Lunatraktors on Portishead

Lunatraktors create dark and playful re-workings of the folk archive, weaving traditional ballads with influences from contemporary music and theatre. Fusing body percussion, harmonic singing, tap-dance and live looping, they strip folk music back to its raw elements to create complex, polyrhythmic landscapes that challenge and inspire.

Their debut album – This Is Broken Folk – is out on 31st October and is a wake-up call for anyone who feels folk music is a comfortable and safe genre.

Here, Carli Jefferson and Clair Le Couteur tell us why they love Portishead.

As Lunatraktors we make what we call ‘broken folk’ – traditional folk songs stripped down to vocals and tonal percussion. We met in our 30s but found we loved a lot of the same music, which we’d discovered as teenagers in the 90s. Stuff with that dark, soulful, philosophical minimalism combined with a heavy post-dub flavour. Skunk Anansie, PJ Harvey, Radiohead and Nick Cave on the more rock / punk side, and the Bristol trip-hop scene with Massive Attack, DJ Shadow and Portishead.

Portishead was the soundtrack for Carli at art college in Essex, and Clair’s teenage years in Newcastle, right on through to university for both of us – it was that bonding thing when you met new people.

Portishead made this kind of alternate reality. They made a place we could feel unity in an increasingly dystopian society, a kind of counter-cultural space where you could survive. It was like medicine. Twenty-five years later we just keep going back to Dummy. It does so much with such a restricted toolkit. Goes round and round but is always changing. An infinite, timeless trip that cuts together different eras, deeply personal stuff mixed with the big picture. Every sound is so carefully chosen, so resonant.

And Beth Gibbon’s singing is pure emotion, pure narrative character. We’re about to self-release our first record, but Wandering Star is something like where we aspire to go next. There’s a magic to it, that relentless bassline that somehow seems to evolve while staying the same. The texture of it just touches you; so dark and haunting but so tender, slow but you can’t help moving to it.

This was our starting point when approaching Bonnie Boy actually: what would that tradition sound like in the hands of queer trip-hop fans? Can we get that ill beat with no electronics, just the one goatskin military drum?

Many thanks to Carli and Clair for their thoughts. Take a listen to Bonnie Boy from This Is Broken Folk here :

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