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Mishaped Pearls Mishaped Pearls
Album: Shivelight
Label: Mishapen
Tracks: 9

Having had the pleasure of 'Thamesis' some four years or so ago, it is indeed a pleasure to become reacquainted with Mishaped Pearls. The temptation to kowtow to the squiggly red line that indicates a spellcheck and add an 's' is indicative of their take on the folk music philosophy. Not quite conforming to type and while 'Thamesis' took the river that flows through London as inspiration, 'Shivelight' draws from influences which seem much wider ranging.

Ged Flood, accompanied by his troupe that includes the unique tones of mezzo soprano Manuela Schuette and a catalogue of range of weird and wonderful instruments alongside the tried and trusted, has taken anything and everything and subverted into a cocktail that's made of a recipe calling in influences from world music, pop, classical and you name it, it's likely weighing in with a contribution to 'Shivelight'.

No escaping the roots though, making an entrance with the familiar with an arrangement of 'The Cuckoo' based round a hypnotic swirl and bassy big band drive that's rarely found in the folk domain. A traditional song that's stripped and redressed into a thriving rhythmic concoction. Similarly, 'Queen May' may have traditional roots, but they've turned it into a percussive incantation that along with the album opener set the tone for a collection that provides a white knuckle ride in terms of throwing caution to the wind and rising to the challenge of delivering something off kilter and daring. It's the focus on a variety of percussive devices that provides the thread through 'Shivelight' occasionally giving way to a more haunting ambience in 'Three Cries' and 'Jonny's War' but returning with a vengeance in the dancing Latino sway of 'Jesus' Crooked Shadow'.

Aside from the defiant drive of 'Nature Waking', the centrepieces come in the form of the hypnotic grooves set up in 'Fishes' and the musical "dreamlike haze" mentioned and brought to musical life in 'When Summers Stand Still'. The former opens in innocuous fashion before shifting gear into a mystical jamboree that invokes a brief hint of Eastern promise. It gives a hint of what's to come in the swirling mists of strings in the latter; an arrangement that unfolds in an ominous tour de force, threatening yet retaining a controlled orchestration. Memories of childhood Summers and the planet's clock ticking add a reflective yet disturbing quality.

From the sublime to the not quite ridiculous, the significantly lighter tone of 'Nursery Rhyme No.9' despite its questioning of "wonder what will happen to the human race?" rounds up a kaleidoscopic piece of work that's both inventive and thrilling.

Mike Ainscoe