INDIA ELECTRIC CO. – The Gap (Shoelay Music SHMU34)

GapThe problem is that I think I’ve said everything I really need to say about India Electric Co. at least twice. Joseph O’Keefe and Cole Stacey are an enigma: why is an album called The Gap illustrated by a campervan, albeit an upmarket one? Indeed, why is it called The Gap? I’ve always liked their music and The Gap is particularly enjoyable. On first play, pottering as you do, I’d just decided that I liked it when it was over – the time had simply disappeared. The second time through was almost the same even though I was trying to concentrate, so if you want some music to spirit you away somewhere – and who doesn’t these days? – this will do the job.

This is only the duo’s second album but in the five years since their debut they have released three lengthy themed EPs – enough for a substantial double-CD but almost certainly better the way they conceived. In that time they have explored so much. The Gap mixes English traditional music, middle-eastern, Indian and African influences and, above all, poetry. The opening track, ‘Statues’, features pizzicato violin and lyrics about an unspecified “it”. I know I haven’t got to grips with it yet but I think that the music came first and the words were designed to fit. I could be wrong.

‘Five Senses’ is the first song to borrow words from an outside source, in this case The Golden Threshold by Indian poet Sarojini Naidu. However, this isn’t simply a setting of Naidu’s words but a bringing together of images and ideas and the same is true of ‘Parachutes’ which draws on a poem by Barbara Guest around which Joseph weaves a traditional Irish tune. ‘Great Circles’ mixes a sub-Saharan rhythm with words inspired by Robert Frost. This is possibly the best track on the album but I may have to reserve judgment on that.

Louis Killen sang ‘Fortune Turns The Wheel’ and India Electric Co. try to keep it to the straight and narrow and Cole manages to hold the melody firm in the face of Joseph’s myriad rhythms. ‘Follow The Drum’ comes from words collected by Alfred Williams, originally a much longer piece about a recruiting party (think ‘The Gay Fusileer’). The temptation must be to compose a suitably 19th century style of tune but Joseph and Cole cut it down, modernise it and change the emphasis.

‘The Broken Pledge’ is the only instrumental, a dialogue between piano and violin incorporating another Irish tune and finally we have the delightful ‘Tempest I’ and ‘Tempest II’ featuring words from Emma Tatham, an almost forgotten Victorian poet who died tragically young.

I’ll leave you to make of The Gap what you will. I think that it’s an extraordinary mix of styles and influences and I like it a lot.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: www.indiaelectricco.com

‘Great Circles’ – official video:

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