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8 May 2010

Review: Untie the Wind (Telling the Bees)

Telling the Bees
Untie the Wind
Black Thrustle, 2008

Telling The Bees are a four piece folk band with a strong classical influence and they sing their stories with a poignancy and magic all their own. Oh, and every time I put this album on to play I am immediately, utterly obsessed.

Musically speaking the combination of vocals, guitars, mandolins, pipes, bass, cello, violin and a few other supporting instruments is a total winner. The arrangements are dramatic, playful, intricate and soulful. These guys could get any audience dancing, singing and laughing in a matter of moments.

What really gets to me about this music, however, is the spirit that comes through the band. It is light, sparkling and joyous – but also deeply ancient, powerful and earthy. Every track has a remarkable pathos, an ability to bring both joy and sadness in the one moment – to me this is a hallmark of musical genius.

The magic and reverence of tracks like “Wood”, a celebration of the beauty of a musical instrument; like “The Worship Of Trees”, a declaration of atavistic oak-loving intent; and “Quietly Raging”, which alternates between wistful nostalgia for the natural world and resolute fury toward those who would destroy nature in the name of “progress”.

I often get choked up when I listen to this album. As a vessel or transmission it is just about unparalleled – all kinds of beautiful and impassioned forces rush through it, setting my bones buzzing and my Deep Mind afire. This music speaks straight to the deepest cores of our joys, fears and passions. It invites us back into an intimate relationship with nature, and indeed with our unalloyed pastoral humanity.

I have to say, too, that it is a deep joy to hear a contemporary folk ensemble who really know their way around their instruments. Often it seems like modern folk music, especially neo-folk, is filled to the rafters with people who really just aren’t very good.

Telling The Bees, on the other hand, know how to husband and expend dynamics; how to cultivate atmosphere and mood; how to sweep their audience off into oceans and forests of imagery and feeling. Every track is a classic. Oh, I should mention how lush and warm the production is: rich, clear, full and gorgeously woody.

Sometimes when you listen to the Beatles you get that sense of utter magic, wistful beauty, the sense that the music isn’t really the creation of human beings but rather a missive straight from the gods. Part of that magic comes from how well-known those songs are.

Well with Telling The Bees I get the same feeling, except I had it from the first listen. Am I suggesting that this band is better than the Beatles? I think I might be. Some people will want to shoot me for saying that – but I suspect they’d be with me if they took the time to check this album out first.

This has immediately become one of my favourite albums of all time. I want to buy copies for everyone I know. Do yourself a massive service and buy it right now. You’ll thank yourself for doing it, and me for telling you to.

This review was originally featured on Heathen Harvest webzine.

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