Rachael Dadd - Bite the mountain (Broken Sound Music)
We've mentioned Bristol native Rachael Dadd twice in the last few weeks, first in relation to her new single Balloon, and then in advance of her new album. We've had the album, Bite the mountain, on around the UOH cabin for the last couple of weeks now and it really is a wonderful piece of work (It was largely recorded, apparently, while travelling around Japan, and the sleeve cover text reflects this influence.) On the face of it, it's a version of English folk music (the songs generally concern domestic or pastoral situations, with close-at-hand details), but let it sit a bit longer and strands of classical, jazz, world music and even some avant garde tendencies come to the surface. The single Balloon is a tune of uncomplicated beauty about a birth, which has an appropriate sense of wide-eyed wonder at the world. The stop-start piano waltz Moth in the motor begins straightforwardly enough, but goes on to hint at jazz inflections (not unlike the way Nick Drake does), before a totally unexpected wigout of dissonant strings. There's the delirious accordion and clarinet two-step of Hedgehog, complete with spoken Japanese outro. A chilled-out banjo leads the way on In the morning, but the steel drum that joins out of the blue midway through adds a lovely convivial atmosphere. There's a bit of a Tropicalia shuffle about the triangle rhythm of Rice triangle. And The wind & the mounatin has one particularly sublime crescendo of vocal harmonies and clarinet lines. Throughout, Dadd's expressive, lilting voice safely navigates the troubled waters of kooky/twee. And the variety of musical textures - warm clarinet, fingerpicked Spanish guitar, earthy ukulele, droning cello, twinkling percussion - although constantly surprising, are blended effortlesly. It's heartfelt and adventurous (an unusual combination) but never tries too hard. This album is just a joy.