Third album from Folk-Noir-ists, Bird In The Belly, continues to tread new ground.
Release Date: 25th February 2022
Label: GF*M Records
Formats: CD / Digital
Our thoughts on Bird In The Belly’s Neighbours And Sisters at the back end of 2019 revolved around the words: “uncompromising, chilling and occasionally uncomfortable.” Without wanting to sound too blase about what’s another intriguing and most excellent album, After The City is more of the same. In a good way naturally as the band is quite an extraordinary prospect.
Inspired – if that’s the right word – by the writings of Richard Jefferies in After London (“an early example of post-apocalyptic fiction“), the topic is a popular one, even the type of concept that Jon Boden has explored, recently concluding his own trilogy of post-apocalyptic themed work trilogy with Last Mile Home. Jeffries’ own personal story is worth indulging in, yet as After London tells of a country reverting to nature in its post-catastophic state, in what feels like a highly theatrical piece, the band turns to cotton famine poetry, plague poetry and broadside ballads to build the backstory. And at this point, a mention in dispatches to Dr Simon Rennie at Exeter University whose contribution to the Faustus Cotton Lords work has already been noted.
The idea of cities overthrown by disaster and nature fighting back to return as victor might have made a good Sci-Fi blockbuster back in the days of Quatermass and things from other worlds. In 2022, it’s frighteningly more real. Enough to gloss over the two words that often throw more of a chill into the bones than most – ‘concept album’.
A chill that’s momentarily forgotten amidst the jollity of Tragic Town Of Hearts. It feels like a medieval festival gathering song with cause for celebration. One can’t help but be buoyed by the folk party vibe but it doesn’t hang around for long. The minstrels at play are soon overcome by four songs that see the Horsemen of the Apocalypse heading into play; plague, war, famine and death ride in as harbringers of doom amidst a chilling “I am sick and I must die” refrain.
The combination of words from the broadside ballads and cotton famine poems with the quartet’s ability to create a contrast of stark (and dark) and more lush textures and atmospheres. They hinge on creating an increasing tension to the point where the “Death’s place army still recruiting” line delivers a final blow. I want to say ‘chilling’ but the word’s already been overused. A four-song sequence that is mesmerising and yet provides a morbid fascination at the same time.
The finale brings a hint of optimism and hope in the last three tracks. The ‘Rebirth’ in three parts (I, II and III) has a ‘weight off your shoulders’ lightness about the sequence. The birds, the mice and the crops are rife and the music soothes with a clarity and finesse and a whisper of that initial feeling of celebration starts to return.
The experienced combination of Laura Ward on flute and a greater vocal presence, Adam Ronchetti on bodhran, acoustic guitar, bass pedals, the multi-instrumental skills of Tom Pryor on guitar, organ, synth, banjo and violin and Benn (Jinnwoo) Webb whose vocals provide a strong focal point, is paying dividends.
There’s an album launch show set for Sat 26th Feb – The Harrison at Kings Cross, London with New Roots promotions. Info and ticket link: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/535154
Here’s Pale Horse from the album: