Cunnan - Foxfire and Aconite [Cryptanthus - 2006]This extremely limited cd-r of thirty copies is an art edition release with hand painted wrap around sleeves and a vellum bi-fold with lyrics and recording information. The album was originally released as a download only edition by the alternative folk Website Woven Wheat Whispers, which sadly shut down last summer. This cd-r was actually released in 2006, according to Cryptantus Records' Myspace page. Cunnan are Alan Trench, Christopher Patinios and Stephen Robinson of Temple Music with Tracy Jeffery of Orchis on vocals and Julie Brackenbury on violin. Alan Trench is a multi-instrumentalist also notable for his work with Martyn Bates, and also known as the man behind World Serpent Distribution, which also shut down a few years back. He's credited here with Lute, Guitars, Keyboards, Samplers, Synthesizers, percussion, whistles, dulcimer, tenor recorder and, among other things, shadows(?).
The reason I've decided to post a review of something a couple of years old and so very limited is because it's very good. It's a folk infused album, mostly of the English psych/folk variety, yet it includes some interesting touches, such as Middle English vocals, which add to the strange ancient ritual quality of some of the music. The vocals are mostly sung by Tracey Jeffery, whose voice is crystalline, and emotive. The vocals at first seem almost too modern and straight-forward for the music. Luckily, the heir of modernity which Jeffery brings to this music is subtle, and putting it simply, grows on you.
The music is sensitively brought to life by the subtle layering of mostly acoustic instruments. Trench's guitars provide the melodic backdrop for most of the tracks, along with synths and keyboards. What really makes the music distinctive, however, is the use of tribal, ritualistic, percussion, along with one of the very first musical instruments, the lute. The arrangements trace a very blurry line, and are everything from earthy drone to fairly traditional folk. The album often has a Medieval quality, but it never descends completely into an austere representation of the style, like say, Dead Can Dance. Not to say that DCD are in any way bad, but Cunnan clearly have taken their own path.
The lyrics are a perfect music for the music, which is, simple, thoughtful, and written in an old style. Their interpretation of the Dutch Medieval epic tale Reynaert The Fox is as compelling a version as you're likely to hear. A cursory search on the web tells me that you probably can still get your hands on a copy of this, as there appears to be a "standard" edition out there. Those interested in Wyrd Folk music should already have this is their collection. If you're so inclined, this is a fine album which is worth seeking.Erwin Michelfelder