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The Emily Askew Band - Alchemy (Self Release)
Transforming old styles into new is a notion I always respond quite well to - as long as it doesn't include suddenly bursting into inner city rap midway through with an 'explicit' sticker slapped onto the CD sleeve. The Emily Askew Band handle this material with delicate detail, both instrumentally and vocally, with a dozen well-crafted pieces of music drawn from such early forms as French Renaissance, 13th century secular English, Medieval Galician and the odd chant from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat.
The accompanying 12 page booklet eloquently describes the historical context from which these beautiful melodies derive, whilst Phillip Speakman's photographs capture the essence of the instruments in close up; the shawm, the vielle, the bagpipes etc., each alluding to ancient times. These particular instruments, all in the more than capable hands of Emily, sit well with the relatively modern folk styles and techniques provided by Jamie Roberts' idiosyncratic guitar playing and Ben Corrigan's electronics, as well as the highly empathetic fiddle playing of John Dipper, each of whom bring to the project an intriguingly stylised feel. Adding further atmosphere and depth to the music is the array of percussion utilised to great effect by Simon Whittaker and Louise Duggan. Pase el Agoa Ma Julieta also finds the band in fine vocal fettle with an astonishing 15th/16th century Spanish a cappella song, where the singers are joined by special guest James Patterson. There's nothing stuffy or overly academic with these interpretations of early music, rather the musicians bring to ALCHEMY an all embracing and highly affectionate warmth, just right for a beautiful music we should all really cherish.