Posts Tagged ‘The Eighteenth Day of May’

The Left Outsides / Alison Cotton

Over the last few years, Feeding Tube has amassed an impressive collection of works by The Left Outsides, and subsequently solo work by singer / violaist Alison Cotton. The husband-wife duo of Cotten and Mark Nicholas have carried on the psych-folk torch following the dissolution of their previous band The Eighteenth Day of May. This Feeding Tube and Cardinal Fuzz pull triple duty, reissuing the band’s live set cut to CD-R, A Place To Hide from last year. The set culls quite a bit from the band’s previous studio album All That Remains, though they take pains not to merely recreate the album in the live setting. In the room. The Left Outsides can breathe new life into their works — here stretching the songs into haunted dirges that weep with harmonium and dread. The set’s rounded out with a few covers, one traditional and another a rather beautiful take on a 13th Floor Elevators tune, an inspired choice if there ever was one. The lone new cut is the opener “My Reflection Once Was Me,” a song that ties this release to the band’s new record, Are You Sure I Was There?

The song finds its way into the new album, slated for release next week, but its a changed animal. The harmonium drone is gone, replaced by the low growl of guitar, but Alison Cotton’s singular voice still drives the track with hints of deep furrowed sorrow. The album is a departure from the live set that inhabits A Place To Hide, still scarred with the heavy heart and melancholy that’s present in the duo’s work, but fleshed out into a psych-folk landmark that’s acts as a proper follow-up to the scarred and singed landscapes of All That Remains. As the album wears on the clouds pull in tight, blocking the wan moonlight and calling the mists from all directions. Like Espers, Fire On Fire, or most of the Language of Stone roster, this is a band that connects deep to the currents of UK folk and the dark pull of anguish and hope that have long played a part in it’s legacy. Both pull at each other on A Place To Hide, creating rivulets of tension that scar and soothe.

While they hold court evenly, with both Cotton and Nicholas taking on vocal duties within the new album, the labels have found room for one more Cotton related LP on the roster this year and it puts Alison’s solo works on par with the duo’s elemental sadness. Earlier in the year Cotton released a cassette for Bloxham tapes that saw her balancing the stark viola drones with her voce, playing up her Nico tendencies more than any other on the dock this year. The set opens wit the labyrinthine, 20+ minute “Behind The Spiderweb Gate” and delves deep into the darkness from there on out. The song winds her voice through eddies of glacial sadness leading into the layered beauty and stark mourning of the rest of Only Darkness Now, perhaps the most fitting title in all of the Left Outsides-adjacent catalog. Both Feeding Tube and Cardinal Fuzz have done well to showcase what’s so entrancing about Cotton and The Left Outsides and its quite an enticing spread of albums from them this year. If you’re unfamiliar, this trio is an excellent primer on what’s made the band and Cotton’s contributions so vital over the past few years.

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Trimdon Grange Explosion

Forming in the wake of The Eighteenth Day of May, Trimdon Grange Explosion is an extension of the previous band’s psychedelic folk while also embracing heavier modal impulses that had only begun to pop up in within the members’ previous form. The band drags their hands through the waters pooled by Pentangle, Fairport Convention and John Martyn and pulls off the likeness well, but they’re not simply and exercise in revivalist nostalgia. Like contemporaries Espers or White Magic, the band also embraces the less Anglo influences that have cropped up since dark folk was the vogue in ‘’69. Within traditional structures on ballads like “The Bonnie Banks of Fordie,” the band embraces the sawing yawp of John Cale’s string sounds and the slight wobble that underpins The Incredible String Band.

There’s another shade that pops up on Trimdon’s debut, though, and it’s a woven strand of indie that’s not just a hangover from the Espers/White Magic connection, but hews closer to perhaps Vetiver in its approach. On “Christian’s Silver Hell” and “Heading For a Fall” the band keeps the fuzz, clangor, and atmosphere, but when Alison Cotton is away from the mic and Ben Philips picks up vocal duties the band adopts a bit of a lighter tone. They work the duality well, with Cotton letting the heavy mantle of murder balladeer billow her sails and steel her gaze and Philips providing the sobering shelter from her storm.

There’s something inviting about the darker strains of folk, subverting the form from storytime revelry to strombringing omens, but too much gloom drags the swimmer under the tide for good. Trimdon create a vital symbiosis between blood and bone – the paralysis of mourning and the steadfast necessity of travelling on at all costs. There’s a stately grace to their eponymous album that picks up the yoke from their former band without being beholden to it. Rooted in the ash and dirt, the band are steadily seeding the clouds to bring on a deluge of hurt and relief to eventually wipe it all clean.

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