Catriona Price of Orkney and Esther Swift of Peebleshire met while studying at the Manchester based Royal Northern College of Music and formed ’Twelfth Night’ in the city. Their debut album, following an earlier EP release, is ’Northern Quarter’, with its title and some of its themes inspired by Manchester’s cultural district.
Twelfth Night feature an interesting instrumental combination of fiddle (Price) and harp (Swift) with some well balanced vocals, both independently and in harmony. The duo have a real lightness of touch, with bright yet delicate vocals and vibrant fiddle and harp.
The album opens strongly with ’Curry’, a wildly inventive track with a very contemporary sound. From its fiddle-driven opening, ’Curry’ wanders freely into voice experiments (reminiscent of a sound poem) and back, with the whole being highly evocative of a wild night out in the city.
What follows is something of a tour de force. Several contrasting instrumentals, the reflective and subtle ’Northern Quarter’, the lively ’Orkney Twister’, brooding ’Immense Paul’ and inspiring ’Granny’s Green Steps’ showcase the impressive range of talents of Price and Swift.
The duo deal with more traditional material in two excellent interpretations of Robert Burns poems. ’The Deil’s Awa’, from The Deil’s Awa Wi’ Th’ Exciseman’ is here given a contemporary feel with a lovely, fast interplay of voices and simple instrumental accompaniment.
In ’Jamie’, the Burns poem ’There’ll Never be Peace Till (Jamie Comes Hame)’ tells of Jacobite longing and features a startling, discordant section of clashing vocals which fits the theme well. The album is rounded off with an excellent, mournful version of “Fare thee Well’.
Twelfth Night are a breath of fresh air and ’Northern Quarter’ marks a very impressive debut album.