Various – Avocet Revisited
Earth Recordings – 11 August 2017
Avocet Revisited is a four track EP, commissioned by Earth Recordings as a companion piece to Bert Jansch’s 1979 avian-themed masterstroke ‘Avocet’ (reviewed here). Again drawing inspiration from the resplendence of birds native to British waters (Bert himself was a keen ornithologist), Earth invited this quartet of artists – Edwyn Collins and Carwyn Ellis, Modern Studies, Alasdair Roberts, Trembling Bells – to each choose a species that particularly speaks to them, and base a track around it. The results have been universally graceful, evocative, and majestic – much like the creatures themselves.
Drifting low and gliding high, the flight patterns of this gull-like creature are echoed in Edwyn Collins and Carwyn Ellis’s paean to the bird that spends most of its life airborne. Part waltz, part lullaby, ‘Fulmar’ is exquisite in its simplicity, with Carwyn’s elegant arrangements providing the perfect foil for Edwyn’s unmistakeable intonation.
The opening of Modern Studies’ track – the call of the Curlew itself – is as recognisable as the looping feathered frame of its namesake. Perfectly showcasing the handsome orchestral arrangements that have become the group’s signature style, there is a lightness of touch here that evokes Virginia Astley’s ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’.
Another Scottish resident, both artist and avian. Unmistakably Alasdair Roberts, ‘Goosander’ is at once refined and somewhat feral; Alasdair’s picking supplemented by sighing organ drones and spartan electric guitar.
Playing us out, Trembling Bells’ contribution has a Harvest feel – the last days of summer invoked by the warm refrain and gentle orchestration found on ‘Golden Plover’. In another lifetime, this song – infused with the sounds of yesteryear – could very easily have made it onto the Wicker Man soundtrack… which should tell you all you need to know. A pagan hymn reimagined for the Scarfolk era! The band is joined by Callum Calderwood (violin), Rory Haye (vocals), Andrew Pattie (vocals) and Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson (12 string guitar).
Artwork again comes from Earth collaborator Hannah Alice (recently nominated for the Art Vinyl 2016) who has gifted each bird magnificent new plumage in her unique style.
A1 Edwyn Collins & Carwyn Ellis – Fulmar
A2 Modern Studies – Curlew
B1 Alasdair Roberts – Goosander
B2 Trembling Bells – Golden Plover