O’Hooley and Tidow are back with their third album The Hum. Building on the beautiful musicality of their previous albums, The Hum is a confident tour de force with an underlying message.
It’s relatively easy to sit back and let The Hum wow you with strong melodies and excellent production by Gerry Diver. The album is very easy to enjoy on a purely aesthetic level. What really makes it special though, is that beneath the brilliant surface lies a commentary on ordinary people and modern life.
The title track is hypnotic in its chorus, becoming almost the hum of which it sings. But it is also the everyday tale of a house sale that falls through because of the hum of the nearby factory. Not a grand tale of importance, but something every day and eminently relatable.
Belinda and Heidi’s songs always carry an intimacy, something inherently recognisable and personal to the listener - the sights, sounds and thoughts of British life perhaps. The Hum takes these familiar things and subtly shouts at the unfairness and injustice, whilst celebrating the people. That’s a powerful combination.
Musically the album is stunning. Gerry Diver’s production has added weight and depth to the sound, with violin, guitar, percussion and even elements of electronica on Like Horses creating an exciting whole. But, the listener still gets a lot of contrast, particularly with a track like Two Mothers, which is pared right back, focusing on the voices and story above all.
Peculiar Brood stands out particularly as a wonderful combination of songwriting, vocal performance and perfect instrumentation, creating a dramatic and emotive piece. With the subject matter examining suicide bombing from a mother’s perspective that is no surprise, but it keeps on the right side of being depressing or mawkish.
There are two covers on The Hum, but both fit in well both musically and in subject matter. Come Down From the Moor is beautifully contemplative, whilst Ruins By the Shore is a pleasingly different version of Nic Jones’s song, with added epic qualities.
It’s hard to pull out stand out tracks from what is an outstanding album, but Summat’s Brewin’ may well edge it for upbeat enjoyment. A song of ale will always be well received by the folk community, but pair that with some great harmony singing, a thumping piano part, and undertones of communities coming together, and you end up with the perfect pint.
Conversely, Kitsune is the most challenging and complex track of the album musically. Over six minutes long it has the space to evolve and experiment. There are moments of beauty but also elements with a more alien unfamiliar quality. It is quite possibly brilliant, but not necessarily an easy listen.
The Hum may be released in February 2014, but it is surely a strong candidate for album of the year, ticking style and substance boxes in abundance. A must-have for all fans of modern folk.Liz Osman
Released by No Masters Co-Operative 17th February 2014.
1. The Hum
2. Just a Note
3. Summat’s Brewin’
4. Two Mothers
5. Peculiar Brood
6. Like Horses
7. Coming Down the Moor
8. Coil & Spring
9. Ruins By the Shore