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Jon Boden

JON BODEN Afterglow Hudson HUD004PR

The easy option is never an option for Jon Boden. Which may very well be the key to his trailblazing importance to British folk music over the last fifteen years or so.

After departing Bellowhead he could have been forgiven for cruising for a while, going out on his own, mining the tradition with a bunch of old hits to keep the customer satisfied. But here he is, huge band in tow, full of big, complex arrangements and a con- cept album set during a post-apocalypse party in an abandoned city.

In truth, the storyline isn’t plain to follow – wilfully obscure in fact – but the intense moods, the avalanches of joy, sorrow, mystery and menace are very evident as strings and brass hit overload and you can but doff your cap to the miraculous job producer Andy Bell has done in making such cogent sense of it all.

It’s a far, far cry from Bellowhead, that’s for sure – and an even further cry from the minimalism of its predecessor (prequel?) Songs From The Floodplain – and, even given the contributions of Rob Harbron, Paul Sartin and Sam Sweeney, there isn’t too much folkie about it. There’s no instant musical fix but, as we discovered on Songs From The Floodplain, Boden knows how to construct a good song with a telling chorus and, once you overcome the unfamiliarity of style and content, the strength and richness of the material swiftly begins to get under your skin.

A couple of excursions on the M25 and the electric guitar punctuating the stomping Dancing In The Ruin, the swirling strings sur- rounding the anticipatory Bee Sting, the mel- low contemplation of Fires Of Midnight, the jangly jaunt of All The Stars Are Coming Out Tonight and even the long, broody late night


jazz and Indian music inflections of Yellow Lights combine to construct a hugely ambi- tious but ultimately largely satisfying work that climaxes in exquisite fashion with Aubade, the nearest thing here to a folk song, electric guitar, layers of strings, bom- barding drums and all.

Vivid lyrics, striking imagery, fascinating ideas, challenging arrangements and Boden’s characteristically striking vocals… it has to be considered a Major Work. Colin Irwin KRIES

Selo Na Akuke/Village Tracks Riverboat TUGCD1107

Listening to Kries is an intense experience, Croatian village music made by a ham- let full of giants in their seven-league boots. Their first album in eight years (and just their third overall) finds founder Mojmir Novakovi´

with a sharp focus to the music. The drums and percussion still overwhelm, like standing in the path of a tank. The songs might all come from the tradition, but the way they’re played have all the power and passion of the very best punk. They sound as if their lives depend on every beat, every note. Even when vocalist Novakovi´

c softens his voice, as on the

opening to the final track, Buj Buja, there’s an air of menace that only intensifies when the guitar opens with a deadly, snaking riff. It’s an excellent bookend to the breathless title cut that starts the disc, so full of urgency that it bursts out like a call to arms, the drums as insistent as marching feet.

Novakovi´ c has learned a lot about shap-

ing a song (witness the enticing chorus that flies up from the melody on Zelena Lipa, for instance, and that way each verse builds, layer on layer), while every element in the band integrates with natural perfection. Everyone is a standout, but the bagpipes of Andor Végh still provide some wonderful sur- prises. For all the behemoth, though, there

are time of real tenderness. Ivo Se Še´ce makes the connection to the Syrian refugees forced to flee across Europe.

The songs might be old, but the band hews them into symbols that are as relevant now as when they were first sung. Modern music with deep roots. And Kries is a rock band, one of the most potent you’re likely to hear. Don’t ever doubt it.

Zelena Lipa is the opening track on the

fRoots 66 compilation. Chris Nickson

VARIOUS ARTISTS c and longtime crew

Sweet As Broken Dates – Lost Somali Tapes From the Horn Of Africa Ostinato Records OST CD003

This really is underground music. Back in 1988, Somalia’s dictatorial ruler started bombing the hell out of the north of the country (now known as Somaliland), tar- geting the local radio station, home to an archive of thou- sands of master tapes and

cassettes of music stretching back half a cen- tury. Canny radio station staff hid this musical treasure trove, smuggling some out to neigh- bouring countries, burying others so deep in the ground no bomb could get to them. And there they stayed until the good people of

Photo: © Judith Burrows

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