Hannah James & Toby Kuhn – Sleeping Spirals: Album Review

Hannah James and Toby Kuhn collaborate on a blend of English Folk and European melodies.

Hannah James & Toby Kuhn 2021 Sleeping Spirals album cover resized

Release Date: 19th November 2021

Label: Jigdoll Records

Format: CD / digital

A duo whose backgrounds offer a wild and wonderful variety of styles, collaborations and influences, come together to create a rich and vibrant collection.

Stories of nature, change, pain and delight all ebb and flow with an increasingly wider palette of imaginative sounds and textures. The accordion and cello pairing reaps rewards immediately, adding a depth to the starker vocal/percussion opening of In The Gloaming.

There once was a giant who lived far away,” sings Hannah at the start of The Giant. Accompanied by a gentle tuned percussion, it conjures up the sort of narrative and delicate and precise arrangement that The Unthanks made their trademark. The richness of the cello beginning to show its worth by adding depth and texture, whether it accompanies a lone voice or adds strong musical value with its presence.

There’s a distinctly organic and rustic feel about Jealousy; up close and intimate before the cello/accordion combo provides a soothing presence. The handclaps remind us that we should also pay note for elements of Hannah’s percussive dance and clog rhythms making their presence felt. Having had the nudge, One pictures Hannah adding a unique movement accompaniment to Jezerka or the skittering Vine Dance as she improvises some vocalisms.

With an emphasis on the stately – Sheila’s Tune could be a contender as music for Morse or Endeavour – one immediate standout comes via the dreamy ambience of The Ragged Woman ventures into hold-your-breath territory, emerging from what could be an improvised and experimental exploration. And it’s in that exploration and sense of experimentation – “where can we go with these instruments?” – that gives Sleeping Spirals its motif. Taking European tunes into new dimensions, the musical travelogue that comes to an apt conclusion with the spiralling The Faint And Weary Traveller, is a box of treasures that constantly offers up new delights.

Hannah James online: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Toby Kuhn online: Website

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