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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Erland and the Carnival: Nightingale – album review

Erland and the Carnival - Nightingale

Folk – in its most traditional form – can be a bit of a marmite genre. But Erland & The Carnival feel like a band who, irrespective of preference, create songs that show how objectively good they are at their craft.

That is what made the band’s self titled album from 2010 such a compelling listen – and Nightingale follows on from where it left off. This time though, instead of lovingly refurbishing folkloric songs and poems, these thoroughly British gents have written their own material from scratch. And while some of it retreads unnecessary ground from the debut, there are new moments of freakish wizardry and enchantment in their music.

The band are Erland Cooper – a folk guitarist and singer from the remote Scottish island of Orkney, ex The Verve, Blur and The Good, The Bad and The Queen guitarist, Simon Tong, plus dummer, David Nock, formerly of The Orb and Paul McCartney‘s The Fireman.

Map Of An Englishman is the first foray into a heavier and more produced sound, and is one of the band’s best tracks to date. Named after a piece of artwork from Grayson Perry, beneath its unfamiliar surface lies the characteristic nuts and bolts of whirring Wurlitzers and plodding rhythms, delivered upon a glorious musical wave that’s quite easy to be swept away upon.

If The Coral were the brothers of Frankenstein ‘s monster, they would probably have come up with something as weird and wonderful as Emmeline, complete with its horror house crescendo. And sixties influences from The Doors on I’m Not Really Here are so bold that you’d half expect to find their smudged fingerprints over the instruments.

In Nightingale, Erland & The Carnival take an Alice In Wonderland journey, delving into the curious, from dreamlike, to dark, nightmarish moments. I Wish I Wish is as wispy as it is odd, playing with rhythm to give the track an impossible sounding complexity that dances against the simplicity of the storytelling. Maddening Donnie Darko moments surface on Springtime and there’s also room for kaleidoscope Sergeant Pepper and marching bands on Wealldie.

The band say they recorded the album in the bowels of a ship moored on the Thames. Cabin fever aside, the heart wrenching love stories of Nightingale and East & West must have benefitted from solitary confinement, as the loss sounds all the more beautiful, especially in its stripped down state.

The latter end of the album palpably strays too far into obscurity – too far, that is, except for The Trees They Grow So High, which is wonderfully obscure. Like the present you hadn’t noticed behind the tree on Boxing Day, it comes as a bolt out of the blue with acid trippy lyrics, mixed with shoegazey folk that isn’t afraid to flirt with an experimental electronica beat.

Nightingale has a definite progression in sound from the debut – it’s darker, more varied, and more surreal. Whether the one is better than the other feels like a moot point for this band; the earlier was an exercise in lovingly bringing to life forgotten folk verses, yet this new offering had entirely different parameters in starting from scratch. In fact it’s this that makes Nightingale such a majestic, natural step, by virtue of the fact that while it’s so complex and accessible, it’s the genuine article.

Reviewed for MusicOMH

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Erland and the Carnival: Erland and the Carnival – album review

Just found this in my documents and can’t believe I didn’t put it up earlier in the year. So here goes – a belated Erland and the Carnival review!

Erland and the Carnival

If you were selecting three musicians to sensitively refurbish and bring to life old folk songs and poems from dusty bookshelves and vinyl collections, you would probably chose the three that make up Erland and The Carnival.

Erland Cooper, a folk guitarist and singer from the remote Scottish island of Orkney, has a reverence for the genre which is necessary to keep this collection of songs true to their roots. With a CV including The Verve, Blur and The Good, The Bad and The Queen, guitarist, Simon Tong, offers a respectable balance between creativity and traditional guitar-based indie rock. And dummer, David Nock, formerly of The Orb and Paul McCarney’s The Fireman, bridges the decade gap enough so as not to impose anything too conceptual for the sensitivity this album requires.

Erland and the Carnival is an album full of samples turned into contemporary folk. Yes, it is a collection of classic English and Scottish folk songs and poems rearranged and revamped. But more than that, it is an exercise in researching and digging up semi-forgotten verses to breathe new life into them.

There are touches of The Coral on Love Is A Killing Thing, whilst northern soul, echoes of the Beatles and Mancunian guitars feature sporadically throughout the rest of the album. Military two-steps also gallop throughout the entire record, with heavy twinges of Western and The Last Shadow Puppets, most noticeable on My Name Is Carnival, The Derby Ram, Everything Came Too Easy and You Don’t Have To Be Lonely.

Leonard Cohen’s poem is reworked on Disturbed This Morning, but the star of the collection is the loop onto which William Blake’s poem, On The Echoing Green is carefully double stitched. It leaves you paralysed for three-and-a-half minutes.

The whole album has a haunting sound deeply rooted in folk, which is why the original songs and verses avoid sounding too rehashed. On every level this complex record packs traditional drums, psychedelic organs and the tale-telling vocals of Erland.

It’s not as though Erland and The Carnival immediately drags you in and does something revolutionary to your musical preferences. But it feels like a record which should be genuinely appreciated, because it does for folk what an archaeological dig does for unearthing forgotten gems. It is enchanting and freakish and makes the genre accessible without being mainstream, psychedelic but not loud and trippy, and thoroughly other-wordly, yet unmistakably British.

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