Friday, 23 October 2015

FATE THE JUGGLER / OKA VANGA

CD Reviews

Set in Stone

The intriguingly named Fate the Juggler are one of the bands who is on the fringe of folk music and who occasionally put both feet in the camp, sometimes just one foot and at the odd time just dip a toe into the genre.

Fate the Juggler
They do produce an eclectic mix of sounds and this EP is a pretty good introduction to the band's range.
This said they come straight at you with the blues with the opener Love Won't Wait, it sounds like it's going to be more of a rock track with Rob Spiers providing the crackling lyrics but it does settle in and mellow out to the blues.
Spiers is again behind the title track which is more recognisably acoustic.
It is a pretty cool atmospheric tune with the haunting percussion and flute gently floating in and out to add to the layers which does have the vocal feel of Polyphonic Spree. Walls Come Tumbling Down could easily have come from the Britpop era, caught somewhere between the faux battle of Oasis and Blur FTJ could have found a definite following with this track. Dan Masters takes over with Lies(You Tell Yourself), it has an opening reminiscent of a Pink Floyd track but the gentle ballad is pretty cool and picks up nicely with a travelling percussion beat.
The final track is another from Spiers. Her Auburn Hair has more of the blue collar sound made prominent by Bruce Springsteen. It has that definite country twang to it but then cracks the whip and we move more into hill billy country. It's a real toetapper of a track with the gobiron giving it a nice layer.
FTJ have only been in existence for five years and there is the distinct possibility they are going to be jumping between musical styles to avoid being pigeonholed but at the same time you get the feeling the Kent outfit is going to be popping up on the folk/acoustic circuit quite a bit.

Set In Stone is available now from the band's website and via the usual download sites.

The Tales of Eyam

Oka Vanga

This EP is the follow up to Angela Meyer and William Cox's virtuoso performances on their album Pilgrim.

The richly decorated EP
It's worth getting hold of it just for the artwork which is a cross between The Lord of the Rings and an Oliver Postgate production.
The big question of course is why did Meyer wait so long to get her voice down on disc, which is what distinguishes this collection from the last.
In one sense this is a concept record with all the tracks inspired or about the history and folklore of the Derbyshire village of the title which was struck by the plague in the 17th century.
It is a gorgeous album, in fact it's more of a musical story book. Meyer has a lovely, gentle voice soft as a
 wind borne feather and as emotionally loaded as two new lovers. Add to this their incredible gift on the guitars and you have something special.
Song of the Dell introduces you to the characters and the village which eventually becomes isolated and quarantined due to the rampant disease.
The Witching Hour is one of those songs which makes you realise why you listen to folk music. It has the story of the people trying to cope with the plague using everything from herblore to prayer to try to stave off the effects.
Meyer and Cox create this light but ever so sinister almost dance macabre that is both mesmerising and frightening. 'Til the End introduces one of the two lovers who are at the centre of their storytelling.
Emmott Sydle is the woman who is trapped in the village and dangerously meets with her lover Rowland Torre. Meyer again conveys the emotion of the characters through her lovely gentle singing.
Beyond This Life is almost the refrain to the previous track and has a European flavour to the style which begins in brooding almost Latin style before going into a much lighter rhythm.
The final track is Out of the Shadows where you are left to assume this is where the village finally gets the all clear, but too late for the lovers and too late for most of the small population. But with the duo going back to an instrumental they convey the lifting of the darkness and growing optimism of those left to rebuild their lives.
Oka Vanga are superb musicians and now they have added the lovely tones of Meyer to their musical armoury, which leaves the one question why on earth did they only do an EP when a full album of music and songs of this quality and depth would have been so very welcome.

Tales of Eyam is available now through the band's website.