published: 24 /
In a double edition of 'Under the Radar Keith How discovers two rather special releases by two very talented women artists from different ends of the “new folk“ spectrum, both equally beautiful and beguiling.
Alison Cotton Only Darkness Now (Cardinal Fuzz)
'Only Darkness Now' arrived on a quiet misty morning; a day full of intrigue. The mist hangs in the trees. Crows croak in the distance hidden from view. Nothing is moving.
It turns out that this lovely album is steeped in a similar mystery.
'Darkness' finds Alison Cotton's voice intertwining with viola drones and perhaps a quietly plucked banjo. The effect is a beautiful stark sadness that somehow not only intrigues and mystifies but draws the listener into an otherworldly place.
'Behind the Spiderweb Gate' is 20 minutes long and quietly shimmers in shades and muted tones of grey that gently bring a sense of quiet melancholy to the listener. Layers of sound provide a pathway through the strange landscape the five tracks on the album creates. It closes with a beautiful rendition of Dorothy Carter's 'Shirt of Lace'. This record feels "old" but is thoroughly in keeping with the times we live in. Perhaps, you could see it as the music of our resurrection from the dark months we are wading through – a lamentation for our times.
Alison Cotton is half of the legendary Left Outsides who recently released a lathe cut single 'As Night Falls' on the Sonido Polifonico label.
Jenny Sturgeon The Living Mountain Hudson Records
'The Living Mountain' is inspired by the book of the same name written by Nan Shepherd. This classic of nature writing describes journeys in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland. The twelve tracks here reflect the twelve chapters in the book and are captivating and enchanting.
On this gentle and beautiful record, Sturgeon captures the very essence of the bleak and magnificent mountains. Thankfully, the production is spacious and open, allowing the simple instrumentation to magnify Sturgeon's haunting vocal delivery and lyrics that include two of Shepherd's poems. Songs such as 'Air and Light' are intimate and thoughtful, capturing the sense of inspiration that the natural world gives us. The created imagery is enhanced by field recordings (snipe, plovers, red deer) found on 'Birds, Animals, Insects' while the closing track 'Being' is a hypnotic piano-led hymn of beauty. 'The Living Mountain' is not only a treasure; it is an exquisite celebration of the natural world guaranteed to still the troubled breast and reveal the wonders of nature. A fine album.