Listening to ‘For the Moon’ put me in mind of a moonlit walk through an enchanted forest, whereby all manner of creatures, night spirits and elementals await the explorer at every twist and turn.
Irish alt-folk band, The Driftwood Manor, have created an excellent piece of sonic storytelling, akin to a Brothers Grimm tale. Peppered with folkloric styling and drawing on diverse musical styles from Americana to psychedelia; Eastern influences to traditional; gospel to plaintive chanting, the album delivers chills and thrills a plenty. There is never a dull moment.
Opening with the gentle lilting Fraction Of A Wolf, we’re lulled into a dreamy reverie, where “nature speaks in riddles” and references to landscapes, the seasons and the fragility of being are beautifully carried by the warm vocals of singer Eddie Keenan. The instrumentation is simple yet powerful; the beating heart of Tommy Ryan’s drums and the lamenting fiddle of Neil Fitzgibbon create a strong primal atmosphere – poetic and symbolic, the track entices you further into the Driftwood dream.
Track two Spring continues this strong poetic landscape. A calling song of sorts, the plaintive vocals at the start are more traditional folk and awaken your senses. The instrumentation picks up pace with a folktronica arrangement, weaving together vocal layering, beat-boxing and introducing the wonderful Felix Sonnyboy on banjo. Electronica textures underpin ‘holy’ mantra-like chanting and the rich gospel voice of Irene Dunne, culminating in an ecstatic finish to this sung prayer to spring. For all it’s blending of styles, it has a strong identity and is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Following in stark contrast, When Wisdom Was Lowered From Heaven is another beautiful lament. With gentle guitar and the double bow bass playing of Bean Dolan, the polyphonic vocals create a sense of falling snow and it’s breezy lyrics are reminiscent of 90’s alt-band Pooka. I love this and the previous track – the elemental nature of the seasons so perfectly captured in the music.
Fire And Brimstone kicks up the dust with its Americana sound and images of fire and wolves. Keenan’s voice waxes and wanes throughout, giving it a visceral sense and melody. You get the sense of the whole band having fun with this fast paced track, with Fergie Milton and Lee Roche providing a solid rhythm section. As a selenophile (a person who loves the moon) the album is a treat for the senses, with its repeated theme of the night, the moon, dreams and wolves. Folkloric and symbolic, the album really does feel like a fairy tale; at times dark but always exciting.
The title track For The Moon, however, is a surprisingly upbeat plea to the elements, and the whole ‘anything is possible’ feel of the song is empowering. The Driftwood boat sails with ease through it, showing just how musically versatile they are. The band’s previous album, 2014’s Of the Storm, was voted in the Folk Radio UK ‘Albums of the Year for 2014’ and received exceptional reviews. This album seems set to be as inspiring and groundbreaking.
The Secret People continues the eclectic feel of the album. Using purely vocal sounds and what appears to be overtone chanting with simple banjo melodies, it creates an otherworldly dimension and keeps you guessing as to who or what it refers too; providing a pause for thought. Following this is the beautiful The Fox And The Bear which continues in the ethereal vein. With a lightness of touch, the gorgeous harmonies of Emma Lohan compliment Keenan’s vocals and the sound of the organ, with great lines such as “The breath of the living and the hum of the dead” referring to the circle of time, and how everything is connected. It’s a track that wouldn’t be out of place in The Wicker Man.
The River Changing finds them again in more of a traditional mode and is another favourite of mine. There is something quite reassuring about a pure voice and a melodious guitar. Moon imagery gives way to water, with beautiful harmonies and fiddle playing ebbing and flowing. The final track, I Have Become Waves, is an Americana-gospel tinged, soulful reflection. Pared down, the vocals are strong and shine like a beacon on a moonlit sea. A stunning end to the album, you feel as if you’ve been on a journey; from woods and rivers; from fires and watery seas, to land safely back in your own skin.
This album is pure poetry – the writing is so engaging and beautifully crafted. The musicianship is so skilful, and the vocal arrangements unique. More than just listening to it, you feel it; it washes through you and seeps into your skin. And you find yourself becoming a wave too.
For the Moon is out now on Folkwit Records
Order it via Bandcamp here: folkwitrecords.bandcamp.com/album/for-the-moon
Find them on Facebook here.