HARP & A MONKEY
(2019 - self release - UK)
Harp & a Monkey have a vision with grand meridian, mixing Victorian period rare street, parlour, work, popular, and folk songs, with their own modern take, with an eye opening and thrilling result. From start to finish, 'The Victorians' entertains, captures the imagination, tosses ingenious stories with a charming music, that gives both the authentic presence of attending an ancient carnival and then slowly strolling over to a bandstand of buskers and minstrels putting on a most wonderful set of shows. It is actually much more than this as the booklet details each song and the origins and topic. These range in scope from fist fights to heroic feats and sordid event such as wife auctions. More subject matter than one would expect in one platter.
The three members spent over three years working on the tunes in their home studio in Manchester. This, their 4th album, they made a decision to give the songs to Darren Jones (engineer and aid to bands like Stormzy, Giggs, and Skepta, to name a few) to mix and master. A project slaved over by Martin Purdy, Simon Jones and Andy Smith, the group created distinct music with high invention (they have a reputation of twisting things a bit), deep imagination, raw emotions, and lucid atmosphere. Each composition is refined, seasoned with gentleness (as one would expect the Victorian age to be), and presented as a beautifully wrapped gift. Sparse, yet with touches of field recordings and various sound treatments, the variety of instruments are folk based (vocals, accordion, guitar, banjo, harp), but fused with things like glockenspiel, viola, and a few surprises that I won't reveal so as not to be a spoilsport.
A highly respected folk band who have always loved the collision of organic with electronic, or better said, the traditional with the modern, Harp & a Monkey have made a masterpiece here. A very nice gatefold digipak with a peppered moth (2nd incarnation) decorates the front cover (this has significant meaning as the story is explained inside, and represents what the band stands for most assuredly), coming with booklet and info. A special deluxe edition is available in with added art, badge, and goodies. An outstanding release with plenty of room to enjoy over and over, perhaps the message in the end is a recording of proof that music from the past is vibrant and as much a part of our lives now as it was over history. RECOMMENDED.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 12 - 14 - 2019