For a start, traditional folk crossed with country, multiplied by the trickiness of medieval music and the swagger of classic rock. Anthemic visions of the British landscape as a fantastic and treacherous netherworld, set to vying country-style duets, Bowie-esque stomps and the mysterious, serpentine melodies of Earlie Musik.
‘Simply stunning… the greatest fusion of folk and glam rock that has ever been committed to tape. 4.5 stars’ (The Sun).
And here’s Joe Boyd (who produced Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Shirley Collins, The Incredible String Band, Vashti Bunyan, Brotherhood Of Breath, and others) —
‘I’ve always been a sucker for music that can’t be categorized, particularly if it’s intelligent as well. Trembling Bells stuck out a mile from a list of groups I was asked to consider for a concert I was organizing in the summer of 2009. For a start, the music was more than just ‘live in the studio’, it was alive and you don’t often hear that these days.
‘A lot of that came from the drums. It isn’t always a good thing if the drumming is the first thing you notice on a record, but in this case it was. Inventive, original, devoid of cliche; it made sense when it turned out Alex Neilson wrote the songs and had started the Bells.
‘I was also startled by Lavinnia Blackwall’s vocals, which come from a time past when girls with trained voices took up the guitar, grew their hair long and sang ballads. I never liked that kind of singing much, but to my surprise I enjoyed her singing a lot.
‘When talking about Trembling Bells, we eventually must confront the F word. I would argue that they incorporate in their music the essence of ‘folk’ without the form that can annoy many listeners. That means that their lyrics and melodies have a sense of history and Britishness that most contemporary bands lack, but without any of the ‘heritage’ atmosphere that clings to even the best revivalists in the folk world. Neilson’s lyrics weave rural imagery with edgy romanticism and cultured references. For example:
When I held you in my arms like lovers do, I’m told
I was reminded of a shipwreck victim’s hold
While a million distant suns illumind darkest night
I will nominate you polestar of my life
My lover, my gold oriole in the morning
Golden-throated song thrush singing
Eidetic finch first spied on by Darwin
A lover’s arms, a child’s smile, a man’s good gift of love
She gave them to me, I give them to you.
‘Trembling Bells – Neilson, Blackwall, guitarist Mike Hastings and Stephen Shaw on bass – are that rarest of beasts, a one-off. Modern technology is supposed to grant us an unlimited palate of synthesized sounds and a opportunity for everyone, even the most unusual, to get a hearing. Funny that; everything seems to sound so similar! So treasure these Bells, swimming so strong on their own tide.’
|Man Is As A Garden Born|
|Baby, Lay Your Burden Down|
|Did You Sing Together?|
|September Is The Month Of Death|
|Love Made An Outlaw Of My Heart|
|All Good Men Come Last|
|You Are On The Bottom|