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Clare Louise - Castles in the Air CD (album) cover

CASTLES IN THE AIR

Clare Louise

 

Prog Folk

4.00 | 1 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars While folk musicians are a prolific and plentiful lot, both in the mainstream and progressive worlds their popularity is easily eclipsed by almost any other subgenre. When a new folk artist emerges, we need a language to describe what they offer, and part of that language comprises comparisons to other, nearly as obscure artists. Such allusions are generally inadequate if not unfair for most performers, but one would argue more so for folk music, which more than most styles relies on utter personal commitment to one's unique voice at the cost of even meager recognition. Much folk and prog folk nonetheless falls well short of this benchmark, but such is not the case for Belgian based French singer/songwriter/guitarist Clare Louise on her full length debut.

One can easily be misled into believing that this is all about her voice, a fragile and gently piercing siren in which whole words are masticated before being presented for audition in a manner to redden the cheeks of a certain VAN MORRISON. I know the French accent has to be in there somewhere given her chosen language of communication is English, but the rest of her machinations occlude that assessment. As the endearingly vulnerable folk songs and inventive melodies meander by at varying tempos, one can appreciate the succinctness of her acoustic guitar style, but ultimately the reward for most of us is the slightly freaked out yet spare chamber folk arrangements of guest musicians on accordion and various strings, recalling NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA and others who seem to be establishing a new style. Sure, comparisons to KATE BUSH, DOLORES O'RIORDAN (CRANBERRIES) and other alt divas will be drawn up, but these are only peripherally accurate and don't do justice to the innovation at work. My preferred, and again, inadequate reference is the angst ridden Canadian FERRON's early 1980s albums.

The upbeat "This Dance" with its bouncy rhythm and layered vocals and the circus on a Parisian sidewalk accordion of "Black Stars" are delightful. The stark statements of "False Mirror" make me think of the wispy delicacy of another Canadian, GARFIELD FRENCH, circa "Strange Streets". But a well sequestered British folk influence should not be ignored, and "You Don't Know my Name" shows Louise at her more assertive in a manner of a manic MADDY PRIOR - it's also one of the most progressive tracks here.

Clare Louse manages to be both decidedly weird and accessible at the same time, and thankfully I sense no contrivance at play. Lovely cover by the way. Too bad it's folk.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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