Review Archive

‘All Life is Here’ - Harp and a Monkey - diverse, memorable folk narratives

(January 27, 2014)

Whenever the despair of dull music oppresses there’s always Harp and a Monkey as they move through their intricate world of folk electronica with different and singular steps. Some artists trot Harp and a Monkeyout the same old same old, but Harp and a Monkey consistently work their alchemic magic along and across the edge of weird folk. Martin Purdy (vocals, glockenspiel, accordion, harmonica, keyboards) Simon Jones (harp, guitar, viola) and Andy Smith (banjo, guitar, melodica, programming) add innovation and experiment to create diverse, memorable folk narratives.

With their latest album, ‘All Life is Here’, there’s still the regular inclusion of background sounds, field recordings and related comments from involved voices, each observation adding another facet to the song. This time there’s an intro soundbite with possibly their youngest fan: “What do you want to listen to?” “Monkey!” “Harp and a Monkey?” “Yes!” – magical stuff. That morphs into ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Giants’ a tough song, including a veteran’s soundbites, about fighting in the Spanish Civil War. This is followed by a fervently different take on Ewan MacColl’s ‘Manchester Angel’ and the acutely observant ‘Tupperware and Tinfoil’ complete with electronic ‘twinkly’ seaside sounds, and destined to hit an immediate chord chronicling any family trip to the coast.

Their familiar elaborate melodies add so many layers this album will always strike fresh as each hearing unearths yet another level. Listen to the scope of ‘Pay Day’with lyrical depth and shadowy sounds that expand beyond its jaunty melody, or the moving intensity of ‘The Gallipoli Oak’ made all the more expressive by Martin’s rich vocals, and for aficionados there’s another outing from the Weirdlore album track ‘Molecatcher’, this time re-written and even better. Since first hearing Harp and a Monkey, along with many others, I’ve classed myself among the ranks of avid fans - the arrival of ‘All Life is Here’ can only swell those ranks.

This is where you’ll find them: www.harpandamonkey.com

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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