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You Are Wolf
Keld Tom Bolton , March 23rd, 2018 07:21

Airy and eerie folk songs, new and old, from Kerry Andrew.

Clear and bright, Kerry Andrew’s captivating voice is at the forefront of You Are Wolf’s new album, Keld, airy and eerie set of watery folk songs. You Are Wolf is Andrew’s folk project, playing a combination of traditional and original music, but as a composer and now a novelist, her influences are wider than the folk scene. Although her experimentation has seen her compared to Björk and Julia Holter, she really does not sound quite like anyone else. Not afraid to let her voice fly, she has developed a sort of avant-a-cappella style that is expressive but, importantly, sounds entirely natural and unaffected. It’s exciting, exceptionally confident work that confirms You Are Wolf as innovators.

It is not all about Kerry Andrew - You Are Wolf includes new collaborators in multi-instrumentalist Sam Hall and Peter Ashwell on percussion. Following 2014 debut Hawk To The Hunting Gone, a highly original album about birds, Keld is inspired by freshwater. In the spirit of Robert McFarlane’s book Lost Words, which reclaims the fading language of place, You Are Wolf are reviving the use of ‘keld’ - a Northern word for the “deep, still, smooth part of a river”.

This is a landscape album, exploring the cultural position of rivers and lakes as places - for swimming, for drowning, for protection via an Anglo Saxon charm, for the vengeance of the water spirits. Scottish poet Robin Robertson (who collaborated with Alasdair Roberts on the recent Hirta Songs album) makes a guest appearance here on outro ‘Let Them Be Left’, asking us “What would the world be once bereft of wet and of wildness?” The power of place is behind every track on this album.

Keld combines traditional and original material, with songs such as ‘Breathe Out Breathe In’ owing more to Andrew’s work as composer with layers of counter-rhythm and voices describing a watery condition, inspired by her interest in wild and cold-water swimming. You Are Wolf’s version of traditional song ‘As Sylvie Was Walking’ places low, fingerstyle guitar under the vocals, joined halfway through by a cello which seems to be playing in a vast, enclosed space, offering sonorous accompaniment as Andrew is confronted by a vision of her dead lover and croons “Mine eyes were like fountains.” A song collected by Sabine Baring-Gould in the West Country in the early 1900s becomes a thoroughly trippy experience of the supernatural. Folk singer Lisa Knapp takes a guest spot on ‘The Weeper’, striking powerful harmonies with Andrew as the London inflections subtly chime in both their voices.

The mood shifts across the album, and what initially seem simple songs become more complex with each listen. ‘Dragonfly’ is a rhyme with echoes of Lal Waterson, both charming and unsettling; it is followed by a version of Archie Fisher’s ‘The Witch of the Westmerland’, a song of high myth about an Arthurian Lake District encounter. This range is what makes Keld such an intriguing and satisfying album. You Are Wolf reach for an impressive range of influences to create something that makes the ancient sound very new. Their performances are multifaceted, one moment clouding over, the next sparkling with sunlight like one of their deep, still rivers.