India Electric Co – Seven Sisters
Shoelay Music – 17 November 2017
Seven Sisters is the second in a proposed trilogy of EPs from India Electric Co. contrasting the city and the country. The six-track release sees singer Cole Stacey and multi-instrumentalist Joseph O’Keefe in a particularly folkie mood with a collection of English and Scottish folk tunes from the17th-century and later.
Produced with assistance from EFDSS and recorded in both a 16th-century National Trust house in Hackney and a Devonshire home, it mixes together traditional tunes and instruments with more contemporary touches. It opens with The Gulley, an urgent fiddle-driven arrangement of words from Alice Gray, a 19th-century poem by William Mee that Lewis Carroll parodies in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, set to the tune of Rusty Gulley, a 17th-century hornpipe.
Take The Buckles changes the mood with plucked violin providing the backdrop to a melancholic swirlingly melodic song about mortality inspired by Scottish singer Jeannie Roberston’s reading of the traditional Tak’ the Buckles Frae Your Sheen. Chaos has a more contemporary source, the words being based on Age of Anxiety, W.H. Auden’s critique of Western culture during WW2, the heady tune and nervy rhythm fusing English fiddle tunes and Sarahan blues, played out on prepared piano and bodhran.
The Cuckoo’s Nest is, of course, a familiar folk chestnut, but with the scene set with scraping fiddle, it’s given a rework here, taking the Morris dance tune at a slower, moodier pace with Spanish guitar and sub-bass accordion and replacing the original words with those from My Generous Lover, a traditional ballad from the Roud collection about a girl being disowned by her family after allowing herself to be seduced by a disreputable rogue.
Another well-known number from the folk canon closes up shop with another slowed down treatment, here a world-weary reading of Flash Company that, etched out on piano, fully captures the despair at the song’s heart.
Which just leaves the elephant in the room, an instrumental jigs and hornpipe set comprising Peacock Follow The Hen, Jockey Lay Up in the Hayloft, Seven Sisters, Kemp’s Jig and Barbara Allen arranged for piano and fiddle. It starts sedately and gathers tempo towards the end, but, in truth, there’s not a huge variation across its eight and a half minutes and, while undeniably played with instrumental mastery and sensitivity, unless you’re a real aficionado of English folk instrumentals, this is where the skip function is likely to be implemented on repeat plays. This does not, of course, undermine the fact that the duo are out there on the cutting edge of reinterpreting traditional folk music for the modern era while never losing sight of the past. I eagerly await the third EP.
Out now on the Shoelay record label, distributed by Proper Music.
Visit their website for current tour dates: http://indiaelectricco.com/SHOWS