fri 22/11/2019

Slow Moving Clouds, Purcell Room review - a new take on folk | reviews, news & interviews

Slow Moving Clouds, Purcell Room review - a new take on folk

Slow Moving Clouds, Purcell Room review - a new take on folk

Rich acoustic lyricism drawn from the Irish and Nordic traditions

Slow Moving Clouds are nyckelharpa player Aki, cellist and lead singer Kevin Murphy and fiddle player Danny DiamondAnna Lether

The young Dublin folk trio fuse vocal harmonies with superb acoustic musicianship, primarily on cello, fiddle and Nyckelharpa. They bring together Irish and Nordic – specifically Finnish – folk traditions, building them to dizzying heights on a foundation of acoustic drones and group interplay. The trio brought their second album, Starfall, to the Southbank for the last date of a UK tour on Wednesday night. Fresh from touring their original score for Swan Lake with Teac Damsa dance troupe, they’ve also performed with The National and headlined The Gloaming fiddler Martin Hayes’ Masters of Tradition festival.

Here at the Southbank, they were their own support slot, showcasing solo songs and tunes. Nyckelharpa player Aki began with a couple of melancholy Finnish tunes and a stirring adaptation of “The Green Banks of Yarrow”. Fiddler Danny Diamond is a fine player, with plenty of flow, grit and heft. His Irish reels displayed great dexterity, while “Down in the Garden” and “Blackbird” were lyrical beauties, the open tuning on his fiddle and viola giving a hardanger-like hauntedness to the sound.

Cellist and lead singer – mostly mouth music, rather than words – cellist Kevin Murphy’s three songs, interspersed with some dryly laconic asides – ranged from the tense plucked rhythms of “Winter’s Parade” (“about the end of the world, and it’s here”) to the falsetto-voiced “Sultan’s Silk”, making generous use of some echo and delay on the vocal mic.

Most bands would have scattered their solo spots through the gig rather than put them up front, and this was a brave move for a first London show, but it was one that succinctly spotlit each member while easing listeners into the rich trio experience as the main set unfolded, beginning with Starfall’s opening track, the pizzicato “First Breath”, and proceeding through the entire album, interspersed with a few new pieces, including the richly atonal “Monday Tuesday”, whose atmosphere could be summed up as slow, damp and wheezy, but also ineffably sad and beautiful.

“Downfall in Paris”, another highlight, is from their score for Swan Lake, an adaptation of a French tune from the 1700s, while the likes of “Under the City” and “Trin” share Spiro’s way of deconstructing traditional material via layers of reduction – Systems music, Minimalism, drones – but with Murphy’s echo-laden mouth music and the striking tones of the nyckelharpa and Diamond’s open-tune fiddle taking it down a route that’s entirely their own.


Irish and Nordic folk traditions build to dizzying heights on a foundation of acoustic drones and group interplay


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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