Monday 27 November 2017


CD Review

Seven Sisters

 Joseph O'Keefe & Cole Stacey 

Duo Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe appear to be going through the process of reinventing the concept album, an idea big in the seventies and very popular with prog rock bands.

However, instead of a single or double album they are spreading their particular style of folk infused music over three EPs of which Seven Sisters is the second instalment.

The thread that binds the albums and, of course, the tunes and songs is the idea of using traditional music from England and Scotland to explore the juxtaposition of urban and rural culture and landscapes.

India Electric Company, as the duo is known collectively, are clever musicians who use their finely honed artistry not just to bring their thoughts to life in the minds of their listeners, but to create a sound and feel of a much bigger outfit. This mirrors the album because although it’s an EP there are more than 25 minutes of music to enjoy.

There are times when they sound akin to the now defunct Bellowhead in full flight. This is the case with the opening track, The Gulley, which is based on a tune from the 17th century with the words drawn from the 18th.

Stacey’s signature breathy style floats across with the sensation of a finger stroking over the soft fur of a rabbit’s paw. O'Keefe’s fiddle machine guns the tune in, which has a definite Latin feel to it with what sounds like a flamenco dancer providing highlights to the rhythm.

The way the pair use drop outs to isolate the voice and harmonising of the fiddle also helps keep the listener on their toes.

This gives way to Take the Buckles which from the opening bars shows its tartan credentials. Stacey has a marshmallow tone to his voice which is very similar in style to Dan Whitehouse, a talented singer/songwriter from the West Midlands.

Dan Whitehouse
Behind the singing O'Keefe provides almost a call and response scenario with his strings which have an innate melancholy as his notes thread between the electronics.

Chaos has a definite urban feel to it and you are almost fooled into thinking they have left the folk strand in the box for this one until O'Keefe earths it with his mountain music style inserts. There is something of the Billy Idol in the mixture which creates the atmosphere of a metropolis.

The enhanced voice of Stacey opens the familiar sounding The Cuckoo’s Nest (My Generous Lover) but its O'Keefe’s sliding fiddle sounds and the precise Spanish style guitar picking which take over your senses. The style and genetics of the song has overtones of Genesis/Phil Collins.

As if to reassure the listener that this music has definite folk credentials they bring a collection of jigs on what is the longest track on the disc. The tunes which include slip jigs feed the inner Morris dancer.

However, as the fiddle trips things along there seems to be some discordance until you realise it’s being accompanied on the piano which strangely enough gives it the feel of being played in a concert hall rather than a village green during festival time.

You can almost hear the whoops and hollers as the tune ups the pace and introduces a fuller sound where now the two instruments introduce a competitive edge.

The album closes with the ballad Flash Company, a tune which will be familiar to many. Stacey’s emotive and breathy tones are back as if to bookend the tracks. This time the piano is used sparingly to create emotional pinpoints almost like tears dropping to the floor.

There are strings and electronic highlights to this song but you wonder as you listen whether it would have more of an emotional impact with just the voice and the keys. It does seem to be gilding the lily somewhat but in no way spoils the track.

The second part of the trilogy
Seven Sisters carries on from EC1M and while comparisons would be odious SS seems infused with more maturity. With this second offering IEC seem more comfortable with a less-is-more approach.

You can tell there has been a great deal of thought exercised in the fusion of their contemporary styling with the traditional tunes and lyrics. 

Once again Stacey and O’Keefe have brought their rural Devonian roots into the urban arena and expressed a respect for both the present and the past, and they have used their considerable talents to create an atmospheric and thoughtful second instalment which leaves you eager for the finale.

Seven Sisters is available now through the band’s website and through downloads and will be officially launched on December 13 at Cecil Sharp House in London.

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