Duotone’s debut Work Harder and One Day You’ll Find Her is the work of Barney Morse-Brown; best known for his work with The Imagined Village. The collection of eight tracks incorporate layered vocals and looped string arrangements over which it is ultimately the cello that conducts and controls the ebb and flow of these atmospheric pieces.
A sought after session musician on the folk circuit Brown moved away from his studies at the Royal College of Music, Oxford to work on solo projects – teaching himself the guitar and recording songs. Asked by Simon Emmerson to work with the prestigious Imagined Village in 2006 he quickly became the band’s permanent cellist. Melding folk with more culturally varied instruments and shaping lyrics to fit contemporary issues he stated he learnt much from the experiences with the band; qualities which are notable in his solo work. Track “Pray for Me“, with a fast paced instrumental opening and a Spanish vibe is a standout and feels like one that has adopted and adapted the styles which he has gained from his vast catalogue of experience. Whereas “Finally Unwoven” as the only instrumental on the album shows his talent can stand alone.
Work Harder and One Day You’ll Find Her is very much an album in which the instrumentation takes flight and speaks louder than the lyrics. Referring to his live and session experience he finds “it’s not enough to sit with a cello and expect [the audience] to listen to what you dish out”, and his layered string arrangements and vocals are certainly a testament to this. They lend him the ability to become more progressive in his musicianship; branching out from the baroque he studied at college to European inspired pieces, ultimately revamping the traditional folk form lending it a contemporary and diverse slant.
The album greatly conveys the ambivalent feelings of strength and security with worry and weakness. The layered cello’s warm timbre is shaken by the violin’s trembling vibrato which is finally matched with Brown’s vocals of an often timid, elegiac tone. There is a sense of isolation which quietly makes itself known, more so in what isn’t vocally articulated than in what is. This tentativeness is present on the title track, “Work Harder” with its air of optimism contrasted with the pessimism of the atmospheric music permeating the album.
Certainly a record with more going on under the surface than an initial listen will convey. It is both quietly thought-provoking and tenderly constructed.
The album came out originally in a limited run of 1,000 CD’s in November 2009, its now due a full release via ECC / Proper in September 2010 and Duotone will be opening for The Imagined Village and playing a series of headline shows.
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