Moore Moss Rutter – III
Hudson Records – 11 May 2018
The rule of three has been observed in art and society since antiquity. Omni trium perfectum runs the Latin phrase: everything that comes in threes is perfect. The three movements of a classical concerto; the three ghosts in A Christmas Carol; the tripartite nature of any fairy tale worth its salt. Triads are inescapable: even the previous sentence adheres to the rule. Moore Moss Rutter seem well-attuned to the power of three. They are – as you’ve probably guessed – a trio, and their third album, simply titled III, is expressly crafted as the final act in a musical trilogy. This fact makes us aware of the group’s sense of purpose, of their concerted vision, even before we have heard a note.
They hail, fittingly, from three diverse corners of England. Tom Moore is a fiddle and viola player from Norfolk who is currently studying for a masters in creative music at Goldsmiths. Melodeon player and teacher Archie Churchill-Moss lives in Bristol. Jack Rutter is a guitarist from West Yorkshire who has previously worked with Jackie Oates and Seth Lakeman. Plot their homes on a map and you will come up with a roughly equilateral triangle. That may be coincidence but I prefer to call it synchronicity.
And synchronicity is an important factor in this album’s appeal. Producer Andy Bell – who as always does an excellent and typically sympathetic job in the recording studio – mentions it in his liner notes when explaining how III was recorded at close quarters and as complete live takes. And you can hear the closeness from the first few bars of opening track The Iron Bell, a Moss-composed piece that morphs from a graceful, fiddle-led tune into something much more blustery and percussive, in which Rutter’s disciplined guitar provides a backbone around that allows the other instruments to play and wander.
The trio – who won the BBC’s prestigious Young Folk Award in 2011 – are adept at taking an object, place or event and interpreting it, but they use the interpretation as a musical jumping-off point rather than an end in itself. It’s a refreshing approach which yields results that are varied, surprising and crammed full of ideas. Hilly Fields/Blakeney Point takes two very different places as inspiration for two tunes that sit perfectly together. Hilly Fields (named after the South London park saved from redevelopment in 1896 by National Trust founder Octavia Hill) is a bright, brisk Moore/Moss co-composition that taps into elements of English folk dance to highlight the joy of shared experience, while Blakeney Point – that wild spit of sand, samphire and seals on the north Norfolk coast – is presented in a way that is complementary but subtly different: looser and somehow freer.
They pull off a similar effect with The Intrepid/Espresso. One tune is dedicated to a diesel engine, the other to strong coffee, but both convey movement – steady in the first instance and wonderfully jittery in the second. Worrall Road/The Glade is a pair of Moss compositions linking west to east (or more specifically Bristol to Cambridge). They make a bustling combination, allowing Moss to stretch his fingers and prove his ample melodeon talents, while Moore’s fiddle provides a constant counterpoint.
III is not short of genuinely moving moments: on Dougal, Moss pays tribute to a family pet and the result is a truly tender and heartfelt piece given even more power by the intimacy of the recording. All three instruments are given space, and each delicate note of Rutter’s guitar part is traceable. Archer Street/Somerset Safehouse is another pair of place-specific tunes, composed by Moore and Moss respectively, that proves that both have a fine ear for a melody that is simultaneously complex and catchy. But they are by no means limited to their own compositions. Minuet is an interpretation of a Henry Purcell piece, set alongside two French tunes – Soulèvement and La Goulette – and while the contrast is striking, the tunes are combined with such a light touch that you feel they belong together.
An interpretation of the Danish wedding tune Brudestykke begins as the album’s most sombre piece (if that’s what a wedding is like in Denmark, what about a funeral?), but builds into something quietly celebratory, as Rutter’s guitar provides a stop-start kind of propulsiveness. Brudestykke neatly dovetails into St. Martin’s Lane, a dance that dates back to 1696. This rendition sounds surprisingly modern, with a kinetic, rhythmic feel provided by Rutter’s punchy playing. The tune builds in urgency as if daring the listener to dance along with it, until its final, abrupt full stop.
Rutter’s guitar playing has an important role right across the record, providing a rhythmic and sometimes percussive base around which the other instruments’ melodic flights of fancy can revolve. But on the final tune, Rowler’s Jig/The Beeches the guitar plays a bigger part in the melody itself. The jig is Rutter’s own composition, and on it, all three instruments wrap around each other. As jigs go, this is a sedate one, and its appeal lies in the way the trio interact, the way they instinctively know when to give each other room. They sign off with The Beeches, a joyful tune by Moss that gives his melodeon centre stage. It is a pleasingly upbeat way to finish an album that – perhaps because of how frequently it takes its inspiration from geographical locations, or because of the wide range of emotional landscape it covers – often feels like a journey.
Crucially, the journey never feels laboured. There is a different view to enjoy at every turn. The music is so rich in detail and so personally, lovingly crafted that it will reveal new facets and deeper resonances with every listen. It is suffused with pastoral light but anchored in earthy realism, unshowy but technically innovative, driven by emotion but never sentimental. III is a folk album played with the inventiveness of jazz and the control of chamber music. If it is the end of a project, the culmination of something, then it is tempting to ask what Moore Moss Rutter will do next. With any luck, it will be another perfect set of three.
III is released on 11 May 2018 via Hudson Records. Order it here https://mooremossrutter.lnk.to/Three
Moore Moss Rutter are performing at a number of festivals this year. Visit their website for details: https://www.mooremossrutter.co.uk/live-shows