GYPSYFINGERS – Stranger Things (own label)

Stranger ThingsAlthough they perform live as a quartet and the album features various musical collaborators, Gypsyfingers are essentially classically trained and dance music loving songwriter Victoria Coghlan on piano, French horn and acoustic guitar and her husband, Mike Oldfield’s producer son Luke, who plays bass, guitars, percussion and mellotron.

This is their second album, following on from last year’s support slot on the Tubular Bells Tour For Two and, as it says in the burb, features a collection of ethereal folk rock opening with Coghlan singing lead on ‘Half World’ sounding somewhere between Clannad and Annie Haslem in Renaissance on a song that would seem to be about surviving the break-up of a relationship.

By contrast, ‘Hey Maria’ opens with organ and the funky electric guitars gives it more of a sunny West Coast feel, though describing the vocals as reminiscent of Joni Mitchell is rather wishful publicist thinking. Indeed, that mellow Valley-groove characterises the album rather more than what most would call folk pop, ‘The Bay’ offering another shimmery example to the extent you can almost see the piano notes reflecting in the sun on the ocean’s surface.

That said, ‘Bruised’, on which Oldfield sings lead against a waltzing fingerpicked acoustic melody, is one of the more typically familiar folksy numbers alongside the similarly arranged ‘Blue Sky’ which, coincidentally also features him on vocals. On the other numbers where Coghlan takes the spotlight, things are often more musically fleshed out, ‘Still In It’ sporting shades of late 60s jazzy acoustic blues while ‘Quit The Game’ (a particular highlight) with its military drum beat, chiming guitars and cascading chords is all soaring anthemic pop tumbling airy chamber folk. The title track itself starts out on whisperingly sung vocals with reflective piano notes, violin and cello before gathering to an orchestral swell as drums and key spin it off on an instrumental magical mystery tour finale.

Coghlan’s classical-styled piano dominates, providing the bedrock for the album’s two instrumentals, the strings-adorned dreamy instrumental ‘Sophie’s Dream’ and, with a musical box intro that sounds spookily like it strayed in from a Danny Elfman score for Tim Burton, the closing ‘Cobwebs,’ which, as it gathers to an orchestral climax before a return to the single piano notes, is clear evidence that Oldfield has a substantial element of his father’s musical DNA in him. Not, perhaps, one for the more traditionally-minded folk rock fan, but those who can appreciate a wider canvas will find much to admire in the colours on their palette.

Mike Davies

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