Staying in Scotland today for a preview of this album from impressive Glasgow band Two Wings. Impressive but very difficult to categorise (why categorise? I dunno, answers on A4 paper sent to Blabber’n’Smoke HQ please). You could call them psychedelic folk or weird folk or even if pressed make a case for calling them a folk band, but then you can’t impress all of the folk all of the time. Suffice to say that they gather in a lot of influences that certainly include the sixties San Francisco sound that produced Jefferson Airplane and H.P. Lovecraft and the myriad UK bands that clustered together under the folk banner in the early seventies teetering on the edge of prog rock. (see the excellent book Electric Eden). Add to this a dash of Richard Thompson, Kate Bush and latterly Joanna Newsome and Tuung and you might have an idea of what two Wings sound like.
Fronted by Finnish singer Hanna Tuulikki and guitarist Ben Reynolds (of Trembling Bells fame) and ably assisted by Kenny Wilson, bass, Owen Curtis Williams, drums and Lucy Ducombe, additional vocals, the band create a fairly unique sound that might be difficult for casual listeners but ultimately rewards anyone who enjoys listening to music that is off of the beaten track.
Kicking off with Eikon, the single from the album the first thing to strike the listener is Tuulikki’s voice. She sings like a cross between Kate Bush and Karen Dalton and with the added contribution of Ducombe the pair make some weird sisters. As stated earlier this is not easy listening but over the course of the album the voices make perfect sense especially when Reynolds’ is added to the mix. As for the music here it comes across somewhat like Kevin Ayers’ Whole World Band with the horns recalling David Bedford’s work. This continues on the gorgeous Feet which recalls Ayers’ more bucolic side. There’s a faux medieval feel initially to Love’s Spring courtesy of what might be a recorder but the song soon evolves into a trippy guitar solo with disembodied voices hovering close by. This is what a night at the Filmore West might have sounded like. The highlight of the album is Altars and Thrones which shimmers with a hazy sense of dread. The rippling guitar, sensitive percussion and tremendous vocals create an almost ethereal feel on a song that is tremendously reminiscent of the great Pearls Before Swine. The folky It Hurt Me owes more to English folk song but we are back in psychedelia with the closing Forbidden Sublime where Reynolds’ guitar playing is certainly electric music for the mind and body while Tuulikki caresses the words and a mournful horn section adds a sense of desolation. Extreme listening but well worth the endeavour.
Altars and Thrones