It’s a charming, spontaneous-sounding blend they trade in.
Chris Parkin 2011-12-12
Next year Tunng release their fifth album – a landmark of sorts in these days of three-album careers. It’s certainly a reason for this rag-tag collective to take stock, rub those careworn feet and glance back at the path they’ve travelled since Mike Lindsay stopped making music for soft porn films and ensconced himself – in mind at least – in this land’s ancient mossy wolds. This collection does the job wonderfully.
Culled from the various BBC radio sessions Tunng have recorded for Rob da Bank, Lauren Lavern, Marc Riley and others since the release of their 2005 debut, Mother’s Daughter and Other Songs, it’s a bewitching album that gives pause for thought throughout. See, all their four studio albums are represented here, but the chronology is thrown asunder like wrapping paper on Christmas Day morning. Yet weirdly it only makes the whole collection more seamless.
Even the band’s most faithful fans will have found Tunng too slight or twee at times – especially so on their last outing, …And Then We Saw Land. But on Live from the BBC, all the songs display something more warmly empathetic but haunted. From itchy-fingered glitch and found-sound cut-ups (Jenny) and mystical pop songs (a cover of Bloc Party’s Pioneers) to a heavily groovesome, baggy-like collaboration with desert bluesmen Tinariwen (Tamatant Tilay), everything is touched by a fondness for the sort of magical, odd, Wicker Man-styled folksong that evokes the image of men with rabbit ears commuting between forest and town.
It’s a charming, spontaneous-sounding blend they trade in – gently picked guitars and almost-bumbled percussion (including the rattle of toe-nail clippings) at the heart of everything. But hearing what they’ve been up to down the years gathered together really does spear any assumptions that Tunng are saccharine and happy-clappy one-trick ponies. And with Lindsay living in Iceland and working with Mugison and a local choir, the next leg of this sweetly eccentric band’s journey should be worth tagging along for too.