What they’ve done during the past 6 years is shrouded in mystery. Their last significant traces were laid back in 2007 with an intriguing LP named The Wind May Howl recorded for 1965 Records. But then, after having enjoyed critical acclaim, some collaborations, a few songs streamed online, a tour which lead them to play at Glastonbury and supporting Badly Drawn Boy, live sessions for the BBC, they went and hid themselves behind years of silence. A period finally interrupted, last October, by a single (Shake, a Sam Cooke classic cover) followed by an album released via Wonderful Sounds.
You’ll be hard pushed today to find a more melodic album than Music from the Monks Kitchen. Even if there are ten instrumental songs over 18, barely a chorus in sight with lead vocal swaps between band members, the second album of The Monks Kitchen sounds wonderfully and inextricably folk.
It recalls the more progressive spirit of the British folk revival, songwriters of the ‘60s and the unpredictability of the nu-folk scene. A medley of tunes, melodies and slivers of themes, without a precise focus or a distinctive aim, but able to show all the influences and the interests of this North-West London trio.
Music from the Monks Kitchen is a record of contrasts and harmony: peaceful folksy guitar arpeggio (Up on the Breeze) and Spanish rhythmic structure (Hollow of the Night). A waltzy intimate ode (Don’t Lie Anyway) and a delicate, whispered serenade (Whirlwind).
References to Simon & Garfunkel and their harmonic refinement can be heard on O’ Melancholy which alternate with intimate ballads calling to mind Iron & Wine (Bluebird) and typically Western atmospheres (Red and Gold).
The album is also enriched by literary subjects, like the transposition in music of Poe’s poem The Raven, and a basic but inspired instrumentation which includes pianos, softly brushed percussions, xylophone, autoharp and a fitting full-range of guitars from twelve strings to semi-acoustic.
With an endless sequence of sparks and ideas which show the long-term gestation of the project, its moody character but, at the same time, its overarching nature, The Monks Kitchen have finally added a second chapter to their unconventional career.
And if it takes time to do things right, let’s impatiently wait for another six years…
Review by: Marco Canepari
Released via Wonderful Sound