If you’re going to go folk, you either go full folk or don’t. It should be as simple as that. Unfortunately, the success of acts such as Mumford and Sons led to a musical devolution a few years ago, producing a tidal wave of talentless flatcaps with acoustic guitars that waved the flag of folk. It was a dark time, which we are still recovering from.
So, the lilting guitars of Radical Face’s new album, The Family Tree: The Leaves, makes me immediately hostile. What is this, more of the same? More run of the mill, churned out faux-folk? Even the title oozes a traditional folk title. Good lord, slay me, we are back at square one.
Or so I mistakenly think. The misleading sound of ‘Secrets (Cellar Door)’ might give the impression, but it soon becomes apparent that Radical Face are so traditionally folk that it doesn’t feel like a churned out follow fashion. It’s genuine. It’s more than just an acoustic-clad singer, it’s one that embraces every sound of folk. Strings and double-bass galore, reaching for glory beyond the limitations of the guitar.
Though interestingly, there’s much more here than meets the ear initially. Just when you think you have Radical Face figured out, you’re confronted with ‘The Road To Nowhere’. It’s a track that from the opening hook of frantic fingers pressed on violins, expresses itself in a drastically different way. It’s muscular, swinging back and forth atop an erratic rhythm. It’s a bizarre study in folkish adoption of other genres, embodying the heart and soul of Damon Albarn’s solo record in five minutes.
The Family Tree is hard to trace, and Radical Face are happy to change their expressionism. It’s a hard-going album for its systematic creation and shattering of perceptions. It is consistently inconsistent, but never boring. It’s more than just a folk record. But what it is, for certain, is yet to be determined.
The Family Tree: The Leaves is out via Nettwork Records on March 25th.