Saintes-born Francois Marry has been on Scottish radars for some time already, as a continental cousin of Fence (who released previous album Plaine Inondable) and touring member of Camera Obscura. Signing to indie titan Domino would suggest a calculated bid for wider recognition in the UK and beyond, but if E Volo Love is destined to push its creator into the spotlight, it will do so gently.
Airily produced by Jean-Paul Romann (best known for his work with Tinariwen), it’s unfussy, yet intricate; redolent of the past, yet inventively forward-thinking. It’s also unabashedly romantic: hopeless mono-linguists won’t have to recruit Babel Fish to unlock the beating hearts of Les Plus Beaux and Cherchant Des Ponts – they’re right there in the former’s afro-beat sway and the latter’s string-backed duet. A study in understatement delivered with finesse, be sure to find time to let E Volo Love in; it is tray bon.Out 23rd January
Recorded live in an eighteenth-century church, in a single eleven-hour sitting, by a minimalist-folk-jazz ‘supergroup’ wielding lyre and bowed psaltery: it’s fair to label Three Cane Whale’s debut a somewhat anachronistic proposition. But it’s also a pleasantly surprising one; the aforementioned backstory might suggest a tediously niche slog for anyone but the most ardent of aficionados, but the Bristolian trio lock on to an accessible aesthetic that speaks to a wealth of musical traditions and triggers a broad range of emotions.Each short instrumental piece (few breach the four-minute mark) finds its own tone, tweaking the presiding atmosphere in a multitude of interesting ways: Look Up at the Sky (And Remind Yourself How Insignificant You Are) belies its unsubtle title with an air of whimsy; Dancing Ledge trades trumpet and acoustic guitar lines to great effect; while Cassiopeia’s simple glockenspiel melody gradually cedes to one of the album’s warmest segments.
Letka have the fixings of something special: Sandra O’Neill sings beautifully; Peter Chilvers has proven his diverse talents through collaborations with Brian Eno amongst others; while Eno himself contributes to opener Beyond the Fold, a presence guaranteed to boost their debut’s visibility. And yet something feels amiss, their pace-less alt-country pitched too safe to match its ‘post-ambient’ billing.More imaginative song selections might have helped (trying to reinvent a genre via staples like Country Roads seems somewhat futile), though their chillily pristine version of Not a Job fares little better, paling next to Elbow’s soulful original. But then redemption arrives for the finale, the ingredients finally clicking for a haunting cover of I Dream a Highway. Of course, one great track does not a great record make, but as it stretches through fourteen sumptuous minutes – a third of the album’s length – it goes a long way towards redressing the balance.
Out 16th January