FLOOK – Ancora (Flatfish 006)

Ancora“Ancora impara” said Michaelangelo, aged 82, and I probably don’t need to tell you that means “I am always learning”.  [I suspect you might – Ed.] That’s something that Flook have taken on board with their first album since Haven in 2005. Flook didn’t go away in those 14 years, playing festivals, live shows and tours so why the lack of studio material? As Brian Finnegan says, “We…took a break in 2008, followed our hearts and instincts and went our separate ways; had kids, got hitched, loved, lost, explored the musical world…” Now they’re back with a Ancora, an album that shows that even iconic bands don’t rest on their laurels but continue to look for the new. This album will delight their many fans, attract new ones and be listened to by anyone who loves tradition as played by four experts.

Flook formed over 20 years ago, winning Best Band at the BBC Folk Awards in 2006 and at their heart still retain original flute and pipers Sarah Allen and Brian Finnegan, now joined by Ed Boyd (guitar, piano) and John Joe Kelly (bodhran). As well as the band the album includes a who’s who of guest musicians including Phil Cunningham, Philip Henry, Patsy Reid and Niall Murphy. There’s even Mark Tucker playing the theramin. The quality shines through and every track, none traditional, on the album is spot on. Hang on, didn’t I say the traditionalists will love it? Yes, I did because tradition doesn’t just mean it has to have been around for years. The 12 tracks on the album are formed from twenty tunes of which the majority are written by Allen and Finnegan but they also use works of contemporaries such as Jarleth Henderson, Sam Lakeman and John McSherry. It’s a living, breathing tradition.

The overall impression of the album is quality musicianship. The playing is precise and tight, they make it sound all very easy and natural, with the music flowing seamlessly. As an album of purely instrumental work it gives you, as the listener, a choice of dipping in and out or listening straight through. I’ve found it ideal to put into the car stereo for the trip to work, it has a running time of just under 50 minutes, and arriving in a much better frame of mind than I would normally do. Opening the album are two tunes by Finnegan; ‘Reel For Rubik’ and ‘Toward The Sun’. As expected the flutes dominate but the piece moves up through tempo and intensity and introducing the other instrumentalists.

This change in pace and style is common throughout the album, but never becomes rollicking. Probably my favourite piece, although a difficult choice to make, is Allen’s ‘Companion Star’ which is absolutely beautiful. It flows so well, at a gentle pace, and it’s very easy to imagine oneself on a boat just drifting along following that star. The segue into ‘Coral Castle’, co-written by Finnegan and Ashley Broder lifts the pace and introduces further instruments but again the title fits the piece, and anyone who has dived a coral reef will recognise the rhythm of life within it. .
I could easily have chosen ‘Turquoise Girl’ as another favourite track. This is a set of four tunes by four different composers, again flowing smoothly, with a faster pace that certainly gets the toes tapping. I can imagine it going down very well during a live performance.

This is certainly an album you should buy, a milestone from an iconic band, and get it now so that you can say you had it before the inevitable awards come along, because it will gain many Instrumental Album of the Year plaudits if there’s any justice in the world.

The album will be released on April 12th but is available to pre-order now through the website. Alternatively I’m certain it will be available at live shows and Flook will be taking it on tour throughout 2019, covering most of the country from Findhorn to Sidmouth.

Tony Birch

Artists’ website: https://flook.co.uk/

‘Reel For Rubik/Unto The Sun’ – live:

Flook return with new album after fourteen years

Flook

On 12 April 2019, due to overwhelming popular demand, the legendary folk band Flook are finally to release a new album.  Coming after a gap of fourteen years, Ancora will be released through Cadiz Music on CD and digital formats. Despite the recording hiatus between their third studio album and Ancora, in recent years Flook have played occasional live shows, including short tours of Ireland,, Japan and Germany as well as festival shows, and they will undertake a seventeen-date tour of England and Wales in April and May 2019.

With the flutes and whistles of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly, the iconic band Flook weaves and spins traditionally rooted tunes into an enthralling sound – with agile but tight rhythms and virtuoso improvisation. Flook possesses a rare blend of fiery technical brilliance, delicate ensemble interaction and a bold, adventurous musical imagination.

Formed over 20 years ago by four friends, Flook burst onto the international music scene with their debut studio album, Flatfish.  The band had a remarkably successful performing and recording career – the sheer enjoyment of playing together shone through their albums. But it was their live performances that really captured the hearts of those who watched and listened.

Brian Finnegan said, “Way back in 2005 when we released our 3rd studio album Haven, little did we know that it would be our last for almost a decade and a half.  We took a break in 2008, followed our hearts and instincts and went our separate ways; had kids, got hitched, loved, lost, explored the musical world post-Flook.

But when Flook came calling again in 2013, so the voltage returned and like all deep friendships it felt like we’d never been apart. Part of the decision to re-group was the understanding that we had much left to say as a band, and a certain responsibility to our loyal fans, old and new, to create Flook music of the present, rich in both past and future.

The imagery associated with the meaning of Ancora is abundant indeed. It is the Latin word for anchor, be that to the seabed or in the kith and kin of our lives.  It also means ‘hope’ and ‘again’. The great Italian master Michelangelo was attributed as saying “Ancora Impara” on his 87th birthday, meaning “I am ever learning”. This resonated in us and was present throughout the process of recording Ancora.  So, deeper in we go. Thanks for listening.”

Having won ‘Best Band’ at BBC Folk Awards 2006, there is no shortage of virtuosity amongst the members of Flook, but the unique impact of this sensational Anglo-Irish group stems from the wholly intuitive, almost symbiotic, exchange between the various flutes, frets and skins. Ancora marks a return after too long away, but also a continuation.

Artists’ website: https://flook.co.uk/

‘Sharig’ – live:

The Waterboys – An Appointment with Mr. Yeats

‘An Appointment with Mr Yeats’ sees the words of W B Yeats, one of Ireland’s greatest literary sons, merged with the music of The Waterboys, one of Britain and Ireland’s greatest rock bands, in a truly unique and ambitious musical undertaking. The album features an extended Waterboys line-up including fiddle maestro Steve Wickham, new Irish singer Katie Kim, multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John, Flook flautist Sarah Allen and Catalan trombonist Blaise Margail. ‘An Appointment with Mr Years’ draws on fourteen of Yeats’ poems, spanning both famous and lesser known works, from the wry to the romantic, the political to the mythological, all invigorated with the energy and exuberance of The Waterboys.

The project has long been a passion for Waterboys vocalist Mike Scott, who first delivered a new dimension to Yeats’ poetry in 1988, when he wrote a musical accompaniment for the classic poem The Stolen Child, during the making of the Waterboys seminal album ‘Fisherman’s Blues’.

Five years later he set another Yeats poem to music, Love and Death, which appeared on their ‘Dream Harder’ album. Over the years, Scott has been quietly crafting a wealth of material similarly based on the writings of Yeats. A number of these were performed by him at the Abbey Theatre during the Yeats International Festival in 1991, but most have remained in Scott’s private songbook awaiting the right vehicle. An Appointment with Mr. Yeats is that long-awaited context.

Scott’s love of literature is firmly embedded throughout the work of The Waterboys. He has also put the writings of Robert Burns, James Stephens, Kenneth Grahame and George MacDonald to song. Speaking on his literary influences and loves, Scott explains: “I grew up in a house full of books so literature and language have always been important to me. Working with other peoples’ words is something that comes as natural to me as working with my own. In a way it’s even more immediate; I’ve always found writing music an easier process than the writing of lyrics, and setting words of the quality of Yeats’ to music is an enormous privilege and treat.”

An Appointment with Mr. Yeats is a unique and memorable opportunity for lovers of great music and great literature to celebrate the union of song and word in one spectacular record.

See the website for more details: http://www.mikescottwaterboys.com/

Flook – Flatfish

FLOOK FLATFISHOrginal folking.com Posting date – 17-May-2001

Flook are like a well-oiled machine, with the many parts working in harmonious precision. Driving the sound is the flute interplay of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, supported by the deft rhythm section of guitar and bodhran. ‘Flatfish’ is full of vitality and energy, from the outset the track ‘Calico’ sets the scene with it’s flutey fruity antics. ‘Eb reels’ moves the sound into overdrive, with a frantic cascade of intricate flute parts. Slower and more reflective moods are captured in ‘The Gentle Giant’ and ‘Flatfish’. ‘Happy Jigs’ is uplifting and sprightly, while ‘Flutopia’ is a rich cornucopia of European styles which twist and turn at every corner. This album’s unique flute based sound gives it a cutting edge, which holds your attention from start to finish.

folkmaster@folking.com

Artist web link – http://www.flook.co.uk