With one foot in Bristol and the other in Japan, UK folk artist Rachael Dadd isn’t one to settle in any place for too long, and her latest release Bite the Mountain certainly reflects this love of people and travel.
Released on Broken Sound Records this third LP from the songstress comprises a rich tapestry of songs composed in various locations across Japan. “Making my album in Japan was important”, she states. “During my time there I’ve made important musical friends who’ve had a great influence,” and so as such this patchwork recorded album reflects her approach to life – a collection of observations on locations and situations as she moves from place to place and shore to shore.
Intertwining her love of Japan and her musicial style, which couples elements of traditional as well as contemporary folk and minimal composition, Bite the Mountain features input from fellow Bristol folk artist Rozi Plain, Japanese composer Aki Tsuyuko and experimental Japanese musician Ichi. Indeed a great deal of the 14-track LP toys with percussive elements, and minimal sound that is fleshed out layer upon layer in a truely organic and original manner. In ‘Rice Triangle’ you can hear the quaint clipping of chopsticks and the clinking of china, while ‘Claw and Tooth’ introduces woody brass sounds not so prominent on Moth in the Motor.
What is perhaps most striking about the sound and feel of this material is its oscillating familiarity and foreign otherworldliness. Dadd’s annunciation and phrasings are the mark of someone travelled, someone at home in two places at once. One might note the album artwork comprises old sea charts of her father’s shredded with scraps of Japanese newspaper to create a collage of a mountain range. It’s a type of bricolage which parallels with her musical meshing of genres. This familiar, traditional folk sound blooms over the course of the album and is so well crafted in its intricies, in its combined use of steel pans, hushed harmonies and song structures that it creates a feeling of calm and a sense of precision and ritual in what feels a very Naturalistic approach to songmaking. Organic, rich and warm it recalls Joni Mitchell in places, while there is something quite progressive in Dadd’s command of her instruments and their players to experiment with sound in a way that is always humbled and self assured.
Rachael played Cafe Oto on Saturday night to launch the album’s release. A beautiful gig in a perfect setting she gained helping hands from Ichi on the steel pan amongst other instruments, and who too played his own set of eccentric one-man band loop pedalling, magical mayhem. Kate Stables of This is the Kit, and one half of Dadd’s side project Whalebone Polly, offered vocal and instrumental assistance alongside fellow Bristol songwriter Rozi Plain. Rachael also made great use of the grand piano in the North London venue, with Moth and the Motor track ‘Table’ a standout of the evening.