It is set to be a big year for new music, with many upcoming releases from exciting and upcoming bands. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long for one of said releases, as folk duo Loreley is due to release their anticipated new album, The Frozen North on the 27th of March.
Despite only forming in the later months of 2014, Loreley have already built a reputation for their personal transformation of traditional songs, and are swiftly gaining a following in the folk scene, both locally and nationally. The duo’s unique sound, comprised of Maddy Glenn’s beautiful vocals and Simon James Chisholm’s eclectic mix of guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and concertina, can already be found on their debut EP, Two Blind Mice and their debut album, Fortified, but Loreley are dead set on reaching further heights with their latest release, The Frozen North.
The album was recorded at Park Head Studios and Produced by Brian Bedford. It is an ambitious album and finds itself released only just over a year after Fortified’ Loreley have managed to write and produce a 43-minute-long set of remarkably good music, with talent going far beyond the young duos years. For a band still at its grassroots stage, entirely self-released, with physical copies funded by friends and fans, this is an ambitious release, which is set to push the act much further into the scene in which they are making a home for themselves.
The album opens as it means to go on, with the sudden and upbeat chorus of ‘Blow Northerne Wynd’, a track that showcases all of the traits Loreley have come to be known by, with tongue-twisting middle English lyrics, quirky riffs and moments of percussion, which drive the song on. It is a bold move to open an album with a song that primarily uses old English to convey the song, as it could immediately put off a listener, but Loreley manage to use this to their advantage, allowing the musical elements to truly convey the narrative.
‘The Sheffield Grinder’s' immediate percussive introduction is an instant audible change, dividing it from the last track. This song once again showcases Loreley’s quirky musical nature, with a magical use of unusual time signatures. Listening closely to the lyrics of this track and you can hear the deeply political commentary which they put into their works, allowing the music to remain contemporary and important to today’s circumstances.
Although the first few tracks of the album are great, radio friendly folk songs, it is only as the fifth track begins that the true haunting musicality of the album can start to be heard. ‘The Oak and The Ash’ opens with a chilling melody, stiffly performed. Here we begin to hear the melancholy which haunts the rest of the album. The melody sounds like the first fall of snow to my ears, matched by the crisp tone of Maddy’s vocals. ‘Donald on The Sea’ flows perfectly on from this track, with a reverbing guitar and well timed gaps of silence, interjected by sudden riffing guitars and percussion which capture an even more melancholic tone. The progressive structure of the song really captures the narrative portrayed really well.
Since I first heard ‘English Curse’, which perfectly divides Frank Turner’s ‘England Keep My Bones’ album, I have had a love for accapella pieces. Loreley’s own attempt at this style of song, in the form of ‘The Snows They Melt the Soonest’ works perfectly, a mournful conclusion to the first section of the album, before the second half gets swiftly underway.
‘Ilkley Moor Baht’at’ is a sudden and sharp change from the more heartbroken sounding songs. This song is an outtake from the band’s last full length, Fortified, and it sounds like it would feel more at home on that release. However, the upbeat track provides great comic relief between the harrowing tracks and proves Loreley are a duo that can approach a broad spectrum of musical styles.
The next track, ‘Reynardine’, drops the listener back into the haunting soundscapes of previous tracks, with reverberating instrumentation and chilling vocals. This is my favourite track of the offering, truly capturing all the elements that make Loreley unique, including Simon’s ghostly backing vocals. These backing vocals make their most comic appearance as the “pirate” vocals in ‘High Barbaree’, the next track of the album.
The album concludes with ‘Incili Bebek’, which features Loreley’s most impressive songwriting, with multiple time signature changes as the duo tries to convey the traditional sounds of the middle eastern world which the traditional piece comes from.
As the name suggests, The Frozen North is a cold and haunting gift with the duos most harrowing songs to date, moving into a much more mature sound from their previous releases. As a whole, it is a dark, progressive exploration of traditional music, with a modern twist. The minimalistic production of the album could be seen to detract by some, but I feel it only allows the listener to appreciate how the act sound live. There are no added extras here, there is only what Loreley bring to the stage every night, and that is exactly all that is needed to allow these harrowing songs to come into their own. It could be argued that the band could have done more to fill the vast and ambitious soundscape which they have created with this offering. It is predominantly left sounding empty behind the single guitar and single vocal melodies. However, this would be to detract from the perfect performance that Loreley gives, both on the stage and in the studio. Each song echoes with a sound that you can instantly recognise as their own, making them a groundbreaking folk act, ringing in a new generation of musicians into the historical British folk scene.