HARP AND A MONKEY – All Life Is Here (MoonrakerUK)

All Life Is HereI wasn’t sure what to expect from my first hearing of Harp And A Monkey. Their publicity material is entirely accurate but the bare facts fail to paint a true picture of the band. All Life Is Here is their second album.

Coming from Manchester they have the down-to-earth quality that I’ve missed since I came down south. Martin Purdy’s voice immediately transported me back forty-odd years and two hundred miles north and their heavily rewritten traditional songs welcomed me back. But it’s not just nostalgia. ‘Molecatcher’, for example, isn’t the exercise in single entendre that it became in the folk clubs. Glockenspiel gives the song a new lightness and the band’s new chorus and bridge, coupled with the omission of the defiant penultimate verse, make this a story of regret.

Harp And A Monkey always intend their songs to be stories and the opener, ‘Walking In The Footsteps Of Giants’, links the Kinder Trespass with memories of Spanish Civil War volunteers from Lancashire – I think you have to be from Manchester to find that connection – and ‘The Gallipoli Oak’ is a true story of a pilgrimage to plant an English oak tree in a Dardanelles cemetery. In contrast to these grand ideas are the songs of daily life like ‘Doolally Day Out’ and ‘Tupperware And Tinfoil’ – no, I can’t really explain any further.

The band’s minimalist arrangements decorated with odd combinations of instruments are the final ingredient. Harp (of course), melodica, viola and banjo combine with the glockenspiel and programming of the strange noises to give them an immediately recognisable sound. I can enthusiastically recommend this album.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: http://www.harpandamonkey.com

Electro-folk-storytellers Harp And A Monkey release new album (All Life Is Here) on March 24

HarpMonkeySongs about cuckolded molecatchers, a lone English oak tree that grows at Gallipoli, care in the community and medieval pilgrims, it can only mean one thing – a new album by the acclaimed folk experimentalists Harp And A Monkey.

Released on Monday, March 24th,  All Life Is Here is the much-anticipated second album from the electro-folk-storytellers. Recorded once again in their home studio in North Manchester, the new record consolidates the trios growing reputation as one of the UK’s leading purveyors of accessible left-field folk.

As well as showcasing more of their original and deeply felt hauntological songwriting, the band have also reworked a number of traditional folk songs and poems from their beloved Lancashire, including ‘Bolton’s Yard’, ‘Pay Day’, ‘The Molecatcher’ and ‘Manchester Angel’. The physical version of the album includes an ‘arts and crafts’ booklet with song explanations and glorious artwork.

Underpinned by intricate melodies and field recordings, the music of Harp and a Monkey is both beautifully crafted and emotionally engaging. Their influences range from Ordnance Survey maps and bird watching to Bert Jansch and Bjork.

Formed in 2008, Harp and a Monkey have been building a loyal following via relentless gigging and social networking. Regulars on the northern festival circuit, they are proud of the fact that they have never played anywhere and not been invited back.

The band consists of Martin Purdy (vocals, glockenspiel, accordion, harmonica and keyboards), Simon Jones (harp, guitar, viola) and Andy Smith (banjo, melodica, guitar and programming). They explain: “The idea for Harp and a Monkey came about by accident – we’d got bored of writing the same type of songs so we decided to challenge ourselves for a bit of fun and all go out and buy at least one instrument that we had never played before. We thought that it would simplify what we did and lead to some interesting results, and we reckon it worked. We also wanted to follow the folk tradition of telling short stories, which is how we come to be writing about family trips out to the seaside, the Spanish Civil War, cheated brides and the importance of making a good cup of tea.”

Harp and a Monkey have enjoyed national radio support from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Mike Harding on BBC Radio 2, Lopa Kothari on BBC Radio 3, Folk Radio UK and many more regional, national and international radio and internet broadcasters.

The band’s self-titled debut album received critical acclaim on its release in late 2011 and they collected excellent reviews for their contribution to the 2012 ‘Weirdlore’ compilation which highlighted Britain’s most promising practitioners of alternative folk. They were also invited to perform at the inaugural Homegrown Festival in 2012, showcasing the best “new” English folk music to an international audience.

The band record on their own label (MoonrakerUK), although they have always been closely linked with the award-winning FolkPolice label, which has licensed past releases. The new album, All Life Is Here, can only build on the support they have enjoyed to-date… however, whether they can match the top 20 iTunes placing they achieved in the Portugese chart last time out remains to be seen. Place your bets…

Artists’ website:  www.harpandamonkey.com 

“Harp and a Monkey… very talented and very entertaining.” – LANCASHIRE EVENING TELEGRAPH (live review)

 “Absolutely top stuff… very, very interesting and unusual songwriting. An Incredible String Band for the 21st Century.” – Mike Harding RADIO TWO folk show: