A round-up of EPs and singles that have come our way
JAKE AARON is a singer-songwriter from London with a distinctive spiky guitar style and a youthful voice and outlook that seem at odds with the grey in his hair. I’m still puzzling over the first two songs on his eponymous EP. ‘1790’ is clearly very personal and I suspect that only one other person fully understands it. ‘Record Player’ is equally deep – “I’m not a rock, I’m a record player” seems to be the key line. I’m not rigid, I’m open to influence? I don’t know. ‘High Rolling’ is an instrumental, not pretty but hypnotic, and then comes possibly the best song in the set, ‘Dalston Kingsland’. Again, it’s a young man’s song as is the final ‘Constitution Blues’. Jake reminds me of all sorts of people but I can’t think who they are but I do know he is a name to watch. www.jakeaaron.com
Raising The Fires, the debut album from HEG & THE WOLF CHORUS, will be with us next year but here’s our first taste, a single containing two versions of ‘The White Witch’. The “standard” version, if that’s the correct term, begins gently with Heg’s voice and piano before building up with echoey drums and strings to a big finish. The second version, The Jillk Remix starts with strange percussion and electronics with just the bare skeleton of the song remaining and Heg’s voice manipulated to a stutter. If the remix doesn’t appear on the album you’ll wish you’d bought this. Excellent. www.hegandthewolfchorus.com
‘Seed Stitch’ is the single taken from Coracle, the most recent album from EMILY PORTMAN. Like so many of Emily’s it’s wrapped up in myth and memory and metaphor. Ostensibly about knitting it is a song of loss, of breakdown and new beginnings. Initially I thought it was about the loss of virginity and innocence but now I’m not so sure. Paired with it is ‘Nightjar’ another complex song full of imagery which often goes unexplained and one really weird line which will continue to haunt you. www.emilyportman.co.uk
THE DEADLY WINTERS are a five-piece band from Edinburgh who are beginning to make a name for themselves. Table In The Corner is their latest EP; the title track being the story of a piece of pub furniture that no-one ever uses because … well, that’s the story and we’re not privy to the answer to the unspoken question. ‘Liars, Liars, Liars’ is the tale of a man on the run pursued by stories that make him out to be much worse than he is – it’s a very clever song. ‘Sam Did Run’ tells of a war hero pursued by bullets which leads nicely into ‘Gone To Ground’. The band has a sound that is part folk-rock, part Americana and a fine songwriter in Christopher Blair. We should hear more of them.
Heg & The Wolf Chorus are a band showing the world of folk that they are one of the best narrators around. Approaching songs like aural fairytales, the exciting avant-garde four-piece entices and entertains the listener as storytellers of old.
The enchantingly mythical single ‘The White Witch’ out 26th October, tells the awe-inspiring story of a witch who was wrongfully burnt at the stake and casts her spell that brings the world, as we know it, to its demise. The scale and grandeur of the mythological sites of the Isle of Skye, Scotland that inspired Heg’s song writing can be heard in every breath-taking musical flourish.
The band bring the first single from their debut album Raising The Fires fresh from playing a horde of summer festivals, supporting BBC Sound of 2013 winners HAIM, performing live at Bristol’s Colston Hall for the BBC and being selected for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent long-list by Helen True from For Folks Sake. BBC Introducing and fRoots magazine are firm supporters of the uniquely theatrical four-piece with the band performing a showcase for fRoots at Sidmouth Folk Festival.
The folk rhapsodist’s showcase their beautiful and distinctly different sound on ‘The White Witch’, set for release 26th October. As epic and dramatic as the landscapes that inspired it, Raising The Fires is set for release in 2016.
Heg & The Wolf Chorus will be special guests to folk heroes Moulettes and Nizlopi this Novemberember on their co-headline tour.
While we still wait for their debut album, promised for 2016, the rather wonderful Heg & The Wolf Chorus bring us the third of their “hand-crafted” EPs with matching artwork by Heg Brignall – a future collector’s item if you have the set, I have no doubt.
After the boisterous A Tale Of Sailors these three songs seem rather more considered. The first track, ‘Song For Home’, begins with the sound of a distant storm – synthesised, I think – and the rumbling of Joe Kelly’s double bass. The theme and style are continued with ‘Rain’. In both, we are exposed to the elements, travelling and changing as we go – “nothing will feel the same”. ‘Sail On’ is the perfect place to leave us wanting more as they return explicitly to the maritime theme which runs throughout their music. “I’m stepping into the unknown”, sings Heg, “I’m reaching out” and indeed they are.
The arrangements are as complex and detailed as ever with Heg’s keyboards and Vince Martin’s violin providing the leads over the bass and percussion. There are some glorious harmonies, sometimes churchy, sometimes pastoral, sometimes with the backing voices singing alternate lines with Heg, particularly effective on the title track. Producer Gareth James Bailey deserves praise for his work on all three EPs but particularly on this one which shows off the band’s musical ingenuity to best effect.
After two singles Heg & The Wolf Chorus stretch out to an EP. The band: Heg Brignall, who writes the songs, Stephanie Taylor, Richie Dobson, Vince Martin and double-bassist Joe Kelly live in Bristol and have links with Dartington College. Their previous release, Giant, explored folk tales from the Bristol area and A Tale Of Sailors comprises four songs of the sea.
For a band with avant-garde connections the songs on A Tale Of Sailors are quite traditional in construction. ‘Three Sailors’, for example, tells of the titular characters being picked off one by one by a sea serpent. The accompaniment is based around Heg’s piano, Vince’s violin and a string quartet with percussion from Stephanie and Richie. ‘Annie Of The Atlantic’ is the record’s big production number, a story taken from Heg’s family history, and ‘Boat And I’ is a reworking of their first single. ‘Sea Shanty For Bessie Harker’ is the story of a heroine who effected a hazardous rescue, although it doesn’t really conform to any shanty form – you might just about work the halyards on the ho’s, I guess.
Now, after tantalising us with three short offerings, I do think that it’s time that Heg presented us with a full album.