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t’s important to the alt-folk singer, however, that no matter how she arranges or interprets, the original spirit of the song remains. “One thing I feel really strongly about is that at the heart of them they don’t change, they’re still there, it’s just that they’re moving with the times and they’re taking on other musical influences as they go along. It’s like they’re a boulder rolling down hill and sort of picking up loads of moss as they go.”


Andrew has made her own mark on the songs she has gathered for Keld. “When I was starting to source songs, I noticed that I had been drawn in the past to songs in which women were treated quite badly,” she explained by way of example. “It’s the song, and the tune, and the setting that would have compelled me the most. But then when I looked at them I thought ‘You know what? I think I should try and endeavour, as I am sorting these songs, to not choose the ones in which the women are left bereft, or pregnant, or killed and dumped in the river by a man.’ That said, I do Down In The Willow Gar- den, which is about a woman being killed and dumped in the river. But I decided that at least I would change the protagonist – so the protagonist is also a woman … it’s not exactly an ideal solution, but I just couldn’t get the tune out of my head, it is so affecting and strange. It’s not great that someone’s been killed. I just thought that at least this was more interesting, and I knew I genuinely couldn’t face having a man as the protagonist.”


However, there is one key point, cen- tral to the album, that comes before any of this. “Honestly? I was looking for one more little song that I wanted to do a real- ly simple rendition of, and I came across


that [song] … it’s so dark, it’s such a dark theme. Sometimes you don’t want to overkill it with a big musical arrangement. So, [the arrangement] came from the song itself really, and what felt right for the character of the song.”


Breathe In Breathe Out, on the other hand, is an original song inspired by Andrew’s own passion for wild swimming. It’s a rhythmic, repetitive cuckoo of a song that mixes tin whistle and a five-hole wood- en pipe, interlocked with Andrew’s own voice. Keld is quite specifically about fresh water – “It’s all rivers, and lakes, and lochs … I don’t know the sea very well, and I thought it would be interesting to explore songs that are only about fresh water rather than just swimming anywhere.”


The Weeper, however, shares the best of both worlds. Featuring Lisa Knapp, it is traditional song layered with found sounds, and the haunting visions of a waterfall banshee. “Lisa Knapp’s part is a traditional song,” Andrew explained. “It’s a mixture of The Highland Widow’s Lament and The Border Widow’s Lament.”


“I thought that it needed to be a dia- logue, as the whole idea is that banshees are warning people that something bad is going to happen, or they’re lamenting it.” The Weeper opens with a scraped, metallic cello sound, “playing very high, scratchy harmonics rather than the natural sound of the strings, a very high overtone [that runs] the whole way through.” A subtle ringing from the rim of a wine glass keeps the atmosphere fragile. And in a very spe- cial touch, “there are these textural moments later which are manipulated ver- sions of field recordings of water made by seven-year-old girls who make up the pri- mary school on Fair Isle in Shetland, where I worked in 2016.”


Keld is a fascinating album, the other- worldliness and nuances of which will come to the fore when performed live. Par for the course, You Are Wolf has several musical and prose plates juggling simulta- neously over the coming months. Between other projects, and composing, she will be touring Keld with solo and trio gigs throughout the year. For her recently pub- lished debut novel, Swansong, which is based on a folk ballad, there will be pub- licity events at which she will also be singing. “I’ve written a second novel, so I’ve got to do a lot more work on editing that.” Then from next Autumn she will start thinking about what’s next for You Are Wolf, “a new theme, and starting to develop some new material. “


And throughout all of this, Kerry Andrew will be immersing herself in the cold open-air waters of her local South London lido, and momentarily leaving all the organising, editing, writing and travel- ling, for other people to worry about.


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Photo: Urszula Soltys


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