Boomkat Product Review:
Alex Neilson has distinguished himself as one of the UK's foremost drumming talents in countless projects over recent years, often operating within the parameters of experimental, but equally adept at collaborating on more conventional song-based material with the likes of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Six Organs Of Admittance, Jandek and Richard Youngs. Recently Neilson has found acclaim with his Directing Hand project, exploring the more obscure and avant-garde elements of free-folk with classically trained vocalist Lavinia Blackwall, who also appears on this project - as do certain other musicians Neilson's previously worked with such as Ben Reynolds and Simon Shaw. Perhaps more successfully than any other project he's been involved with, Trembling Bells finds Neilson turning towards British folk music, dabbling with the kind of boundary-crossing sounds that recall bands like Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Comus. Having in recent years heard bands like Espers tackling these sorts of sounds it's enormously gratifying to hear a homegrown project find so much creative success in the same area. There's a classic, vintage sound to Carbeth that extends to the songwriting itself, avoiding any sense of kitsch or pastiche in favour of authentically far-out and ambitious pieces like 'When I Was Young' which boasts particularly magnificent vocal pyrotechnics from Blackwall. While much of the album is layered with elaborate electric guitar passages, synthesizer warblings, horns and strings, you still get more traditional folk material at the heart of it all, as underlined by the acappella piece 'Seven Years A Teardrop'. Consequently, Carbeth conveys itself as adventurous and versed in the more emancipated directions folk music has taken in recent years, but it's also firmly grounded in tradition and a thorough working knowledge of Brit folk heritage. Very highly recommended.