Boxharp – The Green

Electro-folk (for want of a better phrase) seems to be a new buzz-genre. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, given the recent rise of nu-folk and eighties-inspired electropop. Why not meld the two? It’s something that sounds better in theory than in practice from things I’ve heard till now. But Boxharp seem to have it cracked (although they would probably grimace at the term – and who would blame them).

I enjoyed the avant-pop of the Loam Arcane EP, but The Green seems to take the duo in a different direction altogether. The sounds are often synthetic but subtle, although some of the tracks do suffer from what I can only describe as Tupperware beats. The real strength of the album lies in the clear tones of singer Wendy Allen who has a voice as pure as a mountain stream (she does sound uncannily like 90s 4AD songstress Heidi Berry at times). Cloy, for example, is as sweet and gossamer-light as Vashti Bunyan at her best. It’s folk inspired, although not as obviously as Hick’s Farewell, The Scarecrow’s Lament and the superb Leatherwing Bat which all have the instantly recognisable melodic imprint of Celtic / Appalachian ballads.

To suggest that the album is Francis Childe goes synth-pop is too much of a simplification. There are echoes of the avant-garde balladry of This Mortal Coil, and there is bucolic ambience aplenty, not to mention a few tracks that dispense with traditional song-form altogether and offer a more radical, experimental bent. The short lament Field Stones that ends the record is both leftfield and folk, and quite unsettling in the way it ends abruptly.

The only two tunes that don’t do a lot for me are, oddly enough, the title track (which is the one the record company has issued as a promotional DL even though it couldn’t be less typical of the album as a whole) and Sidestepping. The former sounds like an overly plasticised out-take from Joni’s Court and Spark, the latter a bit of a plodding soft-rock tune. The rest is more than fine, though. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, but just gets under your skin.

The album is out on Hidden Shoal

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