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Old Folk, New Aesthetic

From Halifax's the Sly and Unseen (Jonathan Lees and Katie English)

Ambient may be a “new” form of music to the extent that it’s largely predicated on ideas that Brian Eno synthesized and codified back in the 1970s. However, those ideas had endless pre-existing strains, strains in culture and in technology, from in and outside of music, all of which to some degree or another led up to Eno’s development. These range from bellows-powered bagpipes to raga and Indian classical music to Gregorian chant to the underlying hum of the electrical grid.

In this bit of self-described “weird folk” from the Sly and Unseen (aka Jonathan Lees and Katie English), “String Tail Fox,” an old Russian folk song, is transformed as old tools are used with modern intent, as the bellows-based Shruti box and harmonium, along with flutes, cello, xylophone and guitar, are brought to bear on a simple melody. The “weird” factor is more a matter of genre identification than outright headtrip, more a matter of exploring the ritual inherent in folk melodies, and how a disinterest in a flat-out cover version can yield something both delicate and trenchant.

The track is from the Halifax-based duo’s forthcoming album All Similarities And Technical Difficulties End Here, which was mastered by by Ian Hawgood.

There’s also a remix of “String Tail Fox” on the album that emphasizes percussive elements:

Original version originally posted at soundcloud.com/theslyandunseen. More on the forthcoming release, due out by the end of May 2015, at theslyandunseen.bandcamp.com. More from Lees and English’s duo at the Sly and Unseen’s Facebook page, facebook.com/theslyandunseen, and at theslyandunseen.tumblr.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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