Gigspanner unpeel multi-layered second studio album
The long awaited second studio album from Peter’s Knight’s gifted, boundary-blurring Gigspanner will be released on May 11, ahead of a June UK tour.
Few fiddlers can hold a candle to the legendary Peter Knight whose presence has enriched the British music scene for more than four decades.
Since his departure from folk-rock’s iconic Steeleye Span at the end of 2013, Knight has turned his full attentions to the Gigspanner trio where he is joined by brilliant guitarist Roger Flack and inventive percussionist Vincent Salzfaas on congas and djembe, conjuring up a completely distinctive sound.
Sussex-based Flack is a founding member of Celtic rock band The Tabs while Salzfaas, who studied his craft in Senegal and Cuba, brings a multi-cultural dimension to the sound.
Following on from their acclaimed debut album Lipreading the Poet (2009) and the live CD Doors at Eight (2010) this third offering is an illuminating voyage of discovery. From a wellspring of British traditional folk songs and tunes the trio meld startling, eclectic and often hypnotic arrangements that sometimes flirt with jazz and classical cousins.
London-born Knight, who lives in south-west France, is a consummate musician whose career started at an early age when he won a place at the Royal Academy of Music and was immersed in classical music. Migrating from there through the vibrant Irish music scene of Sixties London he was later invited by Ashley Hutchings to join Steeleye Span, securing his place within the annals of British folk music.
Introduced to the art of free improvisation through an encounter with world renowned jazz saxophonist Trevor Watts, on-the-spot invention runs through the Gigspanner sound as they transport audiences on a whistle-stop world tour of melting pot dalliances with Eastern European, French, Cajun, African and even Aboriginal influences.
These diverse influences permeate and peel away genre boundaries as they wend their way through the 9-track Layers Of Ages, produced by Gigspanner and Edward Blakeley, who also contributes bass and banjo on one track.
Knight’s fiddle totally “talks” as it dances, dips and dives through a rich aural tapestry sensitively aided and abetted by Flack and Salzfaas with the master craftsman also featuring on lead vocal and mandolin.
The album starts with the spirited, attention-grabbing song of sororicide ‘Bows Of London’ – a chilling Child ballad with exemplary fiddle playing by Knight before sliding into Gigspanner’s haunting eight minute exploration of the beautiful Irish tune ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ which cascades through tempos and moods.
‘Death And The Lady’ is another singular take on a Broadside ballad focusing on the conversation between a young maiden and the Grim Reaper. Knight’s deep growling bowing sets the scene for this percussively menacing, theatrical rendition with the drumbeats of Salzfaas and the spectacular guitar playing of Flack building to a curling crescendo of sound.
‘Mad Tom of Bedlam’ (set to music by Nic Jones and Dave Moran) is an alarming song about tourist visits to gawp at the inmates of Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane with great vocal harmonies and the disturbing wail of Flack’s guitar.
The mood changes completely to the gyrating Latin dance rhythm introduction of the trad hornpipe ‘King of the Fairies’– a unique take with Knight’s soaring fiddle and top work from Salzfaas as the tempo builds.
Knight’s own composition ‘Louisiana Flack’ brings Cajun influences to the arena with Flack playing “fiddlesticks” on Knight’s violin in a fast and fun romp – always a highlight of their live set.
The pace steadies for the sad and tender traditional song ‘A Week Before Easter’ (also known as ‘The False Bride’) before another gentle Irish song ‘Down By The Salley Gardens’, based on the Yeats poem, with the subtlest of nuances from Knight’s fiddle.
The album, with its knife sharp sound, concludes with a pizzicato opening for the stand-out finale ‘Hard Times of Old England’ – with its perpetually resonating disillusioned lyrics. This final track seems to showcase all facets of this virtuosic trio through myriad styles and textures, from shimmering vibrato to delicate guitar chords, eventually reaching its optimistic conclusion.
Artists’ website: http://www.gigspanner.com/
Layers of Ages is an album that leaves you in no doubt that Gigspanner’s increasingly impressive sound is like no other.