18 May 2020 (gig)
18 May 2020
I reviewed the new album from Lunatraktors ‘This Is Broken Folk’ back in October last year and one of the more interesting albums it was too.
Lunatraktors are a couple of ‘musicians’ (so quoted because their skills are way outside the normal range that you would expect): Carli Jefferson, who is an accomplished percussionist & tap dancer and the haunting overtones of trans folk singer Clair Le Couteur who has a four octave range.
Their music is sparse and stripped of all unnecessary fripperies, based around percussive backing to Le Couteur’s vocals.
From the moment I heard their album I wanted to see them live and, due to the lockdown, this is the best chance I have had since then.
I have seen dozens of ‘live’ performances during the lockdown but Lunatraktors managed to take the limitations of social distancing and isolation away and presented a performance that I think would be very close to their normal live performance.
The first two numbers were from the ‘… Broken Folk’ album, both about Australian Rangers and both showing exactly why their vision of folk music with bare bones percussion against stylised vocals is just so strong. Jefferson’s tap dancing accompaniment on ‘Jack Donahue’ was unexpected but excellent.
To follow that up with Marie Lloyd’s ‘The Boy In The Gallery’ was bold, especially pointing out that it was actually a song about cross-dressing in Victorian times.
‘The Unquiet Grave’ featuring Clair on recorder and ‘Cynthia’ the synth was chilling – it should appear on the next album, hopefully this autumn, and definitely shows them as developing their sound.
Possibly the most soulful number was ‘The Keening Of The Three Marys’ translated from the Irish and featuring keening, a pre-Christian mourning tradition that sounds remarkably like music from the deserts of Africa. Sad and slow but loaded with dark emotion and feelings.
Most surprising number was definitely ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ done in their Broken Folk style and sounding positively bizarre, but the absolute standout number was ‘Tale Of The Shirt’ – a dreadful poem from the 18th century about the rigours of being a seamstress which was later taken up by the nascent union movements and put to music here in an absolutely chilling rendition.
One of the least ordinary bands I’ve heard in a couple of years, I strongly recommend seeing them if you get the chance – they really are special.