mon 15/08/2022

CD: The Unthanks - Mount The Air | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Unthanks - Mount The Air

CD: The Unthanks - Mount The Air

The Geordie gals introduce a new, softer sound

The Unthanks: beautiful sadness

The Unthank sisters may be best known for hauntingly bleak songs about dead babies and bald women but, it turns out, they’re not just about misery. Nor are they afraid to experiment. Their latest studio album, Mount The Air, is a floating, swirling, blend of folk, indie-rock, and jazz. 

For some, this will seem like a stylistic departure. But, for those who’ve kept up with their recent Diversions projects (which feature, inter alia, songs from Anthony and the Johnsons and Robert Wyattthings may not appear so odd. Adrian McNally's piano motifs, in particular, bring a Wyatt-like warmth. Similarly, Tom Arthur's free-form trumpet lines add a lovely sense of yearning. But at least the girls' trademark melancholy Northumbrian harmonies are much the same. 

On "Magpie” their unaccompanied vocal interplay is remiscent of previous records. However, Mount The Air is, above all, Adrian McNally’s album and shines brightest where his arrangements are at their most ambitious. The title track is masterful: 10 minutes of a grieving Dorset folk song set against Arthur's laconic jazz horn licks. It's also the most distinctive song here.

The rest of the album sustains a gentle, rather beautiful sadness. There are lullabies and laments, but even where the subject matter touches on dead lovers or orphaned children, something always seems to redeem the desolation. Maybe it's the softer sound of the original compositions and arrangements. Or perhaps it's just because the band members are mellowing with age. Whatever the case, on Mount The Air together they seem to have found a way to bring several hundred years of heartache bang up to date.

Overleaf: watch the video for the single "Mount The Air"


Even where the subject matter touches on dead lovers or orphaned children something always redeems the desolation


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters