sat 25/05/2024

Album: Craig Fortnam - Ark | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Craig Fortnam - Ark

Album: Craig Fortnam - Ark

The mossy language of psychedelic folk proves strangely new

Craig Fortnam’s music – solo or in the bands North Sea Radio Orchestra and Arch Garrison – sounds like a lot of things.

It sounds like the 70s prog-folk-jazz interface of Kevin Ayres and Robert Wyatt as its influence feeds on into Kate Bush. When he starts looping things up or letting synthesisers dominate, it hints at early 90s electronica. His plaintive singing and natural surrealism frequently recall the early '00s folktronica songwriting of Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders in Tunng. A lot of the time you can even feel like you’re only a sackbut away from things going entirely medieval. 

On this first solo record, he revisits a lot of themes from his own previous work too: lyrical motifs of migration and sanctuary, bass clarinets and actual musical themes that echo back to the "alternative chamber music for modern ears" of NSRO songs. And he digs back deeper still – phrases like “lit dust”, “ivy tumbledown”, “dusty raven”, “lichen-sign” hinting at some faded spirituality of Englishness, like a sad language that has been passed forward from scratchings on barrow walls through poets, comedians and BBC gardening show presenters, nervous at the threat of climate change. 

Yet, as you listen, these reference points – these hints of half remembered past and doomed future – are not what dominate. Because Fortnam also clearly has his attention on music’s ability to occupy the present: specifically via tonality, sensuality and above all, hooks. His understanding of the place in the sound field of those clarinets, of the acoustic guitar, of his own voice as it switches register, is remarkable. Likewise he knows how those nature phrases, and the little peculiar twists of melody he wraps them in, will nag at the back brain like distant flashes of memory of walking home through a churchyard at night, or the smell of fermenting grass, or being startled by a hare bolting from a hedge. This record sounds like a lot of things, but most of all it builds a world completely of its own, and there are not many albums you can say that of.


Hear "Ark":

His understanding of the place in the sound field of those clarinets, of the acoustic guitar, of his own voice as it switches register, is remarkable.


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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X sounds like Y. Thanks. Also, well done for telling me what it evokes. Needed that.

Thanks in turn for your contribution, Pete. You make the world of music a better place.

Another gem from Craig Fortnam, a kaleidoscopic collage of wonderful pastoral music. Check out his other projects: North Sea Radio Orchestra and Arch Garrison. Genius.

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