|Mount the Air|
The Unthanks — Mount the Air (February 9, 2015)•˜• Folk roots, new routes: Tyneside troubadours reach for the sky.
Location: Northumberland, UK
Styles: Indie Folk, Alternative/Indie Rock, British Folk
Album release: February 9, 2015
Recording date: August, 2012 — October, 2014
Record Label: RabbleRouser
01. Mount The Air 10:34
02. Madam 4:55
03. Died For Love 3:49
04. Flutter 3:38
05. Magpie 5:07
06. Foundling 10:52
07. Last Lullaby 5:57
08. Hawthorn 4:23
09. For Dad 4:41
10. The Poor Stranger 4:05
11 Waiting 3:00
•˜• Adrian McNally / Traditional / Becky Unthank 1
•˜• Traditional 2, 3, 10
•˜• Adrian McNally / Becky Unthank 4
•˜• Dave Dodds 5
•˜• Adrian McNally 6
•˜• Rachel Unthank 7
•˜• Charles Causley / Adrian McNally / Becky Unthank 8
•˜• Niopha Keegan 9
•˜• Adrian McNally / Chris Price 11
•˜• Rachel Unthank — voice
•˜• Becky Unthank — voice
•˜• Niopha Keegan — violin, voice
•˜• Adrian McNally — piano etc.
•˜• Chris Price — bass, guitar
About the album
•˜• The Unthanks invite you to Mount the Air.
•˜• An invitation to be free, weightless, airborne, to transcend reality, to enter your imagination, to raise the possibilities above the ordinary, to become one with nature, to give yourself up to nature and let the wind carry you to new places. To fly.
•˜• Or, perhaps you prefer a more objective, bullet–point summary!:
•˜• Mount The Air is the first studio album by The Unthanks since Last was released four years ago.
•˜• Mount The Air has been two years in the making and the first to be made in their own makeshift studio in Northumberland, set up in an old granary building, 200 yards from where Rachel Unthank and Adrian McNally live with their 2 sons, 1 and 3 years old.
•˜• “Mount The Air” is released on their own label, RabbleRouser, despite offers of continuation with major labels.
•˜• It is the first Unthanks record to feature writing from all 5 core members, including debut contributions from both Rachel and Becky Unthank, as well as continued and more extensive writing from pianist and producer Adrian McNally, including the opening 10 minute title track.
•˜• Musically more ambitious than ever, the Mercury nominated Geordies are still a combination of grounded tradition and filmic orchestration, but with Mount The Air, they also take on flavours from traditions as diverse as Spain, India, Blue Note and, er, Trip Hop!
•˜• While Mount The Air has all the hallmarks of a band working in intense isolation, since releasing Last in 2011, The Unthanks have also been busy collaborating with Orbital, Adrian Utley (Portishead), Martin Green (Lau), Martin Hayes, The Voice Squad, Sting, Charles Hazlewood, The Moulettes and German composer Werner Cee, while also producing a film soundtrack, an orchestral scale commission for a brass band collaboration with the National Champions of Great Britain, a WW1 project with Sam Lee, explorations of the work of both Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons, and a children’s song commission. And Rachel Unthank and Adrian McNally had two children and Becky Unthank got married!
•˜• When The Unthanks released Last in 2011, Uncut wrote that “The Unthanks seem to regard folk music the same way Miles Davis regarded jazz: as a launch pad for exploring the wider possibilities”. The Unthanks have taken that analogy a step further on Mount The Air, with a beautiful opening title track and single that has echoes of Miles Davis and Gill Evans in their Sketches of Spain period, and climaxes with a euphoria reminiscent of Arcade Fire or Elbow.
•˜• Written by Unthanks pianist and producer, and husband of Rachel Unthank, Adrian McNally, Mount the Air is based on the themes of a one–verse traditional ditty, found in a book of Dorset songs in Cecil Sharp House by Becky Unthank, who co–writes some of the words with McNally. The piece features the playing of the world–class trumpet player, Tom Arthurs; a former BBC New Generation Artist and Elysian Quartet collaborator, now immersed in the Berlin improv scene.
•˜• Mount The Air is the work of an act who still believe whole heartedly in the value of the album as an art–form. On very limited resources and makeshift facilities, they have shown extraordinary commitment and devotion to that art–form, to create their finest work yet.
Mount the Air, The Unthanks, review: 'a slow, swirling affair'
By Helen Brown, 12:00 PM GMT 07 Feb 2015 / Score: *****
•˜• The Unthanks plumb the dark underbelly of the traditional while striding boldly out into wilder musical landscapes, says Helen Brown
•˜• In 1958, a traditional ballad about a woman’s fierce determination to scour the world for her lost lover was recorded in The Dorset Book of Folk Songs. The following year, Miles Davis began recording Sketches of Spain. More than 50 years later, the Unthanks pianist Adrian McNally has written a mesmerising, 10–minute version of the old song (renamed Mount the Air) in which Becky Unthank’s vocals rise and fall on strange, strong currents of lone trumpet inspired by the melancholy of Davis’s album.
•˜• The combination of jazz and folk has often leaned toward the muzzy, but like folk warrior June Tabor, the Geordie band take a keen and scholarly interest in the darker underbelly of the old tales while striding boldly out into wilder musical landscapes. Since 2011’s haunting Last, they’ve worked with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and covered tracks by Antony and the Johnsons.
•˜• All these influences feed into Mount the Air. They’ve taken the blunt, mournful sincerity of the Brighouse brass sound and sent it on a mystical, meandering Antony–style emotional adventure. Recorded in an old granary, near to where McNally lives with Rachel Unthank (the elder of the sisters), the album is a slow, swirling affair that mixes original material with traditional tales. Underpinned by McNally’s cool, fluid piano it’s simultaneously ancient and fresh.
•˜• Lyrically, things are murky: cast off women, abandoned children. “No mother, I have no mother” mourns the dramatic Foundling. Bleak lines by Cornish poet Charles Causley give cold comfort on Hawthorn: “A single heart in a single bed/ It’s not enough, the Hawthorn said.” For every pretty, darting fiddle part and mermaid harmony, there’s the lurking shadow of a minor chord. Things take an unexpected trip-hoppy turn on the original Flutter with it’s fatalistic take on pregnancy as “Life’s aflutter” flips into “Life’s a flutter”.
•˜• Davis said that the Rodriguez adagio melody on Sketches of Spain was “so strong” that “the softer you play it, the stronger it gets”. The same can be said of this album. Kind of beautiful, kind of blue. •˜• http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger; Score: ****
•˜• Mournful, elegant, melancholy, and mysterious, the Northumbrian family act is most certainly not a party band; rather their singular blend of traditional folk and jazz–tinged, Celtic–infused pop is tailor–made for those for whom soft rolls of thunder and deep grey skies are a balm to the cruel tempo of the extroverted life. Fresh off of a trio of excellent, largely conceptual live recordings that found the Unthanks taking on the songs of Antony & The Johnsons and Robert Wyatt, collaborating with The Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and exploring the region’s rich tradition of seafaring, the group returns with their first studio effort since 2011’s Last. Like its predecessor, Mount the Air is a dark storeroom of soft, piano–led balladry peppered with tasteful flourishes of upright bass, soft brush work, and spectral horns and strings, but it’s also a far more ambitious outing, sporting two epic ten–minute pieces that flirt with experimental ambient pop grandeur. The first, an original piece built around the opening verse of the traditional folk ballad “I’ll Mount the Air on Swallows Wings,” is a rich ballad that builds to a sweeping and surprisingly propulsive string–laden crescendo that’s anchored by Becky and Rachel Unthank’s expressive voices, while the second, the lush “Foundling,” dials up the group’s more theatrical leanings. •˜• Elsewhere the intriguing and (almost) radio–ready “Flutter” flirts with Portishead–inspired trip–hop, and the band plays it straight on a lovely rendering of the traditional folk standard “The Poor Stranger,” but as per usual, it’s the Unthanks’ acumen for crafting highly refined overcast ballads that ultimately wins out, and some of us are all the better for it. •˜• http://www.allmusic.com/
Jim Wirth, March 20, 2015 / Score: 7
|Mount the Air|