Rare Folk (II): developing their own sound

Written on the 24th of April 2014

Last week I began to talk about Rare Folk, specifically about their first three CDs; here I’ll talk about the other two. In 2005, they composed the soundtrack for the movie “Chapapote… o no”, which deals with the disaster of the ship Prestige, which sank next to the Galician shore and contaminated the water with its fuel. Not gonna lie, I just found out about that movie, and I can’t find the music anywhere, sorry about that.

They created their own record label around that time, which, added to the more international distribution of their last two albums, has helped them to take part in some of the most important national (meaning Spanish) and international music festivals. Amongst other Spanish festivals, Rare Folk has played in Festival de Ortigueira, Etnosur, Festa da Carballeira, Foliada Folk, Getxo Folk, Festival de Folk de Segovia, Chiclana, Jimena de la Fra., Espantapitas, Estivalia, etc. They’ve also played in international festivals such as Ollin Kan Internacional Festival in Mexico, “South Dublin Arts Festival”, “Feile Orras Festival”, “Fused Festival” and “Sai Festival” in Ireland, “Sons De Verao Festival” in Azores (Portugal), “Al Cultur Encuentros Do Arte” and “A dentro” in Portugal (I mean the mainland), “National Day Fest” in Gibraltar (UK) and “Montelago Celtic Festival” in Italy. Oh, and they’ve played in Mexico’s “Vive Latino” once or twice, I know a Mexican guy who has been there (if you’re reading this, Fidel, cheers to you!) and he said they were great, which is not hard to believe.

Anyway, back to their albums. I think I’ve mentioned at some point that their two last albums are the most “mature” ones and my favourites. Electronic elements are heavily introduced (in contrast with UnimaVerse, where there were just a few sparks here and there) and their music sounds even more original.

Natural Fractals was released in 2008. The opener (which is also the title track) alone is enough to set this album apart from its predecessors, as some parts are heavily electronic (well, “heavily”… certainly heavily compared to what most people would expect when listening to this kind of thing). Pretty funky song, and of course, gotta love the mandolin (well, mangulina, which is how this sort of double mandolin is called). Alegría is another funk-ish song, with an electronic intro and Rare Folk’s well known flute here and there.

Psycoceltic is one of the band’s best songs, if not the best. It starts as a somewhat traditional celtic folk music with that little flute solo, and, before you know it, it has turned into an extremely catchy electronic melody.

Lovers of calm music, do not despair! If you don’t feel like listening to something like the stuff I just mentioned, you should listen to Copérnico, Glissentar, Hedera Helix or the last song of the album, Niñez, which reminds me of some of their older stuff. “Niñez” means “childhood”… maybe a little wink to their early years?

The album has two more songs: Romanescu, which has a very distinctive Balkan feel, and Freestyle Folk, which is a perfect song to jump to in a concert. If I’m not mistaken, this song closed the last Rare Folk concert I went to. Front row, people clapping and jumping… good stuff, yes indeed.

Their last album (they’re making a new one now though) is Go, from 2011. Here, Rare Folk follows the path taken in the previous album, but the sound is more homogeneous somewhat, more mature (in Natural Fractals the contrast between electronic and “traditional”” was perhaps too big sometimes). The collaborations by Irish vocalist Cathy Jordan (Dervish) and violinist Dee Armstrong (from Kila, which is by the way another interesting band) help, of course.

If I had to add one or two adjectives to their music (I mean apart from the ones I’ve used at one point or another), they’d be psychedelic and progressive (progressive rock, that is, it kind of reminds me of it sometimes). Go is not really celtic folk anymore. It does have celtic folk influences, and a couple of songs (O Mais Bonito and Siete Puntas) could be really considered at such, but all in all, I don’t think this album can be properly labeled as anything (oh well, freestyle folk, maybe?). Which is not a bad thing at all.

Cathy Jordan sings in Drum and Breakfast (an adaptation of the traditional song As I Roved from the County Cavan) and Autumn (she made the lyrics for this one, in which Dee Armstrong plays the violin).

I can’t really describe Septiembre (if anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!). Synths, guitar, flute… all of them play an important part here. Again, I’m lost for words at this point, I can only say I’m in love with this song for some reason.

What else… lots of experimentation on Infornorgrafía, a very fast pace in The Sea Shepherd (this song is usually their opener when they play live, and with good reason!) and a very catchy guitar-flute-violin mix in Automatik. I haven’t mentioned a couple of songs, but well, the whole album is outstanding, cohesive and incredibly original, which makes it hard to explain the whole thing with comparisons. I can only recommend it again, and again, and again…

P.S: as a side note, the drummer recently left the band and was replaced.

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