Patch & the Giant
The Beggar’s Song
The Beggar’s Song is available at:
10th February, 2017
The album, All That We Had, We Stole, is available via:
AS is customary with my reviews…
I want to talk about a number of different things – before I get down to the music in question. Without further ado, I want to look at the Folk and Bluegrass artists primed for big things this year – thanks to http://theboot.com/americana-alt-country-bluegrass-folk-artists-to-watch-2017/ for the suggestions – and the reason the genres should not be overlooked. After that, I will look at studio discipline and creating that all-important live sound; go to look at Folk in 2017 as a whole – and the types of albums that could be making a mark – before I get onto the festival circuit and national radioplay. After that, I’ll do a little bit on compositional range and instrumentation arrangements. Maybe my expectations are too high but I always expected magazines and websites to load and prepare their list of names to watch this year. Not only has that been a lack, compared with other years, of polls but fewer still when you drill down to genres and cities. Sure, you’re not going to get anything as niche and precise as ‘Best New Stockport Rock Bands 2017’ – maybe there is! – but something more general wouldn’t be expecting too much? As someone who follows Folk and artists in that oeuvre: I have been stunned by the real surfeit of lists and recommendations for this year. If you, like I, am looking for Bluegrass/Folk artists to keep a watchful eye on this year; you could give Troy Cartwright some love. Perhaps more a name in Texas (than anywhere else); the artist has played with Country mainstays of the state and is one of the most promising Americana/Bluegrass talents emerging. Front Country are an original and seldom-traditional Bluegrass band that emphasis Blues (over Folk) but interject Pop, Country and Folk to create something invigorating and diverse. The group signed recently with Organic Records and are primed to make big strides throughout 2017. Before I look at other Folk artists, and stop paying tribute to The Boot’s kicking suggestions; I wanted to introduce husband-and-wife duo Johnnyswim. Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano released Georgica Pond last year – it debuted at number thirteen on the Billboard Top Current Album charts. The final U.S./Americana acts I want to laud are Whitney Rose and Adia Victoria. The former is, technically, Canadian so it might seem at-odds she makes it onto an Americana/Country list in America.
She is a now-Texas-based musician not bound by conventions and genre-borders: South Texas Suite is her forthcoming E.P. and pays homage to Texas and the state she fell for. Like Whitney Rose; Adia Victoria lists multiple genres as influences – Delta Blues, Afro.-Punk and Country weave inside Folk and Americana. Having worked with Roger Moutenot (Sleater-Kinney; Yo La Tengo); she is impressing critics and making a name for herself. In terms of those U.K. Folk artists worth keeping them peeled for: there is less information online so one has to rely on a sense of intuition and patience. I keep mentioning Laura Marling but she is the artist I feel will lay down the best album of the year. Her album, Semper Femina, is out next month and has already had a couple of singles released from it – I think three songs from the record are out in the atmosphere. I know she will be touring and doing great things but seems to epitomise the quality of Folk and what can be achieved. The list of names I just mentioned have that multifarious, multi-genre sound and defy the usual expectations of Folk. I have given a sprinkling of American names that are going to get bigger and more popular this year. Aside from Laura Marling, there is an undercurrent of Folk suggesting some wonderful music this year. What defines the best Folk music right now is that musical endeavour and ambition. I guess there are artists that fit into that pastoral Folk mould: it is just acoustic strumming and a much lighter, less complicated. In other reviews, I have stated how many still associate Folk with a certain beard-stroking, pontificating sound – that or a drippy, wishy-washy acoustic-led noise that is pleasant but hardly memorable. I hear many artists who play in this mould but they are becoming fewer. What my featured act does, and the best from the genre is get the guitars out but bring in other instrumental – I shall go into more detail soon – and flesh the Folk sound out.
It is not betraying the genre’s roots by taking this approach. Even early Folk acts like Bob Dylan, Fairport Convention and Joan Baez threw various instruments and genres into Folk. Laura Marling, who I just mentioned, is not exclusively acoustic. In fact, her recent track Soothing employed double bass; previous albums have included electric guitar and horns. The best British artists of the new underground are showing how an open-minded approached to subject matter and composition is the way to ensure success and gain large fan numbers. Jamie Isaac’s debut album, Couch Baby, blended beautiful, brooding pianos and cinematic styles that recalled the likes of Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans. Bonzai is a twenty-year-old rapper from Dublin who began busking as a Folk act before listening to Hip-Hop and Electronic music. Her current sounds suggest someone fearless and daring when it comes to cross-pollinating and experimentation. Another fine young performer is Will Joseph Cook. His sunny Pop and mature lyrics look at everyday life and love but do so in a fresh and uplifted way. All these artists push boundaries and are never reluctant to stick with simple compositions and predictable lyrics. This, rather neatly/messily, brings me to another act who follow that the same lines. Their Folk prescription is just what this year requires: able to heal the ailing and reinvigorate tired minds. Before I raise a new point, let me introduce the band to you:
“Patch & The Giant are a dynamic troupe of musicians who have fast become a genuine force within the UK alt-folk scene, since releasing their debut EP The Boatswain’s Refuge on Folkroom Records in 2013 (produced by BBC Folk Award winner Ben Walker). National radio support has come from BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and Amazing Radio, they’ve had loyal support from the blog community and have recorded live sessions for the BBC’s legendary ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, Bandstand Busking, Songs From The Shed, Sofar Sounds and many more.
They’ve also been winning over crowds on the festival circuit, playing everywhere from Green Man Festival, Secret Garden Party, Cambridge Folk Festival and Larmer Tree Festival, to Wilderness, Deershed, BoomTown Fair and Standon Calling. They’ve supported artists including The Twilight Sad, Roo Panes, Matthew&TheAtlas, John Spiers (Bellowhead), To Kill A King, Elephant Revival and Keston Cobblers’ Club and they’ve played their own headline tours around the country alongside performances at some of London’s most iconic venues, including Cecil Sharp House, Bush Hall and Scala. The band have also just announced a full UK tour to support the album kicking off with the album launch party in London, full dates below”.
The guys have played London dates recently but not sure if they are all based in the city. It seems like the perfect place for their intoxicating, unpredictable music. What I said about Nu-Folk, as it were, and the artists subverting expectations is true of Patch & the Giant. They are a band who has a Folk look to them – publicity photos leave little doubt of that – but challenge preconceptions when you listen to their songs unfold. I’ll talk more about their new album All That We Said, We Stole a bit later (in depth at least) but it is the culmination of years of work. Actually, when I said the band looked like a typical Folk act I was a bit hasty. The band is not your typical bearded blokes or Mumford & Sons-like dullards who struggle to entice and appeal. The band have notes of Mumford’ but never tread the same weary and plodding path as them – not by a long shot! The boy-girl, mixed race dynamic of the band makes them stand out before you even hear them. Maybe that same strange to say but the modern age is not as progressive as one would hope. Most bands today or boy-boy/girl-girl or very predictable on paper. Patch & the Giant have cool attire and a very suave look. In fact, take a look at the album cover and you have five very cool and contemporary musicians looking back at you – aside from two members who seem to be distracted and deep in thought (perhaps ten eyes on you is too intimidating to handle!). That album title suggests, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, a magpie’s approach to music-making: half-inching what is lying around as your own; a semi-plagiaristic aesthetic that suggests very little original thought. Even though the quintet has been together years they are just getting to their debut album stage now. Many may ask why that is. Maybe they have been on a wild booze cruise or become fond of the occult; perhaps they have developed a predilection for cock-fighting and being touring the world with some rangy, determined birds and a fistful of dollars. That seems fantasised but it not far from the mindset of many music journalists. When a band spends time assembling an album many, rather sarcastically, theorise explanations and conspiracies. In a fast-paced, consumer age where dispensability is large and attention spans are short – there is that need for instant music and quick returns.
Our five-piece have worked their socks off touring and honing their sound. The music industry is as competitive and cut-throat now as it has ever been. I have never witnessed a period when there are so many artists; so few making a profitable career out of things. For that reason, you cannot just rush into music with any old music. I understand the temptation to go in hard: if you take too long there is a chance there will be no space in music and opportunities will be few. As always, talent wins the day and is more powerful than sheer numbers and time. Under the masterful gaze of Nick Trepka, the band came up with a polished and accomplished album – not surprising when you consider Trepka has worked with Emmy the Great and Speech Debelle. It is a record that has Balkan shades and evokes memories of Beirut (the band) with a certain riparian tenderness and modern D.I.Y. Folk. In order to fuse such a wonderful collection of songs; Patch & the Giant spent time crafting the album but ensure it has that live feel and is not too slick and shiny. That is one of the problems I have with acts who spend a long time in the studio: they use the time to make the music sound as flavourless and machine-made as possible. Humanity and organic tendencies are replaced with that zeal for chart success and something easy. If the band had made the music too live-sounding, it might lack the richness and nuance it has. What they have done is blend a polished studio sound with the kind of music you can hear them perform up-close. As such, there are detailed and imaginative compositions with heartfelt and direct performances. Trepka insisted the band record as much as possible live to distinguish it from other albums out there. What you get (with All That We Said, We Stole) is a live, albeit crystalline performance that draws you right in.
Whether the band’s actual live sets sound as fantastic and spine-tingling – I shall have to find out – I am not sure. During this record – the guys hunkering and resiliently staying in the studio until they finished the album – the band were discovering who they were and bringing all their previous experience together. It is the culmination of their desire and talents: a chest-load of wonderful songs that marks them out for long-term success and approval. I admire this studio dynamic and refusing to be intimidated by time pressures and rushing into things. The songs were gestating for a long time (since Easter 2015 as the band say). Against the grain of the rush-released albums and Pop procedures; there are those acts that have a rather maternal approach to recording – a nurturing instinct that means the music needs time to grow and formulate. Granted, Patch & the Giant’s musical pregnancy would put an elephant to shame but that is what they needed to do. Even if the band see the album as a ‘journey’ – I will start banning an artist that uses this word without talking about an actual journey – it is one that has been quite nervous and strange. When you have the material in your head, there is a sense of safety and lack of responsibility. Once it is out in the open and committed to tape; it is no longer in the womb (shall drop the birthing analogies now!) and you have to let it fend for itself. The fact the group took their time and showed such discipline in the studio has resulted in an L.P. of beauty, wonder and incredible range. I have mentioned how the key to longevity is taking time to germinate and produce music – rather than panicking and putting any old slop onto the musical dining set.
I’ll finish this segment off by looking at festivals and nationwide radio and compositional endeavour – a little bit about Folk in 2017. I guess every artist dreams of playing festivals at some point in their career. There are so many happening around the world but competition is intense. Patch & the Giant have played everywhere from Green Man Festival to Cambridge Folk Festival. They have played some great Folk festivals and performed around the country. It is their talent that has got them there and continues to provide opportunities. I know there are a lot of British festivals but one wonders whether there are enough chances for new artist to take to larger stages. I know there are hundreds (thousands) of acts around so it is impossible to get everyone onto the festival circuit. I find a lot of the biggest festivals – Glastonbury especially – are promoting the same tired acts and not as diverse as they should be. Maybe festivals have become too defined and narrow. Relative newcomers like the ‘6 Music Festival has a broad line-up bur concentrating on acts who are in the mainstream right now. What of those promising artists that need that extra boost to get to the big leagues? Maybe money and space is limiting the type of events you can set up. I feel bands like Patch & the Giant deserve wider exposure and the chance to play other festivals. Standon Calling and Larner Tree Festival have very much suited their music, and as such, brought a certain crowd to their doors. It is good those who know and love Folk have bespoke festivals to hear certain artists. I wonder whether the non-specific festivals are opening their channels enough: ensuring musicians of all genres are on the same bill and get bigger audience figures. It is encouraging Patch & the Giant have got that experience under their belt and supported artists like The Twilight Sad and Roo Panes. That will only increase and continue but it is interesting bringing up the festival debate. We have the toilet circuit/smaller venues for new bands/artists to plays but few festivals reserved for brand-new artists: a platform for the under-the-radar acts to play together and impress. Maybe this is another debate reserved for another say – to ensure it is fleshed-out and given proper light – but one that interests me. I only mentioned it because bands like Patch & the Giant should be given more chances/different festival bookings and not just be limited to Folk-based events. If we overly-define artists and put them into boxes; it means their music is going to struggle to break borders and cross boundaries.
What is fascinating, when it comes to the band, is how they have achieved that national radio holy grail: got their music spun on BBC Radio 2 and (BBC Radio) 6 Music. Maybe getting onto ‘Radio 1 would be an un-accomplishable feat but it is impressive Patch & the Giant have achieved what they have. BBC Radio 2 has that very particular audience. They tend to be more ‘mature’ let’s say: those who prefer Emile Sandé and older hits; not quite as cutting-edge and bold as some people. That it fine because one needs a station for a particular demographic – in this case, more middle-aged and old listeners. That said, BBC Radio 2 is hugely influential and certainly knows genres like Folk. From Bob Harris and Stuart Maconie: the station has dedicated, passionate supporters who tirelessly hunt for those next-big-things. On the other side of things – only a few floors down from BBC Radio 2 in London – you have BBC Radio 6 Music which is, as many will be aware, my favourite station – I am hardly quiet and ambiguous about that. Whilst I have a lot of respect for BBC Radio 2; BBC Radio 6 Music is ‘where it’s at’. It is a trendy, authoritative and wide-ranging station that filters out the Pop crap and same old bands. It has become a bit of a curse for national radio: you always hear the same music and never get to taste the full spectrum and flavours music provides. ‘6 Music is different: one moment you will be listening to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard; the next, there might be some Pretzel Logic-era Steely Dan or lesser-heard Manic Street Preachers.
There is that mixture of familiar and rare that means no filler is ever heard – just quality music for the dedicated and true music lover. Getting your sounds played on the station is not easy, as you can imagine. If you get to the point where your music gets to their ears then you are definitely on the right course. I get to review a lot of artists that are starting to pop-up on ‘6 Music and they always put it right near the top of their C.V. Patch & the Giant have that rare distinction of airplay on both BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music. The fact both stations have very different audiences and playlists lets you know just how varied the band’s music is. It appeals to all ages and tastes. I hear many people who ignore radio and feel it is a prehistoric form of promotion and music-finding. Those who stick to social media and music-sharing sites are going to miss out on so much great music. I know Patch & the Giant have local radio support but getting to the best stations in the U.K. is even more important. I’ll leave the point there but wanted to, as much as anything, applaud the band for getting their music on both stations. Maybe a play on BBC Radio 1 is not so far-fetched and inexplicable. It is not just Folk the group plays: they have suggestions of Blues, Soul and Pop at times; some harder-spirited Rock blends and Singer-Songwriter passion. This variegated boiling pot makes them one of the most captivating and nimble bands around.
I’ll get down to the music soon – lest I go on forever! – but, for now, I wanted to take a quick glimpse at instruments and broadening the palette. A lot of modern musicians naturally create a wide array of sounds in their music. It is something not everyone is following. In the case of Patch & the Giant; the band do not stick to acoustic guitars and Folk strands. Sure, they are in that genre and have a very loyal and familiar core but are unwilling to be as rigid and limited as all that. It is another one of my favourite themes/arguments to explore: why some artists are stubborn when looking at compositions. I can understand the appeal of keeping it simple and not overloading compositions but there are limits. Even artists like Bob Dylan – whose early music consisted predominantly of acoustic guitar and harmonica – expanded his sound and brought in new elements after a while. I am not suggesting music will be more interesting or better if there were more instruments but it gives you options. Even those who are purely Folk/Americana are not expected to doggedly remain in limited confines. Not only did Patch & the Giant lock themselves in a studio – ensuring an album was made and it had a live feel to it – but introduced horns, strings and other parts to really give the music emotion and physicality. The Beggar’s Song is a perfect example of that: it is a rugged and bearded hustler who goes from swaggering beer-downer to a more settled and considered human. Elsewhere, as I will examine, there are more graceful passages and romantic elegy; spring-time breeziness and more complex, chocolate-hue interjections. The band make their music as rounded and agile as possible: always keen to push how they are and bring as much from the music as they can. It is no coincidence the band have struck a chord with national radio and the festival crowds. Again, it is a subject I will touch on briefly but deserves a bit more exposure. All of these points (above) and considerations define and explain a band who are one of British Folk’s most exciting and assured examples. It is best I look at their past music – and present song – to give you an insight into who they are and what they do.
In terms of comparing the band’s work with current material: one must go back a few years and get a real idea of how they began. The Boatswain’s Refuge was released a few years back and starts with plenty of intent and mystery. Daniel has aching, stirring strings that send shivers down the spine. It is a sound that evokes memories of a long-lost love or someone across the seas. Soon, that is replaced with jubilant horns and finger-picking; some accordion and percussion. There is, almost, a Hispanic flavour to the song; something quite warm and pleasant. When you drill down to the lyrics, it seems things are not as they appear. You try to interpret what is being sung but are so hooked by the music and everything going on. In a sense, the song has traditional shanty qualities – which is something Patch & the Giant try on their new album. The guys extend this further throughout The Heretic and the Albatross. It starts with the same kind of spirit and energy as Daniel. In fact, the entire E.P. has a distinct flair and kick to it. This track is a singalong that has kicking percussions and wordless vocal chorusing. There is rowdiness to the song that puts you in the depths of a pub bar. The song’s lyrics look at the dead of night and the ship sailing past. Never really casting themselves in the modern world; there is something quite old-fashioned and charming about the band. They have an old-world view of things and that desire to get out to sea and explore. The main difference I find, between their older work/E.P. and now, is a diversification in their work. They do stick with the same sort of themes and ideas but the production is a little rawer: it lends a greater physicality and drama to their work; a live-sounding feel that makes it easier to bond with the work. In addition, the group have a broader palette and take their thoughts away from the harbour and seafaring exploits. Their love songs and separation dramas have the scent of salt-water but it is never as overt and obvious as on their earliest work. What we have in their modern material is a band staying true to their roots but experimenting and expanding more to adapt to the modern market. I have heard a lot of bands that have that niche Folk sound and always struggle, long-term, for gigs and recognition. As the world becomes more modern; there is going to be less room for music that is, to many, quite outdated. There is never the sense of that with Patch & the Giant who always remain essential, in-the-moment and relevant. If there is a scent of Mumford and Sons in The Beggar’s Song; it is their more credible edge for sure – not a fan of that band by any long stretch of the imagination!
The opening moments of The Beggar’s Song will be familiar with anyone who has followed Patch & the Giant since the earliest recordings. That introduction has the same mixture of yearn, romance and the ocean. It is as full and detailed as any of their compositions and gets you imagining right away. Given the title, one might already have some preconceptions about the narrative arc. Suggestions of refined friends sitting in gardens is a contradiction to a figure who has blood on their shoes – that of the hero – and mud around them. You get the picture of a scruffy and desolate human who has been in the wars. Why our man’s blood is on them is a mystery at this point. Maybe there has been a confrontation but it is not clear right away. The vocal is delivered with a calm and matter-of-fact impression that does not force the lyrics down your throat – it means you can follow the story and become involved in the song. The band matches that vocal with a composition that is edgy and dark but has plenty of room to breathe and relax. It is a perfect accompaniment for a story that is vivid and eye-catching right out the gates. By the chorus, our hero is hailing the man and his dreams. The streets are dying but it seems like rebellion and defiance are the order. When hearing the words, your mind is split between the past and present. The sound and composition suggest a nineteenth-century street where you have to look up to avoid being hit by excrement and pretty much anything. Given the way the modern world is unfolding; one can apply the words to the world we see right now. Those who have dreams and want better things are to be applauded but there is a reality to things: there is no love on the streets and things are getting worse. Perhaps that is a reach in terms of interpretation but that is what the song does. I am not usually a fan of Mumford and Sons’-style Folk but have affection for Patch & the Giant who are much more credible and appealing than that. With The Beggar’s Song, you are invested from the first seconds and never really stop becoming fascinated by what is coming next.
“Man is a dog” and “Man needs a lawyer” are not the most positive and life-affirming sentiments you’ll hear in music but fit into the dichotomy of the song. Again, you are down on the street and seeing a beggar being kicked around and going through the motions. I am always split between the present and past in every line. If some of the words lack decipherability – a bit slurred under the weight of the composition – there is plenty of energy and intrigue to keep the listener hooked. Whilst there are suggestions of Mumford and Sons; the band never sound as faux-Irish and faked as that. Our guys have a definite Celtic connection but never suggest that with anything as cloying as fiddles, heavy accentuations and all that. The Beggar’s Song, as I will explore later, definitely relates to British Folk history and tradition. Those who love that style of music will be able to bond with the song but those who prefer Folk more in the mantle of Bon Iver and Laura Marling, say, will not be disappointed. Patch & the Giant have a modern dynamic and production sound and always ensure their songs are as nuanced and full as possible. The lyrics should never be taken on face-value and easily predicted. As I said, there is that idea that you’re the beggar in the slums and getting kicked – playing the role of dog and getting into scrapes. On the other hand, there are those dreams and goals of reaching better things. In every way, you can interpret the sentiments of the song in a present context. Whilst some of the words are very detailed and specific; most are open and broad enough so they can be applied to any number of different scenarios and possibilities. It is brave hearing a band who play a particular style of Folk at a time when it is less commercial and profitable than other forms. The guys always have one foot in modern climbs so those who usually do not bond with Traditional Folk, as it were, will find much to love.
As the song continues, the man on the street (“with no name”; the man or the street?!) is wished health and safety. The hero raises his glass and hopes the man is provided grace and security – imploring to God he will gain safety and find a way from the trenches. It is an impressive sentiment that few could argue against. Throughout The Beggar’s Song, there is a catchiness and constant movement that gets the feet tapping and the voice ready. I can imagine this goes down well live and would be intriguing to see just how the song is executed on stage. Regardless, the final moments keep that flame lit and never relent. The mood and energy do not relent so it is a song you bond with and connect with – even if you are not a huge fan of that style of music. As it is, it is hard to think of anyone who would not love the song and take it to heart. It is a heartfelt song that continues to create smiles and fond memories long after it has finished. The entire band is tight and impassioned throughout the song. If the guys were lacking energy and not completely committed then it would not succeed and lack that soul and genuine spirit one desires. The Beggar’s Song begins the album, All That We Had, We Stole, and provides enormous fun and kick. In a month where the weather is anything but clement and bright: a track like this is just what you need. It may not have the same sophistication and affect as some styles of Folk but there is always room and affection for the sounds Patch & the Giant are producing. Their album crosses various sub-genres and never repeats itself. There are few acts out there like them: the fact they are being lauded by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 Music shows just how popular and demanded their music is.
I’ll revise and revert to my earlier points in a minute but wanted to recommend Patch & the Giant and why they are going to be big news this year. There are so many new acts springing up by the minute: it might seem axiomatic but how does one sift through it all and make sense? This is a worry and something I’m going to address in a feature very soon. By the week, a wave of new musicians come through and add to an already-overcrowded music scene. It is encouraging seeing passion and diversity but compression and population density is starting to distill clarity and discipline. How does the listener/consumer hear of all these acts let alone deciphering which are worthy and those not? It is a conundrum that is going to be hard to figure out – the rate of new music is progressing without abatement and temporisation. I feel we’ll hit a time when it will all get a bit too much and a lot of artists will fall. The sheer anonymity and jam-packed suffocation will put many of. It is a worry but I guess there is no easy answers to this. Not to deter Patch & the Giant; they are going to keep growing and not suffer that lonely fate. One of the reasons why this is true is down to their latest album, All That We Had, We Stole. The multi-talented band – Luke Owen on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Angie Rance providing backing vocals, accordion and trumpet; flugelhorn, piano and harmonica (with mandolin in there too!); Gabriel Merryfield on violin; Derek Yau on cello and double bass; Nick Harris doing backing vocals, bass guitar and percussion; acoustic guitar, harmonica and harp – have created an album brimming and flowing with highlights and head-rush. Aside from The Beggar’s Song, you have seaside shanty songs like A Local Man and The Sleeping Boat.
These tracks are more in-tune to a traditional, English Folk sensibility. Americans have Americana: what do we call our native Folk sounds? I guess it is indicative of Folk’s genealogy and complex family tree you can never call something ‘Folk’. There are so many sub-strands and sub-genres; this is evident throughout the album. Mournful melody lingers through The Day You Went to Sea – another seafaring, oceanic tale – whilst Another Day is a spirited and upbeat take on a break-up song. Its buoyant trumpets lift a potentially emotionally-draining song above the water and stick in the mind. America looks at how we measure success whilst quieter tracks Love and War and Are You Listening? are simple but thoughtful – the former concerns letting something go you once held dear. Flowers, a natural standout and stunning moment, has already topped Apple Music’s Hot Tracks Playlist – the video hit five-figure views overnight and elevated the band to new heights. Not only that but closing track All That We Had We Stole, concerning balancing art and life, is joined by the bare and pained hidden track, The Walk and the Weight. As I said earlier; I am not sure whether the band are down in London or another part of the U.K. Wherever they are based right now; they are creating sensational music and showing they have staying power and huge innovation. All That We Had, We Stole is a raven picking confection and items from the English countryside. There is a swoop along the romantic coast and embers of ships’ hull and lovers’ letters; the nest is warmed by floral garnish bathed in sunlight, solitude and aromatic scents. Heading further inland, you have a scent and sight of the city: the raven plucks brickwork and litter from urban conurbation and splices that with scraps of paper and notes – on which, deep-considered questions are scribbled in bold type. Taking this all back to the nest; the pattern and tapestry is odoriferous, rainbow-liked and country-straddling.
However you see the album – in terms of a bird’s flight itinerary or something more grounded – you cannot deny the variation and quality that runs from beginning to end. It is a Folk album that switches from lush, orchestral grandeur – lust and tenderness mingling – to Americana-esque moments and shanty-like tales; over to sparse and bare songs that emphasise lyrics and meaning (more than music and feel). There is something for everyone in a deep and prophetic record: one that suggests the band are built for bigger things. The band launched the album at London’s The Brewhouse on 10th February. They followed this with dates in Birmingham (The Victoria), Manchester (The Castle) and York (The Basement); Shrewsbury, Cambridge and Ipswich followed – they reached Surbiton on 19th of this month. That exhausting mini-tour – essentially heading further north before coming back down south again – has provided a great experience and got the songs out there. The reaction has been positive and effusive: great preparation for festivals and gigs this summer. Before I end this, I’ll come back to the following points: Folk and its range; studio discipline and instrumental endeavour; a little bit on Folk artists to watch this year – all tying it into The Beggar’s Song. Patch & the Giant are one of those bands who seem happy to project an oldskool/historical view of Folk. Just using the word ‘Beggar’s’ in a track seems to have its mind in previous decades – one imagines a street urchin foraging for spare change in Victorian gutters. Circling back to a more focused path, one can hear so many different nuances and ideas in The Beggar’s Song. It is a mule-kick track that shows how indefinable Folk is. Sure, the band do fall into assumed ideals of Folk – that seaside/countryside quirkiness and distinct Englishness that has been present since the 1960s (or before). What they show is how malleable Folk is; much in the same way Pop can be spliced with other genres and still retain its identity.
In 2017, one expects music to be modern and forward-thinking: keeping things too simplistic and rigid is a suicide quest. Folk is not as stuffy, ‘dull’ and one-dimensional as many think. It is a genre that still has to sit at the back of HMV and never really gets the shop-space it deserves – many assume they have it all figured out and there are no surprises. On the contrary, you see. Last year – I’ll look at this rather than tipping more Folk acts – the best Folk albums of the year were troubling the top spots of those end-of-year lists. Devendra Banhart’s strange and beautiful Ape in Pink Marble bordered bonkers and balanced with so much grace, songwriting excellence and profundity. Many reviewers compared the listening experience to strolling down a seaside path and taking a stray dog with you – maybe singing to yourself; wrapped up in the weather. Aside from Billie Marten; other female singer-songwriters like Lisa Hannigan and Angel Olsen produced stunning works. We all heard about Bon Iver and his masterpiece, 22, A Million. That one album showed just how much music, emotion and wonder you can put in one record. You only need to take a slight peek behind Folk’s curtain to see the array of artists and albums available to hungry ears. The same way you cannot write-off Hip-Hop or Electronic music as being inaccessible and formulaic; the same can be said of Folk. I said earlier how there is a bit of a dichotomy with Patch & the Giant. Their name has a Rohl Dahl-esque quality to it: you imagine a dog, perhaps, and a gentle giant traipsing the English countryside in search of adventure and spoils. In a sense, the first thing you learn about the band suggests something comfortable and safe. You see them in photographs and they have a very cool, contemporary style. Their sharp dress and lack of facial hair – we all have that impression Folk artists are bearded to buggery – subverts expectations. Patch & the Giant are no different to any contemporary band and demand to be taken seriously. The fact they have been provided patronage and support by BBC Radio 2 and ‘6 Music means they are no minor-league group reserved for niches and cloistered groups. They belong to the masses and are going to be a mainstream act in years to come.
That word, ‘mainstream’, suggest something mass-produced and label-dictated: in the case of Patch & the Giant, they can ascend to the giddy heights of chart success without compromising their artistry and unique fashion. The Beggar’s Song seems ready-made for international audiences and those who like their music exciting, unpredictable and instant. The song gets to you and grabs you by the lapels: takes you into its murky world and buys you a strange-looking drink from the local (dingy) bar. I wanted to focus on the band’s current single because it seems to unify all their talents and components into a single song. There is that old-world, back-alley charm and dirt but that over-simplifies it: the sheer musicianship and thrills one gets listening to the song runs deep and will appeal to so many different listeners. It is no accident the band has managed to create such evocative and professional music. Sequestered in the studio – nobody leaves until we have an album down! – under a producer’s gaze and structured work ethic; the band have worked hard and produced something stunning. It is hard spending a long time in the studio because of the costs and sheer exhaustion by the end – how productive can you be when you are running on fumes? Patch & the Giant have had songs brewing and percolating since 2015 so they were already prepared and practised when they went into the studio. All of this comes out in their latest album and tracks like The Beggar’s Song. This year will be an exciting and full one for a band who have plenty more to say. Their music invites you and provides a pleasure-trip like no other. Naturally, there is darkness and loss among the upbeat and positive: a record that is as contradictory as it is cohesive. Immerse yourself in the incredible world of Patch & the Giant. Once you do, there really is…
NO going back.
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