The Forest of Arden is much changed since Shakespeare used it as an inspiration and a setting for As You Like It. Deforestation and urban sprawl has accounted for much of its wildness. To the north of the region the village of Keresley is in danger of being overtaken by the outward growth of Coventry. But if the new record by Canadian avant-jazzer Doug Tielli is anything to go by, the place must retain still have some of its old magic.
In the unlikeliest combination of person and place since Katie Melua recorded a concert 300 metres under the sea, Tielli found himself stranded in the Midlands after missing a flight to Toronto. Despite the torrential rain, he liked it so much he stayed for two months and wrote an album.
The result is not necessarily what you would expect. Floppy, bendy jazz and John Martyn-inspired blues-folk is the order of the day on first track Water Falls, until an a capella mid-section where Tielli’s soaring voice is brought back to earth by heartbeat percussion. Milo is a short, prettily-strummed folk song full of yearning. Tielli’s avant-garde leanings come to the fore in Oak, a ten-minute meditative tale that builds to a clattering rainstorm of drums and electric guitar.
Earthily poetic vignettes like Big Man Of The Underbrush rub shoulders with snippets of utterly modern abstraction, African rhythm and melodic acoustic guitar. The occasional buzzes and bleeps that Tielli elicits from his guitar are scattered across the album sit gently on the prevailing warmth of the sound. Lovelovelove, the record’s strangest moment, sees a multitracked Tielli improvising scatty vocals over warped strums, throbbing drums and squally horns. When it gives way to finale A Dream That I Am – a 50s-influenced singalong played admirably straight – you are left wondering quite what it is you have just listened to.
Keresley is an ordinary place. But like anywhere, it is only ordinary if you are used to it. Tielli has seen it with the eyes of a newcomer. In doing so he has picked out its idiosyncrasies and made them into a beautiful and wide-ranging collection of songs that for all their strangeness and stylistic audacity sound as if they were plucked from the rain-soaked ground.
Review by: Thomas Blake
Album Stream via Deezer
UK Tour Dates
Doug Tielli will be over in the UK for a round of dates supporting Trembling Bells. The Dates are as follows:
12 October – Sebright Arms, London(Doug Tielli Headline Show) (Tickets)
15 October – Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
16 October – The Tin Music & Arts, Coventry
19 October – South Street Arts Centre, Reading
22 October – TBC, Edinburgh
23 October – Glad Cafe, Glasgow
Keresley is released on 30th September 2013 via Tin Angel Records
Order it now via Amazon