The Imagined Village
Bending The Dark
added: 31 May 2012
// release date: 14 May 2012 // label: ECC Records
reviewer: David Spencer
This third album from alternative folk ‘super group’ Bending The Dark lures newcomers into a false sense of security with opening a capella Captain’s Apprentice, as Jackie Oates opens with a typically ghostly story about sailing. It could not be more folk if it tried. But New York Trader’s gently rhythmic opening then begins to return the band to the territory they have impressively trodden before.
Founded by Afro Celt Sound System’s Simon Emmerson in 2004 as an experiment, Bending The Dark started by re-working traditional songs with a modern feel, but have now moved to writing their own material. The brave step means they remove the attachment some people will have with the old folk songs that were being reinvented and the new songs fit well with this unique sound.
However on New York Trader’s haunting tale of the curse that bestows a ship’s captain if he’s committed murder, the band do not really get going and the six minutes begins to sound repetitive. Much more engaging is the extraordinary The Guvna, where the streets of Dublin and Delhi begin to entwine in an entrancing mix of Celtic and Indian rhythms. Sheema Mukherjee’s sitar lending a spicy flavour to a thumping beat. It would be perfect on a hot Glastonbury afternoon.
Less alternative are the excellent Winter Singing and Nest, which both have a much clearer connection with folk DNA. The latter's fixation with nature underlining that idea in a sublime blending of Martin Carthy’s vocal with Oates’, on a song apparently about parental paranoia and the internet.
Throughout there is gorgeous instrumentation, from the likes of Barney Morse Brown’s cello and Eliza Carthy and Oates’ fiddles (particularly on the grand finale that is the 12 minute title track), while a horn section of Fisherman, gives the music a hint of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother opus in a sweeping reflection of northern heritage. The terrifically named The Imagined Village have come up with another splendid example of how mixing folk with modern ideas really can work. Only when done this well one imagines though.
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