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

The Spine Tingler #4: Erland and the Carnival – Map of an Englishman

Map of an Englishman is the first the new material from Erland and the Carnival’s second album, Nightingale.

Named after a piece of artwork from Grayson Perry, the video is masterfully layered with etched drawings of bodily organs, which shrink and expand over the video to mimick the band’s  tale of  lost love.

Erland Cooper – a folk guitarist and singer from the remote Scottish island of Orkney – has written beautifully simplistic and direct lyrics that tell a story. Initially, this appears to be a whole new direction for the folk ensemble that includes ex-The Verve Simon Tong, and  David Nock, formerly of The Orb and Paul McCartney’s The Fireman. But beneath an unmistakably more heavily produced, deep, and rounded sound, the track is made up of the same nuts and bolts of whirring instruments, plodding rhythms and organs that made the first album such a magical listen.

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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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