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Future Folk: Friendly Faces; Different Spaces review – a celebration of DIY digital music-making

·2-min read

A slow movement offers a break in the pace of a sonata or symphony, a time to pause and reflect. This idea hovers around this feather-soft, psych-flavoured anthology of contemporary folk artists, as does the growing social yearning towards a less frenetic, more meaningful connection to the planet and the people around us. All this idealism may sound very analogue, but Future Folk is a celebration of DIY digital music-making, and how the internet enables communality (the Portuguese label, for environmental reasons, is digital-only). The album consists of 13 intimate tracks made in homespun studios or via remote online collaborations, jumbling together traditional songs and instrumentals with experimental approaches and productions.

Medieval ballad, Sir Orfeo, kicks things off, sung by Herefordshire duo Alula Down. The buzzing drone of a harmonium and a skittish double bass invite menace to this tale of a king hunting down his wife, then uncanny ambient instrumentals and vocal-led miniatures follow. Layers of drowsy atmospheres often part to reveal moments of light. Some tracks lean towards more traditional sounds, such as Ben McElroy’s The Silence Has Spoken: its sunrise-dappled drones soon open out into a soothing parade of fiddle and accordion. Scott William Urquhart’s Pastoral paddles downstream of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Elsewhere, the Howard Hughes Suite and Geir Sundstøl’s Afterglow bends shimmery pedal steel into almost Balearic soundscapes, and El Conejo’s Tres Tigres Tristes pans its delicate guitar strings so subtly from left to right, you feel like you’re being lapped at by lazy waters. These songs creep up on you, especially Pete Thompson’s jittery This Is a Robbery and Me Lost Me’s Nightingale, an arresting a cappella duet with her synthesised double. It crystallises the collection’s peculiar mood, stripping folk back to its bones while letting its future echoes bleed out.

Also out this month

Teyr’s Estren (Sleight of Hand) is a lively, intriguing mix of Cornish, Basque and Finnish styles (La Bestia and Kuusilta are particularly gorgeous). New Scottish collective Staran’s self-titled debut album (self-released) is another lush, richly textured delight, with mandolins and pianos creating a resonant world against which Gaelic singer Kim Carnie’s voice and Jack Smedley’s heartbreaking fiddle take flight. Christina Alden and Alex Patterson’s Hunter (self-released) is more conventional, a bright, lively collection of songs that plays so sweetly it evokes the sensation of a summer folk festival.

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