Taking a well-earned break from the MP3s of new Oasis songs that seem to be whizzing around the Uncut and NME offices today, there are a couple of folkish new albums from British singers that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.
One is “The Fox’s Wedding” by Sharron Kraus, which begins with a ripple of bells, pipes and eldritch drones. Kraus clearly knows her way around the creepier end of the acid-folk scene (no surprise, perhaps, that the album is out on David Tibet’s Durtro Jnana imprint), and there are some tremendously witchy ululations at the climax of that excellent first track, “Brigid”. Fairies dance with Kraus, while she dreams of “ancient sacrifice”.
Mercifully, though, Kraus avoids wandering into the gothic hinterlands that this stuff can lead to. The heady medieval air reminds me inevitably of Shirley & Dolly Collins, though there’s something of Anne Briggs in there, too. Her closest contemporaries, I guess, would be Espers, perhaps that lovely solo album which Meg Baird released last year.
At first, I felt that “The Fox’s Wedding” was a nice exercise in atmospheres: highly seductive aesthetics, for sure, but I wasn’t sure about the ultimate calibre of Kraus’ tunes. It’s become, though, an album I’ve returned to over these past few weeks, and those songs have come into much firmer, compelling firmness – terrific songs like “In The Middle Of Summer”, which has an airy tang that reminds me of a mossy Joni Mitchell.
Alexander Tucker’s “Portal” has been another steady grower of late. I’ve been aware of him since he fronted a post-hardcore band called Unhome who I was tangentially acquainted with a few years ago. Equating that earnest bawling singer with the hirsute guitar mystic and Jackie O Motherfucker affiliate, intently looping his riffs into a great quilt of noise, was initially pretty hard.
Tucker’s first couple of albums were called, appositely enough, “Old Fog” and “Furrowed Brow”. “Portal”, however, pushes Tucker’s voice back into the foreground, as if he’s finally re-emerging from some sonic undergrowth. Now, faintly, it’s possible to spot a path back to hardcore: someone here even suggested the other day, weirdly, that one of the songs reminded her – melodically, I think – of the Foo Fighters.
I wasn’t immediately convinced by this return to more conspicuous songs, not least because Tucker’s current voice can be rather thin and self-consciously portentous. As an experimental musician finding affinities between, say, Six Organs Of Admittance and Fennesz, he was pretty impressive. But trying to do that and be a more accessible singer-songwriter? Not so sure.
Again, though, I’m beginning to reassess “Portal”, chiefly thanks to a naggingly beautiful song called “Veins To The Sky”, which I think ATP may be releasing as some kind of single. I don’t want to go off on that tedious rant about mimsy new shoegazers yet again, but here’s a song which successfully throws a song into a meticulously disorienting, blissed environment, albeit one which draws on the ancient songcraft of folk musicians far more than any run-of-the-mill indie.
It’s a terrific and persistent song, and there are some other very pleasing, droning, hypnotic things on the album. He’s great live, too.