Friday, 19 June 2015

KESTON COBBLERS CLUB

CD Review

Wildfire

You have to listen to this album from the five-piece Keston Cobblers Club, it's a real classy CD. Wildfire is a fantastic amalgam of sounds, music and voices which evokes so many different thoughts and memories none of which, frustratingly, you can specifically put your finger on.

The Keston Cobblers Club
They have managed to produce an album which is both remarkably familiar yet at the same time fresh and surprising.
It's another of those albums which is stretching the boundaries of what may be considered folk but there is something eminently forgivable about this offering.
There are so many flavours in this album it's like being in the world's biggest ice cream emporium and not knowing which end to start, and even worse realising you only have one spoon.
Siblings Matthew and Julia Lowe, Tom Sweet, Bethan Ecclestone and Harry Stasinopoulos have produced something special here.
They are in some ways like a mini version of The Polyphonic Spree and they open the album with Laws which has a gentle piano intro which gives way to a burst of sound before the two Lowes bring their voices to the fore in a song which wouldn't be out of place in a John Lewis advert. It has a haunting quality which is made slightly sinister by the mix of instruments which are weaved together by the rest of the band.
The skipping, throbbing beat of Win Again which is provided by what sounds like a ukulele is underneath the Lowes' distinctive way of singing. Matthew has this real gentle quality where Julia has a mystical, slightly unsettling lilt to her voice but they complement each other perfectly and you can really hear it on this track.
At the end of this song it seems almost to segue into Won't Look Back. It does feel, to a degree, like Win Again Pt II but this time the Lowes' voices seem to take a step back and allow the range of instruments which come from every direction to take over, and while it seems they are fighting for their place it somehow works and ends up with this northern colliery band style sound.
KCC in action
Contrails is where, initially, the band stray away from sounding folkish and mover towards the more commercial. This track does have a certain a flavour of REM and M Lowe's singing style takes on a harsher, raspier sound which is balanced by J Lowe's almost childlike refrains.
This is followed by the title track which comes out of left field with a choral sound which sounds like it would be more at home in Kate Bush's stable. It does stick out a bit like a sore thumb after the other tracks, with it's throbbing beat and electronica sound and could well make you step back and think, 'not sure about this'.
More in keeping with the rest of the album is St Tropez which opens with just voices, not unlike the sound of The Staves. It does have a Latin quality on the underbeat which gives way to a Space Invaders-style bobbling sound and over the top of this are the Lowes' impressive voices and rapid fire lyrics which give it a hypnotic quality.
Half Full is a lovely ballad where M Lowe really lets his voice off the leash and shows not just his range but his ability to switch his voice to make a range of diverse sounds. To add to this,  J Lowe's gently harmonising gives it an eerie quality. The guitar interlude is a nice touch and carries the tune along at a pace which stops you getting bored. Probably the best track on the album is Once Had. The two Lowes seem to be having fun with this ballad, even with the incisive and rapid-fire lyrics you can't help but bob along to the light tune which belies the strength of the words. The more the song goes on the more it sounds like something from Nizlopi's playlist. It's one of those songs you listen to just to see if you can keep pace with the lyrics.
The new album Wildfire
There is something reassuring and seemingly innocent about Longer Than Gone. It has that rapid fire lyrics which seem to be something of a trademark of the Lowes. The tune seems to have its roots in a sixties-style musical while still paying homage to its orchestral leanings. It's quite a complex and thoroughly intriguing track with the constant of the uke keeping it all together. Of Alarms is simply bizarre, starting with birdsong then going into something of the sound of a travelling sideshow. J Lowe shows a deeper almost darker quality to her singing which adds gravitas to what is essentially a lighthearted piece of music.
The Lowes' voices are the star of Sober, they could probably have done this a Capella because the instrumental part is kept very understated and once again you get that haunting quality from J Lowe's voice in what is an ethereal and fascinating track.
The last track, The Mad, pretty much sums up what KCC are about, with that eclectic blend of music balanced by the Lowes' voices which have the legendary qualities of the chameleon, changing hue at will and adding a different colour and perspective to every track.
For an album which is as intricate as this, it's very easy on the ear and KCC have produced an extremely enjoyable album which folk fans could get on board with but which covers a much wider range than one genre could hope to contain.