Tannara announce new album

Tannara

2019 will be the biggest year yet for Tannara, with the release of their second album Strands at the Celtic Connections Festival 2019. The album represents a significant development for the band who have spent the past two years writing and recording this superb work.

The album was produced by Owen Sinclair and accordionist Joseph Peach, with input and guidance from Lau’s Martin Green. They’ve created a whole world around the band’s music; of found sounds and samples, synthesisers, and guest performances from Mattie Foulds on percussion and Josie Duncan on backing vocals

Following the album release, the band are set for a busy year of doing what they love best-performing- with UK tours taking place in March and September, a summer of festival appearances, and touring in mainland Europe in November.

Bold, creative, and original; Tannara (Owen Sinclair, Robbie Greig, Becca Skeoch and Joseph Peach) have established themselves as one of the UK’s most interesting and unique contemporary folk groups.

Formed in 2014, the band came about as a natural extension of the four members’ love of making music together. Fuelled by this, they’ve covered considerable musical ground over the past five years. With a background in Scotland’s native traditions, their ceaseless musical development is a melting pot of ideas, genres and sounds: From indie rock to electronica, as well as Scotland’s vibrant and diverse folk scene.

Unafraid to experiment, their music is an electrifying meeting place for a world of sounds: Punchy and clean, riotous and gritty, tender and honest. On fiddle, harp, guitar, accordion and vocals, Tannara make an intensely considered musical world which is uniquely theirs.

Their debut album Trig was released in 2016. Produced by Rachel Newton, their first offering as a band was a raw, joyous, reflection of a band finding its sound.

It was received to great acclaim, from critics and audiences alike. Described by Living Tradition Magazine as “Simply Outstanding”, it was longlisted for “Album of the Year” at the 2016 Scots Trad Music Awards, the same year in which the band were nominated for “Up and Coming Artist of the Year”.

From open air festivals, to intimate house concerts, and everything in between, the band love playing live. A fact that’s reflected by their so far busy schedule of performances and radio appearances across Europe, with highlights including Cambridge Folk Festival, and Festival Interceltique de Lorient, a performance described as “Firey and Graceful” by The Herald.

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Artists’ website: www.tannaramusic.com

‘Spent Lees’ – official video:

LAU – Midnight And Closedown (Reveal REVEAL078CD)

Midnight And ClosedownFollowing their tenth anniversary retrospective Kris Drever, Aidan O’Rourke and Martin Green return with an album of new music and Midnight And Closedown is certainly new.

It opens with a stunning song, ‘I Don’t Want To Die Here’. Drever says that the album is about islands and the listener is left imagining some God-forsaken lump of rock out in the ocean or wondering whether “here” refers to a state of mind or circumstances. Paul Simon wrote ‘I Am A Rock’ about just such a man and that theme is at the forefront of Midnight And Closedown. A long fiddle intro resolves into another song, ‘She Put On Her Headphones’ – the modern method of isolation – and that is followed by ‘Toy Tigers’ which I’m still deciphering. That’s three songs in succession: what’s going on?

‘Echolalia’ is the nearest we get to a “traditional” Lau instrumental track but even here Drever adds some la-la-la vocals and the beginning and the end. ‘Itshardtoseemokwhenyourenot’ seems to link an old and a new Lau. Martin Green’s electronic percussion pounds and Aidan O’Rourke’s fiddle pulses and dances as the track briefly breaks into something resembling rock’n’roll in the middle. It really is a terrific song and is only bettered by ‘Dark Secret’. The slightly sinister lyrics seem to be about therapy, at least in part, and drinking and I can’t believe that it is in any way autobiographical. Drever sings of being “born on the Isle Of Horses” which could refer to Shetland but I don’t want to follow that trail any further.

‘Return To Portland’ is the album’s second big instrumental piece with Green and O’Rourke trading lead lines and Green doing very much what Brian Eno did back in the day. There is noticeably less accordion here than we’re used to. Finally we have the acoustic ‘Riad’, written by O’Rourke although all three share writing credits, harking back to the band’s early days.

Midnight And Closedown is as brilliant as it is unexpected. Decade was full of the power and sheer volume that characterised Lau’s earlier work but this seems like a whole new direction.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: https://www.lau-music.co.uk/

‘Echolalia’ – live:

MARTIN GREEN – Flit live

Photograph by Genevieve Stevenson
Photograph by Genevieve Stevenson

Cambridge Junction, 22 October 2016

Following its premiere at Edinburgh Festival in August 2016, Martin Green’s latest musical concept Flit, heads out on tour, starting in Cambridge. There’s a bit of a delay getting into the venue, which the staff member working the queue tells us is due to some technical issues. But, he smiles broadly, it will be well worth the wait.

It’s immediately clear that this show about migration is an ambitious undertaking that sets out to unsettle the audience. The set looms like a primitive cave of wrinkled brown paper – a flimsy and uncomfortable temporary refuge. In its midst stands an enormous 3D zoetrope with three reels. There is a human figure walking, then running. Another is a bird in flight. The third transforms from bird to human as it rotates. The reels are swapped out over the performance, using a variety of illumination techniques to showcase them in different ways (strobe haters beware). The thrum of the turning machinery lends a further dimension to the sound – it could be a ship’s engine, a lorry: the unseen machinery that migrants rely on.

Crew and band members appear without any fanfare, walking on in line, all dressed in removal men’s drab brown overalls. Apart from Becky Unthank, that is, who’s in an anonymous sacking-like dark brown dress. It’s yet another visual reminder that tonight is about movement, migration, instability and uncertainty.

Respecting the seriousness of the subject matter, the band simply get on with it. It’s a performance without any real casual chat to the audience. Audio clips are interspersed with Green’s family anecdotes, an effective blend of the universal and the personal. As he builds to a furious crescendo at the fact that the conditions that drove his grandmother from the Nazis are being repeated in the present day, there is real passion, a visceral connection that sends shivers down the spine. His howls of being “fucking angry” are set against a massive distorted tidal wave of guitar from Dominic Aitchison (Mogwai) And Adrian Utley (Portishead) – a wail of distress and rage.

The soundscape created for this project is a challenging meeting of electronica, including a percussive rack of handsaws, married with the howls and skritchings of electric guitars. Against this powerful sonic backdrop, the accordion and the sweetness of the singers’ voices seem all the more startling. Becky Unthank and Adam Holmes’s voices blend deliciously together, her huskiness a perfect foil for his smooth, rich tones. The often mantra-like repetitive lyrics form soundwashes to underscore Whiterobot’s animation which is projected behind – and sometimes even in front of – the band. Delicately beautiful, yet slightly sinister stop-frame animations of folded paper flicker, repeating the central motifs of the human form and birds in flight. Sometimes the figures meet up inside photo frames, vividly suggesting the lives and families left behind.

As it started, so it concludes, without encores or any attempt to lighten the mood. It’s not about crowd-pleasing, but about feelings. This project is meant to evoke sadness, anger, and empathy with the displaced. We need to understand the urgency of their need to migrate, leaving lives, families, homes behind them. The band simply walks away.

After a moment, Green returns briefly, but only to offer thanks to his grandmother, in the front row of tonight’s audience and the inspiration behind the Flit project.

If there’s any minor gripe, it’s the sound quality tonight. Guitars threaten to swamp some of the subtlety, audio clips seem muddy. Whether it’s teething problems, my seat’s too close to the speaker or whatever, it doesn’t really detract from the power and emotion of the performance. As we leave, we pass the staff member and tell him, yes, it was definitely worth the wait.

Su O’Brien

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Artist’s website: http://www.martingreenmusic.co.uk/

‘Strange Sky’ – official video:

MARTIN GREEN – Flit (Reveal Records, REVEAL062CDX)

flitGreen, you may be aware, is the accordionist and electronic experimentalist with Lau, and his new solo album, Flit, is no less an inventive, boundary-pushing affair that, inspired by accounts of human movement across the globe, focuses on the zeitgeist folk scene theme of migration. As the title suggests it’s a restless piece of work, one for which he’s called on the vocal talents of Becky Unthank, John Smith and Adam Holmes as well as Mogwai’s Dominic Aitchison on bass and Adrian Utley from Portishead providing guitars, bass, synths and percussion. Green’s also collaborated on the material, co-writing with Karine Polwart, Anais Mitchell, Sandy Wright and Falkirk-born former Arab Strap founder, Aidan Moffat.

It’s the latter who opens proceedings, speaking his own words on the scratchy, pulsing ‘The Living Wind’ , a narrative essentially about the colonialist destruction and displacement of indigenous peoples, before the first of four Polwart numbers, the brooding, atmospherically ominous ‘Strange Sky’, breathily sung by Unthank, with its sudden sonic storms. By contrast, the second Polwart collaboration, ‘Wrackline’, is a sparse and ghostly thing, ebbing and flowing like the waves washing up on the shore that it references, gathering midway into a tribal clatter that gradually slows before a hushed close.

Sandwiched between the Polwart tracks is ‘Roll Away’, Holmes’ deep voice wrapping itself around Mitchell’s lyrics about being transported far away from home across the ocean, inspired by the story of his grandfather and grandmother, and a folksy melody that vaguely recalls ‘Shenandoah’. The Polwart/Green material returns with ‘The Suitcase’, electronic effects backdropping Moffat’s spoken introduction about the narrator’s memories of his father (‘respect money, money keeps you safe, he told me once, as if to explain a decade and a half of absence….he was alone, even with us’) before a resonant pulsing bass note takes over along with a duet by Unthank and Holmes. ‘Laws Of Motion’ again strikes a contrast, returning to more familiar folk strains, sung by Holmes accompanied by a resonant circling bassline. The only track to which lyrics are printed on the insert, it specifically references the migrant crisis with lines about being “cast adrift on open seas” and “searchlights at the tunnel gate, barbed wire at the harbour. Restless men and women blow like sands across the border”.

‘Clang Song’ and ‘Smallest Plant’ are solely written by Green, the former a collage of seething, dark electronics and the latter, featuring him on accordion with sonorous and disorienting synth noises, a more mournful traditional folk lament duetted by Unthank and Holmes. Finally, with words by Wright, a brooding repeated guitar line from Utley and Devonian folkie John Smith on vocals, ‘The Singing Sands’, the shortest track at under three minutes, is a spectral, minimalist sketch of loss and ‘the mocking waves’.

Immediate and accessible it most certainly is not, but, while it may be challenging, if you open yourself to experience it, it’s a hauntingly powerful piece of work.

Mike Davies

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‘Strange Sky’ – official video:

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Folk Awards 2015 (Proper PROPERFOLK16)

FolkAwards2015It’s that time again when the folk world looks back and hands out gongs to the great and good while conspiracy theories abound. Actually there have been far fewer of those this year; the detractors must have finally decided that the BBC keeps the names of the voters secret to avoid them being showered by gifts of Rolexes and vintage champagne in attempts to win approval. As if!

All in all, we’re looking back on a vintage year. I listen to more new music than the average punter and I’d heard only ten of the twenty-three tracks chosen to represent 2014 in this collection, so I’m clearly not trying hard enough. As ever the double-CD is well programmed by the four compilers – this is not just an audio catalogue: it has to stand as a listenable collection in its own right, which it does.

The opener is the sprightly ‘Moorlough Mary’ by Cara Dillon which breaks the ice nicely. Next is ‘It Would Not Be A Rose’ from Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker sounding rather more bitter taken out of the context of their album. You might expect The Will Pound Band to rock the rafters but the selection here is the rather down-beat ‘Jimmy Ward’s’ given a bluesy, slightly jazzy persona. That eases into Jez Lowe’s almost lullaby ‘The Pitmen Poets’ and a traditional Gaelic song from Cruinn. By now you’re settled back into your armchair and drifting, only to snapped back to wakefullness by Nancy Kerr’s ‘Never Ever Lay Them Down’ a super song from an album that has somehow managed to elude me so far.

The first set closes with The Young’Uns’ ‘John Hill’ with its borrowed tune and piano sounding almost like a hymn and second opens with the similarly powerful but restrained ‘Waking Dreams (Awake, Awake)’ from Martin & Eliza Carthy. Then, from out of nowhere, comes Naomi Bedford with ‘The Spider And The Wolf’, a song written by her partner Paul Simmonds and taken from her album A History Of Insolence. The other in-yer-face track here is ‘Bedlam’ by Stick In The Wheel and if you haven’t heard them yet you’re in for treat and you won’t be able to forget ‘I Saw The Dead’ by Martin Green with Becky Unthank in a hurry either.

Finally we have the four nominees for The Young Folk Award: Talisk, Wildwood Kin, Roseanne Reid and Cup O’Joe. Impossible to say who the winner will be but I’d like to hear more of Roseanne Reid.

Dai Jeffries

LAU – Race The Loser – new album out tomorrow

Lau are modern folk music’s most innovative band. Brilliant musicians, thrilling performers and free-thinking visionaries.

Their new album ‘Race The Loser’ (Reveal Records) was recorded with American producer Tucker Martine (Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, R.E.M., Laura Veirs) in Scotland throughout the Spring of 2012.

‘Race The Loser’ pushes Lau’s complex, yet accessible sound, even further to the outer reaches of folk music whilst retaining all the strengths of the original acoustic trio (Kris Drever Vocals/Guitar, Martin Green Accordion, Aidan O’Rourke Fiddle).

In 2007 their debut album ‘Lightweights and Gentlemen’ mixed original tunes with inspired arrangements of traditional material and rocketed Lau to the fore of the burgeoning new folk scene, soon followed by a staggering onslaught of awards that includes an unprecedented three consecutive wins as Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (2008-2010).

Having dramatically cemented their reputation as a blistering stage act, Lau followed their debut with the much loved ‘Lau Live’ album just a year later. In 2009 came the equally acclaimed ‘Arc Light ‘ with a grander setting that produced a heavily played single (‘Winter Moon’) and an invitation from Mojo Magazine to cover The Beatles ‘Dear Prudence‘ for their ‘White Album’ celebrations.

Cue more awards, triumphant international touring, a proud catalogue of stomping festival appearances, splinter bands, solo recordings and a string of intriguing recent collaborations with rock legend Jack Bruce (Cream), Adem, Karine Polwart and a vast new orchestral work ‘Strange Attractors‘ with composer Brian Irvine and The Northern Sinfonia.

Race The Loser’  features Lau’s best, most universal and significant music yet, the sound of three exceptionally talented friends embracing with open arms yet another new chapter of what has already been an extraordinary musical journey.

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