Wednesday 12 December 2012

Apple of My Eye: Devils

Apple of My Eye

''Apple of My Eye weave beautiful and epic folk tales from snatches of half remember songs you mother used to sing you, and lyrics scrawled on the backs of unopened bank statements.''

So runs the evocative blurb. It turns out to be an apt description.

I have been listening to this CD a lot over the last couple of weeks. The musical experience is very much in layers and it demands repeated analysis.

Devils run through the songs in many guises. Some are blatant - as in the title track - but others are much more obscure. A devil is shown to be the Real Thing, (indeed, the Devil himself ''without who this album wouldn't have been possible'' gets a shout-out in the CD credits), a mood, a thought or a prejudice. 

The genre is definitely folk but the material draws on a variety of sub genres rather remaining entirely traditional. Some of it is dark enough to put one foot into alt-folk.  Occasionally the tracks are reminiscent of Bard, reviewed here earlier this year, especially in terms of the vocal delivery, although Apple of My Eye retains a distinctly original flavour.

Track List

Bad Luck on the Riverbed
Man on a Rope
Sad Trevor Weeps
Fiddle Song
Cow Song

As for the division of labour between the seven-strong personnel:

''We all sing. AND ALSO -

Arran Glass (guitar)
Chris Rusbridge (bazouki)
Ellie Rose Rusbridge (vocals)
Kit Massey (violin)
Alex Scott (mandolin)
Phil Cornwell (double bass)
Dan Rusbridge (harmonica)''

Indeed, it is the vocal harmonies that drive the songs in different directions and enable a full range of characters and emotions to be used for the purely story-telling aspect of the songs.

There are several highlights. Bad Luck on the Riverbed is outwardly simplistic, an impression augmented by the running time - a mere 82 seconds. Yet closer inspection reveals the depth. The story centres around a simple fishing trip and the pride of using the father's fishing equipment to catch a rainbow trout. Pride turns to more distasteful feelings when a slip of the knife leads to the experience of pain being transferred from hunted to hunter. The song stops somewhat abruptly, encouraging the listener's thoughts to rush in and fill in the gap. It's a powerful message for such a short song.

The dual vocals are used especially well here. The male voice drives the narrative and the female voice lends the song a deceptive air of innocence, initially conjuring up memories of nursery rhymes before things take a darker turn. The devil of pride is apparently conquered, but at the cost of lost innocence.

Willow floats by beautifully, with very effective use of the violin and gentle lyrics.

Man on a Rope tells the tale of man meeting an terrible end due to the devils inherent in an older generation, despite his own innocence.

Devils is another highlight and rightfully takes its place as the centrepiece of the album. Inspiration is drawn from various sources, including tales such as The Monkey's Paw, i.e. be careful what you wish for. 

Devils is a powerful and challenging debut from a group who are not afraid to go their own to produce innovative and experimental music. Definitely one to catch live, methinks.

Image © Apple of My Eye
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