Last year Glasgow’s Trembling Bells gave us possibly one of the most eccentric debuts of the year in the form of Carbeth. It was a pleasingly odd throwback to the folk scene of the ’70s; evoking the likes of The Incredible String Band for modern audiences earned them deserved plaudits. However, its many idiosyncrasies made it a tricky, though ultimately rewarding listen. The follow-up, Abandoned Love, arrives barely 12 months on and finds the band showcasing a more rounded, accessible sound without losing any of the strangeness of their debut.
Alex Neilson’s group have undergone some personnel changes for this sophomore disc, letting in some new blood from other Glaswegian bands. They’ve long wanted to climb out of the pigeon hole of weird folkery and the reshuffle definitely helps in this regard. We’re still very much in folk territory, but there’s also a touch of country and blues explored on a few tracks, contributing to a more lively and enjoyable album.
Despite what the title may suggest, Abandoned Love is a happier affair than the sometimes gloomy Carbeth. It is endowed with a feeling of a different season, lighter and humorous, but with the same bygone bombast and theatrics that British folk brings.
Lavinia Blackwall’s powerful soprano vocals once again reign supreme, but are more tempered and subtler than before. The hints of new directions heard on tracks such as the brilliant Baby, Lay Your Burden Down and album highlight Love Made An Outlaw Of My Heart give her the chance to try something different. In fact, everyone seems to be having more fun this time around and it’s the small flourishes and quirks that combine to make this compelling.
Elsewhere, September Is The Month Of Death puts you so firmly in Wicker Man land. Darling is a warm and subtle piece of songwriting and the album’s closer You Are On The Bottom is a superb drinking song with the lyric “I’m changing my woes into wine” summing things up perfectly.
Trembling Bells still might not be the world’s most accessible band, but since when has that been a pre-requisite for enjoyment? They’re highly individual and well worth a listen for the musically curious. Love many be abandoned, but Trembling Bells are going from strength to strength. If the banishment of a long cold, lonely winter has left you with a spring in your step, then you could do no better than to dance around the maypole to this disc.