s been involved in the DIY music scene for many years and was the co-founder of Woodland Recordings, there’s very little biographical info to be found.

Nevertheless, the following method statement has appeared on the internet: “Holed up in a converted garden shed in rural Devon, you can find The Diamond Family Archive creaking and coaxing songs from detuned guitars and relative solitude. Personal and pastoral themes are mixed with sleepy-eyed awe to create sparse and fluttering arrangements. The sounds of the rain, the old mill leat outside the door and the ever-present ominous rookery in the nearby slate quarry all make it onto tape.” Laurence is thus adopting the practices of an increasing number of musicians in the more left-field of the nu-folk/psych-folk/alt-folk camps, and the results are certainly both haunting and artistically stimulating – but there’s much more to it than a creative use of ambience, for Laurence has his own vision of the music and its traditions and is to be admired for his integrity in presenting it to the world in whatever format works.

In the past, Laurence has collaborated with other musicians under the Diamond Family Archive umbrella, but it would appear that Roaring Kings Of Honour is a purely solo venture. He describes it as “a nine-track CD of traditional British (diaspora) and religious songs. Not British or religious in a jingoistic way, not in a particularly patriotic or spiritual way, more born in an accidental, locality kind of way.” Having said that, it’s nothing less than a collection of folk songs – albeit in versions that are bound to leave both audience and performers scratching their heads and searching not only for lambs (so to speak) but for even partially identifiable reference points or markers. The music Laurence conjures is constantly shifting like the progress of the seasons and the natural world yet with a lazy, inevitable elegance and yet never less than mesmeric and at the same time highly disturbing. It’s like hearing these folk songs through a distorted, refracted prism – and yet the texts are still in there, more or less intact you’ll hear. Think of The Innocent Hare being hunted by early ISB or for the benefit of Mr. Kite, or Claudy Banks (from whence deriveth the album title by the way) awash on a sea of hazy psychedelia. David’s Lamentation is buried within an opaque wash of sound that recalls a distracted Trembling Bells interlude, whereas Idumea continues this stately lilt yet never quite resolves. The ballad What Put The Blood becomes a dreamy, melancholic meditation beset by restless gnawing percussion titbits, atmosphere building gradually but inexorably with a rustic banjo becoming lost in the swirling mists of synth. Blackwaterside carries its fidgety guitar intro through a swaying, shuffling, regretful exposition, while Peggy-O tumbles through the mists of faery (clearly inspired by Notorious Byrd Brothers whimsy). Only the chattery instrumental Outro feels out of place and loses the plot; otherwise this album, for all its oddity, presents a strongly personal vision of folk song that’s strangely compelling.

David Kidman