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The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:15 pm
by Nigel w
Another heads-up for this one, out March 14 on EMI.

Lovely stuff, more produced, I think, with bigger arrangements on tracks such as Gallowgate Lad and No One Knows I'm Gone.

Wonderful version of Close The Coalhouse Door,too.

If only more English folk music was as classy and stylish and they would sing as beautifully as this, instead of those silly cod vocals so many seem to think is a mark of some kind of fake 'authenticity' ...

Unlike the forthcoming Mariza set, it's not available for advance streaming on Spotify yet. But it's more than worth waiting for. A really fine record.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:32 pm
by AndyM
Looking forward to this (though the title will be a gift to some reviewers and internet ''''''wags''''''). The Unthanks' singing, which I admire unreservedly, is the sticking point for some in the folkie zone. If you look at a site such as Mudcat (often a way of peering into the more demented recesses of the human mind) you will see them being slated as tuneless, over-breathy and sounding like children - whereas the more trad voices Nigel criticises are lauded as authentic and 'correct'. Funny old world. I think the Unthanks' real crime is to take English roots music in an innovative direction instead of revelling in its fossilisation.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:57 pm
by Des
They are excellent as a live band but apart from the wonderful The Bairns I feel their records have never quite lived up to that sound. I much prefer Rachel's more 'traditional' voice to Becky's breathy delivery, I have to admit, which probably places me too much in the Arran sweater corner.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:54 pm
by AndyM
No need to Arranise yourself Desmond! The folkie taliban I'm talking about don't even like Rachel.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 7:17 pm
by Nigel w
AndyM wrote:No need to Arranise yourself Desmond! The folkie taliban I'm talking about don't even like Rachel.


Oh dear. I predict another bout of Ian A's notorious sighing coming our way!

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 7:50 pm
by AndyM
Ian's a paragon of open-mindedness compared to the folkamentalists I've encountered.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:36 pm
by Des
Nigel w wrote: Ian A's notorious sighing


....he's very good at harumphing too.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 11:59 pm
by Nigel w
Meanwhile this Unthanks record gets better and better the more I listen.

It's got an appeal far beyound the trad folk world and into the grey area of what for want of a better term we might call indie-acoustica (can't believe I wrote that, but you know what I mean!).

Sorry to be such a tease as the record is not out until March. But it really is quite magnificent.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 6:34 pm
by Ian M
Very interesting to hear this, Nigel, as it chimes with my impression of them after a concert at the Union Chapel before Christmas. They didn't sing any 'folk' songs, which is I suppose where people classify them. They put on a programme of songs they had chosen from Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons) and Robert Wyatt, one composer in each half.

I have to say that it was exquisite. They clearly love both writers, which I find very liberating from the usual ghetto mentality of genre expectations, and performed them with a tenderness and devotion which enraptured the audience. If the proverbial pin had dropped someone would have caught it before it hit the ground, in order not to break the spell they wove.

The songs revealed themselves away from the (perceived) idiosyncrasies of their writers as deeply heartfelt personal and political pleas, not without some humour, remarkably congruent in their sense of vulnerability and yearning. They were backed up by a string quartet, with some piano and drums accompanied by the occasion trumpet, accordion and saw (yes). In essence it was chamber music, given the non-pop like structures and lyrics, and worked fantastically well. Given the crepuscular winter gloom, the candles flickering around the balcony and the dim glow of the stained glass window behind them, it was one of those moments when everything seemed in the right place at the right time.

Becky's vocal reminded me of that husky intimacy that Cat Power has, and perhaps bears out your perception of them as indie, with Rachel providing the roots flavour of their upbringing. It would be great to see them spreading their wings out of the confines of one marketing niche, since they plainly have a lot to offer beyond tradtional confines. I was talking to one of their team, who said that they had recorded the concerts with the view to releasing a CD if they like them. I can only hope they do so, as it would be a great accomplice to the new release you are gushing over. And it would win over a lot of people to the songs of Antony and RW.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:11 pm
by Des
Hmm...I fear they may have lost me as a fan. I really liked their approach to traditional music when they were Rachel Unthank and the Winterset but it sounds like they've gone all trendy. Never mind, I'll stick with The Bairns.

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:12 pm
by Nigel w
Interesting comments above and it sounds as though Des might not favour their covers of songs by Tom Waits and King Crimson on the new album...I blame that Damon Albarn. Fancy taking them to Africa with his Africa Express and broadening their horizons like that!

Apparently parts of the album (mostly the piano, I think) were recorded at Snape Maltings but the strings were recorded in a village hall in Northumberland. The strings have a big, epic sound that resembles a full orchestra, but apparently this was merely the echoing effect of the village hall.

The whole album has a kind of panoramic, epic feel to my ears and their version of Alex Glasgow's Close The Coal House Door is likely to be one of my favourite tracks of 2011, I suspect.

Oh and defintely not their Last album. Here's what producer / arranger (and Rachel's husband) Adrian says: “Let’s get it out of the way straight off - the title is not meant to imply that this record is our last. The word is meant in its most positive definition, as a call to arms, in terms of the emotional future of mankind and of the earth itself. It’s all a bit Pink Floyd in that big picture / disillusionment / alienation kind of way! The song isn’t about how great the past is; rather it’s about asking why the future doesn’t look so great. I hope though, that it doesn’t come across as a negative song. Cynicism is often the accusation when impassioned optimism is the intention...”

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:00 pm
by Ian M
While listening to The Bairns I presume that you will skip the track Song of the Sea, the Robert Wyatt song, lest it offend your delicate conservative sensibilities

Re: The Unthanks - Last

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:22 am
by Jarlath
The album is now available to listen to at their website

http://www.the-unthanks.com/