One of my favourite lines in a piece of music journalism dates back almost 10 years, to a glowing five-star review of Irish alt-folk, blues, electronica and field-recording maestro Seamus Fogarty’s exceptional 2012 debut album God Damn You Mountain.
Grasping for words to best capture the bucolic-poetic majesty and shall we say pungent realness of Rita Jack’s Lament – a track built around a sample of a senior County Kerry native on her first trip home in 50 years, standing in the house she grew up in, talking about her childhood as a warped and detuned traditional Irish guitar melody burbles and birds chatter in the background – The Skinny magazine’s Finbarr Bermingham summed up thus: “You can almost smell the cowshit off it”.
I’ve been enjoying smelling the cowshit off of a lot of new music
I think about that line a lot. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately in particular, because – and for everyone’s sake please be certain that I mean this figuratively – I’ve been enjoying smelling the cowshit off of a lot of new music.
Music which, in a not dissimilar spirit to Fogarty’s God Damn You Mountain, has the countryside, nature, the great outdoors – call it what you like – at heart. Sometimes nebulously, sometimes in the most literal sense. All of it apt to make a soul soar out of lockdown, over forests, fields and shores. After a year spent mainly shut in the house in the middle of a city, it doesn’t require much depth of self-analysis to figure out why that sort of thing may feel so appealing right now – particularly with a tantalising taste of spring and freedom in the air.
Erland Cooper’s compositions are like audio postcards from the ragged edge, full of love and longing for the emotional geography that shapes us all
Set to be reissued in May on 12-inch eco-mix vinyl (a clever technique recycling leftover coloured pellets from previous vinyl runs, giving each disc a uniquely randomised colour), rural Lancashire-based musician, artist and writer Rob St John’s delicately intoxicating Surface Tension LP was made over the course of a year spent walking, recording and photographing the Lea Valley as part of a charity project to document pollution, life and biodiversity throughout the East London area.
St John’s sonic-impressionist ambient instrumental landscapes – formed from fingerpicked guitars, tape loops, tube organs and rhythms that sound like they’ve been literally dunked in a river – make for mostly soothing fare. But modular synth-licked arcadian raver Tracing Static proves they can bang as well as splash.