On receiving the debut album by this Brighton duo, I had no idea what the word ‘lutine’ meant, so I made a couple of guesses. Could it simply be something to do with lutes? Would this record be a Sting-like stab at early music? Or could it mean ‘otter-like’ (‘lutra’ being the Latin name for an otter), perhaps implying a collection of sinuous and glistening folk songs? I was, of course, wide of the mark. A lutine is the female form of a lutin, a mischievous French hobgoblin able to fly without wings or exist underwater. It is an apt name for a project whose shape-shifting approach to genre and inspiration and unearthly musical qualities are its standout features.
Lute or no lute, there is more than a hint of medieval and early renaissance music throughout Emma Morton and Heather Minor’s album (though thankfully not of the Sting variety). Espera has the feeling of a madrigal about it, the pair’s harmonies accompanied by just a drone for the song’s entirety, imparting a wonderful dustiness to the sound. But there are more recent influences too, from the minimal piano of the title track – the first of a number of songs dealing with death – to Synnove’s singer-songwritery touches, hinting at Linda Perhacs or Clouds-era Joni Mitchell. But the vocal interplay transcends folk norms and the often classical-sounding arrangements point to Mitchell’s early Song to a Seagull experiments more than anything else.
While White Flowers is more restrained than many 1970s-influenced acid folk albums it nevertheless carries a whiff of that era. The traditional Death and the Lady replaces the sackbut of Shirley Collins’ definitive version with droning harmonium – the result falls somewhere between Collins and 1972 Nico album The Marble Index. Died Of Love, another traditional offering, is at once pretty and highly unnerving.
The sparsely arranged So It Goes showcases the duo’s harmonic understanding of one another, while Sallow Tree’s delicate but simple piano motif is proof that the space in a song can be as important as the sound that fills it. And that is Lutine’s secret: they occupy the shifting, elemental space of their songs – a space that is sometimes airy, sometimes watery – in a way that is both effortlessly minimal and somehow whole. The result is a beautiful lucid dream of a record.
Review by: Thomas Blake
LIVE: Album Launch at St. Laurence church Falmer, 27th September 2014.
Out Now via Front & Follow
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