Led by the husky-voiced Noah Bevington and featuring brother Jed on violin, keys and close harmonies, bassist Fergus Quill and drummer George Brignal, the Cambridge quartet are quite possibly folk's first boy band, recording this, their debut album, produced by Polly Paulusma, when the eldest of them was just 19.
They certainly don't sound like schoolboy novices, their contemporary indie folk drawing on influences that range between Nick Cave, Thom York, Mingus, Lunasa and James Brown to produce a sound that is deep, dark and rich, steeped in traditional tropes and full of muscular intensity. Following a piano-led instrumental intro that calls to mind Gary Jules' version of 'Mad World', they unfold 'Houses & Drums' with its clattering drum sticks and violin and talk of ancient houses and buried roots, conjuring a smoke-curled vision of CS&N had they been forged in the depths of some English forest.
There's cool elegance throughout, but one hung with cobwebs and the smell of must, as if the melodies have burrowed up from loamy underground chambers (at times they evoke an atmosphere akin to that of Malvern's monumentally underrated The Dancing Did), good examples being the understated 'Myriad' and both 'Niaid I' and its more turbulent percussion skittering companion 'Naid II'. Elsewhere, although working within definite and at times claustrophobic parameters, they nonetheless display an impressive and assured range of textures with 'No Midas' keening to the folk rock of 'Dreaming Spires' (albeit minus guitar jangling) while 'I Grow Cold' with its scraping fiddle and lurching bassline suggests a folk deconstructed early Radiohead and 'Shadows' takes off into a jazz cellar piano interlude.
The hushed, spooked close-harmonies 'Myriad' is another highlight, redolent of the same ambience as Buffalo Springfield's 'Expecting To Fly' while 'Spires' is a jittery piano, nervy excursion into a pagan darkness of forbidding elemental nature that reminds me somewhat of And Also The Trees. But while comparisons can be trotted out, these are only surface allusions and the band are firmly enrobed in an identity and brooding soundscape of their own, their songs littered with images of raw nature, darkness, decay, lies and betrayal. Indeed, I've barely mentioned their articulate, literate lyrics, but here too are resolute strengths that indicate something rather special, so perhaps I should end this review with their closing track, 'Winter To Spring', a simple acoustic number with the brothers in Simon and Garfunkel harmony on an old beyond their years song variously about loss, depression, rejection and the hope of eventual rescue and salvation as they sing "only my father's eyes are home". An outstanding debut from a potentially genre-redefining band.
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