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You Are Wolf
hare // hunter // moth // ghost Tom Bolton , October 30th, 2023 09:04

With a mixture of original songs and unique takes on traditional tunes, collaborators including Stick in the Wheel and Robert MacFarlane, Kerry Andrew has made a folk record like no other, finds Tom Bolton

Returning with their first album since 2018’s Keld, You Are Wolf is the guise in which composer, musician and writer Kerry Andrew makes folk music, both traditional songs and their own. Keld was a watery album, and hare // hunter // moth // ghost takes its fascination with liminal spaces a stage further. In Andrew’s hands, familiar songs from the folk canon are subtly realigned as part of an unmistakable You Are Wolf soundscape.

Andrew and bandmates Peter Ashwell and Sam Hall weave layers of eerie instrumentation that make old songs sound new, and new songs ancient. The traditional ‘Twa Magicians (The Lady and the Blacksmith Lass)’ is sung over a staccato “prepared piano loop made with pens, blue tack and paper” that lurches and twists. On new composition ‘Hare Song 1’, Andrew accompanies themself on marimba, which leaps like the song’s subject. Delightful, distant rhyme ‘The Trees in the Wood’ has field recordings of birds and high harmonies. The final track, the more free-form ‘Blue Men’, includes spoken vocal loops over organ and choral backing vocals and a drone recorded from Kerry’s electric radiator. It is a mini-alt-folk-pop-opera.

You Are Wolf made hare // hunter // moth // ghost in trying circumstances, the first music Andrew has recorded after several years of illness that has curtailed their performance work. As a result it was recorded remotely, but if anything the process has freed the music. Collaboration is everywhere on this record, both with contemporary folk musicians and nature writers. Andrew, also an acclaimed author, is unusual in belonging to both worlds. So hare // hunter // moth // ghost includes excellent album art by Nicole Kearey and mastering from Ian Carter, who together are Stick in the Wheel, a video by Marry Waterson, and guest vocal from Sam Lee on ‘Herne/The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance’. It also includes lyrics by Robert Macfarlane for ‘Blue Men’, Kerri ní Dochartaig for ‘winter solstice’ and Nick Hayes for ‘Herne/The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance’.

The power and beauty of Kerry Andrew’s music shines out from every track, and so does their vision with a very carefully selected set of traditional songs. The album opens with ‘Reynardine’, a ballad made iconic by Fairport Convention on Liege and Lief. It is a musical statement of intent, the shape-shifting fox setting the tone for songs about figures flitting across the thin line between worlds. The track collapses in a gathering storm of electronics, as the song’s disturbing undertones rise to the surface. Then ‘Twa Magicians’ reworks stalker manifesto ‘The Lady and the Blacksmith’ by “queering it up”, as Andrew puts it. These songs continue to shape change with the people who sing them, and the times they inhabit.

There is something in Kerry Andrew’s voice that makes their music special. Their singing is calm and controlled, intimate and direct. They sound entirely relaxed, as though stories about the strangest of occurrences are natural and obvious. Andrew’s serenity contrasts with their arrangements that build mesmerising levels of weirdness and beauty. You Are Wolf’s voice is powerful and important, taking our music and handing it back to us as though with new, deep meanings. hare // hunter // moth // ghost sounds like nothing else.