Album Reviews

Trembling Bells – Carpeth

(Honest Jons) UK release date: 27 April 2009


The folk renaissance fires on all cylinders with this new album from Glaswegian folksters Trembling Bells. Where a lot of today’s folk influenced musicians have endeavoured to evolve into a more modern sound, Trembling Bells hark back to 1970s where folk music conjures up images of long beards, chunky sweaters and corn cob pipes. It shouldn’t work, but it does thanks to a combination of experimentation and homage for a charming, if a little batty, experience.

Trembling Bells form the missing link between Fairport Convention‘s Brit folk and The Incredible String Band‘s weirder musings. If you were to close your eyes you’d swear this album is a reissue and not a product of the same year that gave us swine flu and the dreaded credit crunch. You can picture this being part of the vintage Glastonbury footage that gets shown each year to remind young whipper-snappers of a time before Jay-Z headlined the pyramid stage. In short, their music is perfect for a sunny festival afternoon with gallons of mead and fair maidens aplenty, and the fact that the album has a recorded “as live” feel is sure to make you pine for open fields.

Listening at home you’ll find that the album is a slow burner; opening track I Listed All Of The Velvet Lessons feels more like a prelude for what’s to come: the musical equivalent of lighting an incense stick and waiting for the smell to fill the room. With the superbly titled highlight I Took To You Like Christ To Wood the tone becomes more playful and the pace and oddity is cranked up for the rest of the album’s duration.

At first listen you may be a little freaked out because the album is a little odd at times, but pleasingly eccentric. Once you get into the swing of things you’ll probably be reaching for that corn-cob pipe before you know it, especially during the free-for-all chaos of The End Is The Beginning Born Knowing.

If there’s one weak point it’s the tendency to let the vocals get out of hand – there’s arguably a little too much folky wailing in places. To be fair this is something you would expect from the genre, but it begins to grate after a while. The tracks where the vocals are kept in check are much easier to digest, especially the final track Seven Years A Teardrop which is a great closer.

Carpeth is traditional enough to please the Cropready massive, but also quite experimental too. Those new to the genre might be better served by checking out something more palatable, but for those with a taste for something more outlandish Carpeth certainly delivers.


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More on Trembling Bells
Trembling Bells & Bonnie Prince Billy – Bonnie Bells Of Oxford
Trembling Bells – The Sovereign Self
Trembling Bells and Bonnie Prince Billy – The Marble Downs
Trembling Bells – The Constant Pageant
Trembling Bells – Abandoned Love