Each week Vulture Hound picks a new artist you should definitely be checking out. This week, Dan slays some folk based demons thanks to Wovoka Gentle.
‘Experimental folk’; can there be any other label or genre that carries such a weight of self-indulgent and joyless apathy? I’m struggling to think of one. However, that’s exactly the label that’s been slapped on Wovoka Gentle. And if you’re already succumbing to a creeping sensation of lethargy and boredom just at the thought of having to read a piece about an ‘Experimental Folk’ band; snap out of it and pay attention. If ever there’s been a more astute lesson in ‘don’t read an experimental folk band by its cover’, you’ll struggle to find a better example than this London three-piece.
Rather fortuitously, I managed to come across the band without reading a single press release. No pre-sell, no expectation lowering folk-themed spiel, just a chance discovery on Twitter in November last year. The discovery was the track ‘You Have Saved Our Lives, We Are Eternally Grateful’. A song that manages to subtly and effectively cram more ideas, instrumentation and emotive moments into four minutes than a whole album’s worth of standard folk fare.
Hanging off a frame work of acoustic guitar; layered, chanting choral vocals, scuttling percussion and some hypnotic production build and evolve to produce a track of breathtakingly likable Experimental Folk. See, it can happen, and it happens time and time again on the band’s 2nd EP Wovoka Gentle (Blue).
The rest of the EP features a diversity of influences, from 60’s and 70’s pop to experimental jazz, but rest assured, such is the absolute joy of unravelling each track on the record, you’re in no danger of feeling like a bored and cynical participant in some self-indulgent shit show.
Tracks like ‘Peace Is Its Own Reward’ is a pop record veiled in catchy synth lines, hand claps, and some wonderful dual vocals, while EP opener, ‘Likeness’, rolls around shoegaze, 60’s pop and 90’s indie. There’s not a trace of glib, twee quirkiness to be found anywhere. Who knew folk could be so enjoyable?
Now, almost a year on from that chance discovery, the band (made up of Imogen and Ellie Mason and William Stokes), have just released EP number three, the Gareth Jones produced (Grizzly Bear, Depeche Mode, Interpol), Wovoka Gentle Red.
After the abrasive buzz of instrumental opener ‘[With The Exception Of]’, with its sequenced guitar feedback and Francis Dhomont like soundscape, a warm electronic hum introduces an uber-reverberant bed of low end piano/synth and chiming glockenspiel. ‘All Exterior Dark’ is a stripped back synth pop gem; a solo female vocal elevated to almost euphoric heights by swirling strings and, later, a discordant interlude of layered synths.
‘Mercy Seat (You’re The Ultimate Lover)’ continues the synth and sequenced guitar domination, backed by, what sounds like, an orchestra full of experimental instrumentalists and voices, while ‘In Mind Without Moving[crashed]’ draws its attention to programmed drums and a more 80’s synth pop vibe. Still, there’s nothing standard to be found here, it’s just as much an erratic and endlessly interesting animal as the rest of the EP.
To discover Wovoka Gentle is to discover that ignorance is not bliss. Although we shouldn’t pay attention to labels and genre, it’s often hard not to. Afterall musical ‘ignorance’ has probably saved me more time in my life than the Pay By Phone parking app – that’s a lot of time saved!
So if you need to confront your inner genre aversions, follow the example set by Wovoka Gentle. Appreciate some new, exciting and and fresh creativity when you hear it. You’ll be eternally grateful if you do.
Wovoka Gentle Red EP is out now on Yukatan Records.