EP Review

Josienne Clarke – Now & Then: Extended EP Review

New set of covers, traditional and original songs from Josienne Clarke.

Release Date: 18th October 2022

Label: Corduroy Punk

Format: Digital

Wake up and smell the covers” might not be what you shout at the average teenager with their manky bed linen, but Tuesday morning was positively fragrant with the surprise of new music from elemental, indie-folk anti-apologist, Josienne Clarke. Before anyone considers getting on Twitface and considerately pointing out that the songs are not new: a) Don’t – why render your own existence futile? and b) The songs are new. Just listen to them. What is a worthwhile cover version if it isn’t taking an existing track and making it utterly fresh? Furthermore, track seven is a JC original. Take that, hypothetical pedants!

The cover image, shot by Alec Bowman_Clarke, shows Clarke’s face decorated intricately with leaf patterns. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that the tracks have something sylvan about them. Sometimes, you feel like you’re in the woods, gazing at dappled light through tree cover, yet there are moments where you feel like you’re cast in shadows and wondering exactly when the big bad wolf’s hunger is going to kick in. Even the acronym for an extended EP, ‘EEP’ has a sense of a fearful woodland creature.

It sounds dangerously close to stating the bleedin’ obvious to compliment the voice of Josienne Clarke, but for anyone who has been listening closely for a number of years now, there’s something extra in it on Now & Then. Part of it comes from the immaculate production quality of the recordings, making everything feel so immediate, present and enveloping. This is definitely the kind of recording that makes you grateful you shelled out on decent speakers. But there’s also an ounce of vocal newness. Let’s not go all psychoanalytical on its origin, but it comes across as a mix of power and joy to the listener.

Within the newness, there’s a mix of the contemporary and the traditional. Standard folk songs come at you in non-standard forms. Reynardine, the tale of a sly old fox with brightly shining teeth, starts the EEP by immersing you in its sonic depths and delights immediately. The Month of January has a traditional folk vocal, but one that sounds like it’s striding through the auditory equivalent of a blizzard. Bowman_Clarke, bassist as well as cover art photographer, plays the double bass as discordantly as anyone can whilst still making you really want to listen. Mordor-evoking rumblings come from the atmospheric drums and cymbals of Dave Hamblett. Josienne Clarke’s recorder line sounds like a bird that’s forgotten to hibernate and is thoroughly disliking the deep midwinter.

Versions of Nude by Radiohead, Time Has Told Me by Nick Drake, You Shadow by Sharon Van Etten and Sandy Denny’s Now & Thenall carry a sense of lyrical reassurance from the originals, but Clarke adds to the initial confidence. In Nude, Clarke follows, “You’re going to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking” with a tuneful ‘oooh’ that contains a playful sense of relish. Title track, Now & Then, links love and speaking with honesty, beautified further by the piano work of Matt Robinson. The very end of Nude has momentary resonance of Radiohead’s No Surprises, deliciously ironic on a surprise release.

Undo, Clarke’s own track, examines hindsight, whilst also championing moving forwards. The balance of emotions is key, it’s “One tear for sorrow, but more for joy.” It serves as an emotional summary of the EP. Happiness prevails. If you’re in need of a life laundry, these covers feel fresh and smell sweet.

Josienne Clarke online:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp / YouTube

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