Sunday, 25 May 2008

Nightshift Review!

We had a lovely time at the Wood festival which was small but perfectly formed - fingers crossed it will happen again next year. Robin, one of the organisers, said that singing along to our song, 'Wood', was one of the highlights.

And then we got home and found this review of Untie the Wind in Nightshift, Oxford's very own music monthly. Yup, we is chuffed:

Telling the Bees - Untie the Wind

We’ve been sent some funny gifts by bands in our time but never a large ginger beard. But having suggested they might be a bit ‘too beardy’ for us synth-pop kids before we reviewed their demo a couple of months back, Telling the Bees have furnished us with the sort of facial decoration we’ll need to make it all the way through their debut album. But what do you expect from a band who name themselves after the old folk tradition of informing the family beehive of any significant events, lest they get upset and fly away? Old, folk and tradition being the key words there, since ‘Untie the Wind’ is steeped in English folk music’s ancient traditions.

English folk music is enjoying its biggest renaissance since the late-60s at the moment and Telling the Bees are indicative of why. Formed by local luminaries Andy Letcher, Colin Fletcher, Jane Griffiths and Josie Webber, here they rejuvenate old world sounds with a fresh, spiky approach that means they tap into the form’s bucolic roots while lending an ear to more contemporary sounds, in this case everything from John Cale to Nick Cave (two men unafraid to sport the odd bit of facial hair when duty called).

Andy’s voice is a full, rounded tenor and carries the hushed, atmospheric melodies with understated power, allowing Jane and Josie’s string arrangements to really fly, notably on the soaring album opener, ‘Waiting for the Dawn’ and the intense, poetic ‘The Worship of Trees’. Only on the rather trite ‘Telling the Bees’ itself does Andy’s voice falter, dropping into that nasal twang that can get English folk music a bad name. Straight away, though, he’s making amends with the gorgeous solemnity of ‘Beautiful’, a close relation to Seth Lakeman’s Devon gothic storytelling (perhaps not unsurprising given that Andy grew up in the West Country). The album’s high point, though, comes almost at its close with the title track ‘Untie the Wind’ exposing the power of Jane Griffith’s fiddle playing as she comes close to matching the Bad Seeds’ Warren Ellis’ darkly atmospheric scraping. Two border pipe-led instrumentals offer a different perspective on TTB’s sound, and it’s telling that all the songs here are originals.

Like all good traditional folk, ‘Untie the Wind’ accepts modern life in without surrendering its old world appeal. Telling the Bees might recall a far off place, but one that’s still very much alive. Can I take this beard off now? It itches like hell!

Ian Chesterton

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