‘The Minstrel’s Grave’ by Sproatly Smith - a definitive psych-folk album(March 31, 2012)
‘The Minstrel’s Grave’ by Sproatly Smith is right up there as a definitive psych-folk album. This is an uncanny journey that any lover of pastoral-tinged pschedelia will love. I’ve reviewed Sproatly Smith’s eccentric, haunting, sometimes disturbing folk music before, and every foray I take into their spectral sphere of collective weirdness just gets better and better. Each time you listen to ‘The Minstrel’s Grave’ yet another layer peels back so you move deeper into the complex sound-melange that makes up the whole.
From the second the opening track 'My Mother Said' slides around your ears you are subsumed into their perplexing embrace. Mysterious, beguiling soundscapes filled with creaking and echoings, chattering voices, chanting children, tinkling bells and obscure resonances tease their way into your ears. The charm of this album lies in songs like 'The Mermaid Of Marden' - a delicate, vaporous, lingering melody with evocative vocals, and also the inexorable build of 'Blackthorn Winter' – blending flute, violin, percussion and sitars within its subtle vocal spell.
An electronic, tonal chime heralds 'The Fabled Hare/Isobel Goudie’ a perplexingly entrancing wander through dark whispers into soothing corridors of psych-folk. And just when you feel you have some measure of their delightful strangeness in comes 'Death' with hollow sounding, distorted guitars and mesmeric bells. And then 'Elysium' follows, which morphs from its synthesised intro with maniacal laughter and yet more bells, into heavy guitar breaks combined with pulsing drums and howling wolves. It just serves to remind you ‘never assume’ with Sproatly Smith.
So do we like ‘The Minstrel’s Grave’? Yes we do. And it’s wonderful to hear a band continuing to outshine their previous work. More please.
‘The Minstrel’s Grave’ is available from the fine folks at Folk Police Recordings.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll