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Resilient Records RES007 

Illustrious Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell’s latest project melds elements ancient and modern to create music charged with historical connectivity and landscape resonance. The Darkening accomplices provide accordion, synth, fiddle, charango, octave mandolin, bodhrán, percussion and drums and are severally involved in the complex arrangements and settings of music and song from traditional sources (Kathryn’s “ribbons through history”) with new compositions.

Historic ‘strands’ include the British Isles’ “oldest known manuscript of pipe music” (c.1733-38) and the weird words of Northumbrian bardic piece Aboot The Bush. ‘”nspired by living in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall”, Nemesis reworks MS transmissions of compositions by Greek lyric poet Mesomedes with a new chorus inspired by circumlocutory Anglo-Saxon kennings. There are recitations from an old playground game (imbued with customary terms such as the talismanic “hagstone” and Shamanic “hollowbone”), a late 18th century dialectal mining song, Colliers, the anonymous rhyme, Darlington (from the North Eastern anthology Three Rivers), and poem Holywell Pool by Kathryn’s father Mike Tickell which, dressed with locally found field sounds, aspires to catch and vivify “songs and voices…in the air”.

Oodles of sequential movement and multiple moods characterise the essentially progressive pieces which defy easy genre categorisation. Hefty and reverberative synth riffs often provide the pulsing rhythmic chassis with catchy syncopation and sophisticated percussive elements aplenty. There are beguiling and haunting layered female vocals and harmonising, airily ambient passages, and dancing atop, naturally, those expressive and elemental yearning pipes and some equally atmospheric fiddle work. Deep, dark and dramatic, then lissome and light, this is fascinating and imaginative contemporary folk fusion.

Kevin T. Ward


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine