Two of the glowing lights of the vibrant new wave of contemporary folk song , Frankie Archer and Chloe Matharu, both release new singles.
Cambridge Folk Festival, as we mentioned in our recent review, is always keen to promote the emergent new wave of artists across these four countries, with dedicated showcases, over successive days, to new artists from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. This saw each of the above, alongside, amongst others, Maddie Morris, Beth Malcolm, Gráinne Hunt and Cerys Hafana, being offered a brief showcase to shine brighter their talent, gaining many a fan along the way. Frankie Archer, from England, and Chloe Matharu, from Scotland, each have new singles out, so what better time?
Chloe Matharu – Towards The Hebrides
(Self-released, 8/9/23, via Bandcamp.)
A Scottish Indian harpist and singer, Matharu, has had an interesting start to her musical career, working as a Navigational Officer in the merchant navy, on oil tankers as they peruse the world. Like The Silkie Of Sule Ferry, the song she released to coincide with her Cambridge appearance, this song is new and not from last year’s debut album, Small Voyages. (The video, which she shot herself, actually displays her journey from Cambridge to the North Uist beach where it ends).
If a song about escaping the heat and hurly burly of the city, she also escapes the electronic sheen of some of her earlier music, here stripped back to the bare bones of voice and harp. Voices, in fact, as multi-tracking adds a ghostly surreality. With her lead voice a tremulous quaver over the chiming strings, it is eerily indrawing, like a siren. Indeed, any brave Ulysses, navigating these northern waters as she sings, might nervously start looking for rope. It is quite a change for her, it suiting well.
Frankie Archer – Oxford City
(self-released, 8/9/23, via Bandcamp)
Archer is from the North-East, Northumbria, where she gets her mastery of traditional fiddle from, her love of electronica and loops shining through in her mix of the trad with the tech. Earlier in her career, just, than Matharu, any full length recording is yet to come, although a couple of earlier singles have preceded this one, which is forthcoming. Following her part in the English Folk Expo at Cambridge, she won the prestigious Christian Raphael prize, awarded to the key emerging talent of the year. Previous winners have included Angeline Morrison and Katherine Priddy.
This song, over a century old, was chosen to give a reflection on the agelessness of incel culture and male rage against a rejected advance. The combination of an electronic pulse and her sweet vocals, double tracked after the introductory verse, is well balanced. What sounds like a diametric foot a’tapping provides the additional percussion, ahead some sweeping fiddle, drenched in echo, to give some extra sense of foreboding. The lightness of delivery contrasts well with the abject darkness of the narrative, a Victorian Mickey Finn, in description and delivery, this comes to the max in the unaccompanied coda. Bring on the album!