Trembling Bells


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Beauty rarely hides where you expect it. Take, for instance, the debut release by the U.K.'s Trembling Bells. It starts off as a fine neo-folk record, the kind that upholds the tradition of British folk music, updating it along the way, in this particular case with elements of alternative psychedelic rock. An aerial female singer (Lavinia Blackwall of Directing Hand), a male singer with more of a layman's voice (Alex Neilson, also the band's drummer and mastermind), and very competent musicians around them. The music first oscillates between psychedelic folk ("I Listed All of the Velvet Lessons") and alt-country ("I Took to You (Like Christ to Wood"), the mocking tone of the latter reinforced by a peculiar strand of humor found again in "The End Is the Beginning Born Knowing" and "Your Head Is the House of Your Tongue." And then comes "Willows of Carbeth," a gripping, emotional song in the folk-rock vein, as moving as Fairport Convention's very best moments. And that's where beauty hits you unexpectedly: the bright light cast by that single song inundates the rest of the album, which you can't help but see anew -- the feeling, the originality hiding behind the familiar, the high level of cohesion of the group. And that's how you realize that this band do more than just knowing what they're doing: they have the Fire. The Folk Fire. The one that will make a band sound genuine whether they tackle dirges or drinking songs. And that's how Carbeth becomes an album to cherish. Do yourself a favor: let yourself be caught off-guard.

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