How to review a band that are unique? Perhaps two-in-one? One to try and capture the spirit of Duir; one which takes you through the new album, Drome?
To understand the world, we can travel widely, see different sights, undergo different experiences [the ‘Explorer’] …..or we can stay in one place, look closely, follow changes over time because we watch from the same vantage point [the ‘Miss Marple’].
Each has its benefits. Few of us can do both – see the world from the planets AND in its atoms; it demands a perspective that can see both the detail and the breadth, see both the history and the present, see both the reality of the world and also its supernatural echoes around us. It’s nigh on impossible to get these balances right without tilting into ridiculousness.
The author Haruki Murukami manages to balance these perspectives in his novels melding the real world with other worlds that feel real even if they can’t be. Duir are the only artists I can think of who do it so well in music and words. As with their previous albums, Drome is not something to be pinned into a genre, not least because it walks its way across several; you can only really get a feel for this work by listening.
You could start with the video below where, if you know the geography, you can see and hear how, with the aid of Andy Weekes’ film, the band have captured the spirit of the dykes and the digging, of Southrey and Stow and yet…and yet…have turned it into something which is simultaneously bedded in these locations and other worldly. In the band’s own words “We have endeavoured to turn time on its head by visiting places in the East of England whilst indulging in fictitious flights of fancy and embarking on adventures… like in dream-sleep.” It shouldn’t work, but it does – magnificently.
Duir release Drome this September. Like their earlier albums The Stout Guardian of the Door and Sodden Dogs and Blind, Winged Horses, the album is gloriously varied in style and unique in content. The music ranges across instrumental, song, and backing for the spoken word. The focus is a mix of fantasy realism building from a base of Lincolnshire folklore – it is therefore simultaneously localised and a way into the human condition through the setting of a timeless landscape in which stories from different eras interweave.
The album opens with ‘Freiston Shore’, mellow keyboards creating the atmosphere of this tiny place near The Wash; in moving to ‘A Visit to the Tomb of Thomas de Redying’ the strong instrumental base is only adorned with single words “Gyron, Fret, Orle…” etc. If Duir are new to you, you know now, for sure, that you are in unusual territory.
Then Duir do what Duir do – successfully throw in a mix of musical styles.
‘The Star Stone’ melodically takes us to the place where Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire meet – where the Three Shire Oak grew and where there remain stories of a, long gone, ‘Star Stone’ – perhaps a meteor? The tale is told through spoken word. ‘The Whistling Girl (Star Stone Part Two)’ has elements of 70’s prog and 80’s electronica with overtones of an other-worldly female voice telling us “You won’t find her here”, all associated with the same Three Shire Oak location.
Mellowness disappears on ‘Bardney Riots’. Its bass and drum lines are worthy of a death metal band and serve as background to a tale of 900 navvies and a food riot towards the end of the Napoleonic wars. ‘Heavy Thursday’, unusually for pre-Drome Duir, again adds a female vocal to a song about Thor, the Hanging Wood and visions of the future. The vocal brings an additional, Renaissance-style, range to this album. ‘Drome’, the track, taps into a similar vein of electronic folk on a tale of meeting places, assemblies, moots – messages from the past to the present.
‘Headless Things’ is based on tales from the village of Willoughton, when “weird things did occur” centred around a female farm hand, set to alternating themes in the music. Both ‘Causeway’ and ‘Icehouse Blues’ are spoken word – the former takes us back to the Iron Age tribes who created a giant wooden causeway east of Lincoln, the latter to a tale of the imagination in which searchers use two 19th/early 20th century icehouses as portals to different times. If you’ve been on that heathland at nightime, you’ll know this is far more plausible than it appears in text.
‘Peter’s Big Day Out’ is classic Duir – driven music, a vocal which is more than spoken, less than shouted for the story of the artist Peter Brannan. The album closes with a simple folk song ‘Many A Day’ about the eternal watchman looking out, surveying the English countryside and observing the co-existence of ancient and modern.
If this all seems a little hard to believe – and especially to believe that it can work so well – Duir have added a further medium, video, to their work. The link below to ‘By Hook Or By Crook’ will give an additional sense of what it is that Duir do.
Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/songsfromtheoak/
‘By Hook Or By Crook’ – official video: