Depending on your folk knowledge, you’ll know anything between one and all the songs on John Francis Flynn’s second album. What will be unfamiliar to all, however, is Flynn’s wonderfully strange interpretations of these eight traditional songs: this is a folk album in name only, light years from any musty hey-nonny-nonny reverence, imbued instead with, variously, electronic drone skronk, scratchy post-punk sensibility, and the sort of radical free space pioneered by those final two Talk Talk albums.
Perhaps its greatest quality, though, is that never are these arrangements just exercises in muso posturing; rather, without exception, each one services its song in profoundly original ways. Accordingly, the rattling groove of ‘Mole in the Ground’, all tumbling guitar lines and looped cello, accentuates its anti-establishment spirit, ‘Within a Mile of Dublin’ fizzes with ecstatic explosions, and the post-rock approach to ‘Kitty’, layered with drone and hiss, is presented here with newfound three-dimensional intimacy. Then there’s the one that everyone will know, ‘Dirty Old Town’, here slowed to funereal pace and rendered impossibly mournful by the deployment of colliery brass, leaving something contemplative and calm where once was boozy singalong.
For those (like the present writer) who loved the soundworld of False Lankum but found its 70+ minutes too overbearingly monolithic for a single sitting, Look Over The Wall (a snip at just over half that) might be the perfect response: here’s a record that rejects folk’s stuffy orthodoxy as fervently as it embraces its characters and tales, is complex but never complicated, and always welcoming. With each successive play, it draws you in further.
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