Stick In The Wheel – Against The Loathsome Beyond: Album Review

Release Date:   29th November 2019

Label:  From Here

Formats: CD, DL, limited cassette

Second mixtape from the London roots outfit that comes named after a line from a 10th Century spell translated from Old English.

That line from Nine Herbs Charm gives a fair indication of what Against The Loathsome Beyond and indeed Stick In The Wheel, are about. Dipping into the grim, the grimy and the pagan they’ve been a refreshing alternative now in the folk genre for several years. Ten new explorations and collaborations come from an outfit whose exploits have taken folk music by the scruff of the neck.  It sees the band returning to the core duo line of Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter and the first impressions are that they’ve gone colour; the usual stark monochrome giving way to a shock of vibrancy.

However, never fear as they’ve retained their trademark element of tense discord in troubled times. Another bout of unrest tempered by a vein of hope for the future, as the experimental baton of This And The Memory Of This is carried confidently.

A core of atmospheric drones and loops see the duo continuing to navigate around their electronic inclinations rather than the stark combination of percussive guitar and handclap rhythms that we’ve become used to in the full band format.

Within minutes we’re experiencing a Drive The Cold Winter Away that works on a faraway vocal and an underlying cache of something you’d find on a Vangelis or Tangerine Dream record. Not the first reference to some of the electronic music pioneers.

The more experimental side gets mined as Swarte Smiths, Smateryd With Smoke works on a wild amalgam of tribal beats, industrial noise and spoken word with Cinder Well (their own haunting folk concoctions well worth seeking out) and Wolf People’s Jack Sharp adding their own stamp. A fine example of collaboration at its most inventive.

Having contributed to their Folk Field Recordings projects, experimental/avant garde folk guitarist C Joynes joins the duo on an improvised/live in the studio Child ballad, Georgie. It sees them working up a hypnotic Eastern-influenced groove across six minutes. In old money, an extended 12” mix would be a corker. In return, his own Sang Kancil gets the SITW remix treatment with an absorbing interpretation

The concession to the use of spoken word offers a sinister appeal and a suggestion of pagan incantation. An other-worldly ambience sees Nine Herbs Charm verge on the disturbing, yet it remains compulsive. Hard to resist becoming totally enthralled.

Elsewhere, Moskeener threatens to develop into a Dr Who theme with the mass of overdriven guitars and for a brief moment, we’re transported beyond the realms of traditional folk and propelled into space folk as channeling some Hawkwind or Ozric Tentacles.

Essentially, Against The Loathsome Beyond finds Stick In The Wheel again snubbing expectations to create and craft around a constant vein of ‘what if…?’  It’s a philosophy that pervades the record as they create originality in a genre where reinvention and reinterpretation are the watchwords.

Someone once said that only dead fish swim with the tide. It might have been Roy Keane. To give him his due, who wants to be a dead fish? Certainly not Stick In The Wheel.

Watch the video for Down In Yon Forest from the album here:

Stick In The Wheel  online:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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