It's a curious thing, this strangely eccentric music of U.K. neo-folk outfit The Unthanks. Led by Mercury Prize nominee Rachel Unthank and her sister Becky, this provocative quintet take the bleakest, most despairing traditional British folk laments and then dresses them up with modern, minimalist neo-classical embellishments. Telling tales of a lost lover's suicide, drowned sailors, harrowing coal mine child labor and other equally morbid topics, Here's The Tender Coming, arriving March 23, could be an unrelenting downer. But thanks to the spare but richly tailored production and imaginative arrangements - think Erik Satie meets Steve Reich - The Unthanks pull of a stunning feat that has won over the toughest critics and garnered support from the likes of Radiohead, Robert Wyatt, Portishead and even Ben Folds. "Haunting, original and magnificent", says The Guardian.
At the heart of The Tender are the lovely, understated vocals and exquisite harmonies of Rachel (airy, naturalistic) and Becky (pure, warm), intertwined with graceful elegance and suspended against a backdrop of meticulously arranged orchestration. The eight-minute ballad "Anachie Gordon" typifies the quiet intensity and inspired creativity that permeates the album, taking an archaic nugget and fashioning something new and completely original. The lone self-penned work "Lucky Gilchrist" is another highlight as odd rhythmic patterns, fluttering strings and clipped vocal phrasing combine for a visionary approach that, like much of Here's The Tender Coming, is both edgily modern and quaintly traditional. Highly recommended. Watch The Unthanks live on Jools Holland after the jump...
The Unthanks - "Lucky Gilchrist" (from the album Here's The Tender Coming)
The Unthanks - "The Testimony of Patience Kershaw" (from the album Here's the Tender Coming)