Galley Beggar - a band that quite enjoys being labelled as different. Certainly a band for those who like their folk music spiced with more of an edgy or maverick element of rock and psychedelia built in.
They’ve stepped well beyond the Pentangles and the Fairports and moved on from what they consider the more laid back sound of their previous Silence And Tears. Heathen Hymns sees the band developing their darker and more adventurous side.
The tone is set from the outset with the swirling Eastern hum that opens Salome; a perfect soundtrack for the album art that features a circle of elfin-like children engaged in some ritualistic performance - it could be totally innocent but then again… Pagan or not, the opening salvo sees the Beggars lyrically straying in and out of shadow and yes indeed the senses are awoken.
Crossing the boundary from the warm security of the folk world into the seductive charms of progressive and world music, sitars and cellos sit comfortably alongside traditional instruments. Their increasing use of the combination of the acoustic pastoral palette with touches of the electric, whilst adding a subtle influence of faintly dark magical narratives is a heady mixture.
Following a folk template and taking on standards, they transport them to another dimension where the folk roots intertwine with lava lamps and curling wisps of incense, patchouli oil and paisley patterned garments. It might on the surface sound as though we’re edging towards the stereotypical but it sets up a groove and a fascinating rhythmic entrancement.
The concession to including Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, featuring a guest vocal from Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees, is that the band add their own acidic take in reinventing a well covered classic, turning the ending into an instrumental freak-out tour de force. The instrumental passage of The Girl I Left Behind Me is of a similar ilk although they term it “just about the only easy-going song on the album.”
Having said that, the strength lies with the original material, typified by the hypnotic trance vibe on My Return and the grander, elaborate arrangement with sweeping Arabic sounding strings on Moon And Tide.
Whether or not the influence of the Rise Above label and its metal roster has played a part, Heathen Hymns marks a logical progression. A perfect example of the Galley Beggar method of moving forward by looking back.Mike Ainscoe
Produced by Liam Watson. Released 28 April 2017 on Rise Above Records.
2. Four Birds
3. The Girl I Left Behind Me
4. The Lake
6. Moon And Tide
7. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
8. My Return