YULATRAKTORS – Solstice Wyrd (own label)

Solstice WyrdI am developing a theory and it is this. The worse the world’s situation gets the more people look to celebrations as an anchorage, particularly in the dark days of winter: Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Saturnalia, whatever. I can think of no better reason for Lunatraktors sorry, Yulatraktors to release a Christmas/winter festival album. Lunatraktors are not a conventional band and Solstice Wyrd is not a conventional album, being released on the eve of the festival of the Christian martyr St. Lucy. There are thirteen titles on the album but, and this is an important but, it is designed as one continuous piece of music.

It begins with ‘Brightly Shone The Moon’, all tinkling bells, subterranean bass and percussion with indistinct vocals by Clair Le Couteur, typical Lunatraktors sound in fact. This leads into ‘Lully Lullay’ and you understand why Solstice Wyrd should be listened to as a continuous piece. It is one of the darkest carols heralding, as it does, the Massacre of the Innocents and Clair and Carli Jefferson explore every depth. At this point individual titles cease to matter all that much. ‘Field, Fountain, Moor, Mountain’ clearly derives from ‘We Three Kings’ but then you’re rather cast adrift as the music swirls past. I swear that there are a few notes from ‘My Favourite Things’ in there and I do think that ‘Most Highly Flavoured Gravy’ requires some explanation.

‘Remember The Poor’ returns to a conventional song structure but the final two tracks, ‘When We Were Gone Astray’ and ‘Once Again As In Olden Times’ both take off in flights of fancy. To confuse things further, the radio edits that Yulatraktors supplied include an older track, ‘Holly & Ivy’ – a more typical interpretation by the band’s standards – which doesn’t actually appear in the main composition. It is certainly more radio-friendly than a lot of Solstice Wyrd but it feels a bit like cheating.

Now I think that I must revise my theory. What Yultraktors have done is taken the darkest elements of the Christmas narrative, the parts we don’t talk to the kids about, put them together and emphasised them. Even ‘Remember The Poor’ serves to remind us that not everyone enjoys the happy family Christmas that we see in the adverts. Actually, it’s my kind of Christmas.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://www.lunatraktors.space/

‘Holly & Ivy’ – official video: