A freakbeat, folk-savvy take on sample culture.
Will Dean 2010-01-25
There's not much more British than slightly freaky folk music. As if to prove the point, Erland Cooper has mined these pleasant pastures for a debut album of depth and weird beauty.
Along with Cooper, who grew up in Orkney – a place where it's hard to believe there's any other kind of music ever performed except slightly freaky folk music – the Carnival is made up of Simon Tong (The Verve; Blur; The Good, the Bad & the Queen) and David Nock (drummer from Macca's The Fireman offshoot).
Together, they've taken various bits of existing poetry, lyrics, folk tales and songs, and melded them together with their own organs, guitars and lyrics. The result is a collection of engaging, swirling tracks and stories that sound like the soundtrack to a creepy, dreamy funfair.
The best example of this is The Derby Ram – an update of the traditional ballad about the giant ram which got the city its emblem. It recounts the story of 17-year-old Shaun Dykes who, in 2008, jumped from the top of a car-park in the city centre while the gathered crowd below had shouted "jump" and filmed him on their phones. Cooper uses the old A Day in the Life trick of lifting scenes straight from the newspaper, telling Dykes' story through quotes from the scene. It's a modern parable that's infinitely scarier than a big sheep.
Elsewhere, William Blake's verse The Echoing Green is set to a hypnotic offbeat guitar part that Cooper hides his voice behind. Leonard Cohen's return-to-libido poem Disturbed This Morning is given a curious reworking that makes it more wanderlust than old-man lust, and My Name Is Carnival a cover of a track by tragic 60s folk singer Jackson C Frank (which gives the band their name) is a buxom, jazzy, introduction to the Carnival's shtick.