Harp and a Monkey - Molecatchers & Tupperware: electro-folk tales from Lancs.
As a Lancashire lass I was very heartened to stumble upon a little surprise that came to cheer me up on a cold winter’s day. The toddler in the introduction requests ‘Moonkey,’ when his mother asks him if they should listen to some music.
Harp And A Monkey - All Life is Here - (out 24/03/2014)I too feel the need to broadcast with delight news of the latest album from electro-folksters Harp and a Monkey. This happy band named themselves for their notable instrument and the adage that everything in life goes better with a monkey! Martin Purdy, Simon Jones and Andy Smith experiment with left-field folktales. This is traditional storytelling with a historical background, charmingly accented with glockenspiel, electronics, harp and Viola. Influences include Ralph Vaughan Williams, Bert Jansch, Boards of Canada, Bellowhead and Bjork. They sound like Pentangle meets Public Service Broadcasting. You are immediately sucked into the narrative as ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Giants,’ samples Spanish Civil War volunteers’ memories. Later The Gallipoli Oak recounts a pilgrimage to plant an Oak tree in a Dardanelles cemetery. ‘Bowton’s Yard,’ is adapted from a C18
th dialect poem put to music in the 1950s. Their ‘Molecatcher’ turns a traditional ditty about infidelity into something quite beautiful. With bouncy glockenspiels and sampled beats these tales are brought to life, like Bagpuss the cloth cat. In this Oliver Postgate world every day activities are made magical. ‘Doolally Day Out’ and ‘Tupperware and Tinfoil,’ are so descriptive of the formalities of everyday life they have you metaphorically dipping your feet in the sea on the family coast-trip. The touching ballad, ‘Dear Daughter,’ is a protective paean written for Martin’s impending girl-child. She is encouraged to aspire to Rosa Parkes, Joan of Arc and Amy Johnson. Ironically they then had a boy! ‘Pay Day’ explores the conditions of the working class now and then. There are obvious comparisons to Elbow in this album. Not least in the warm resonance of Martin’s voice. Their cover of Ewan McColl’s ‘The Manchester Angel,’ would sit well on ‘Leaders of the Free World.’ Harp and a Monkey are everything I love about music, crafting songs beautifully while educating you at the same time. It was no surprise to learn that journalism and history are career paths also pursued within the band. Field footage and background noises make it sound like a research project and they explore how music is used as a weapon for morale. They are solid and inventive musicians who make harp and banjo driven electronics their own. The Ramsbottom trio mix original material with songs from the Pennines, asking: if people in Lancashire aren’t performing them, who is? This optimistic folktronica is nothing if not inclusive, it really touches the heart. Go see them live. They’ll bring a tear to your eye. All life IS here.