V/A – THE FOOD OF LOVE PROJECT (Autolycus Records)
“If music be the food of love, play on” is doubtless one of the most misconstrued quotations from English literature. Duke Orsino is not cueing up some Illyrian bedroom jamz to get in the jiggy mood, but in context of the speech he’s trying to kill his romantic desires with music (whilst also being a bit of an affected pouty flouncer, to be honest). We wouldn’t like to predict whether the participants in this compilation, co-curated by Sebastian Reynolds’ PinDrop Publicity and featuring a strong Oxford contingent, realise this but it must be said that this neo-folk album has more to do with Shakespeare’s era than his oeuvre; Alasdair Roberts admits the song he sings is “referenced somewhat obliquely” by the bard, which about sums up the approach. Still, the conceptual underpinning to an album is less important than its quality, and this is a strong collection.
Highlights are Stornoway’s take on Carrol O’Daly’s famous Gaelic love song “Eibhlin a Riun”, a clean dainty little gem of counterpoint that sounds like something Johnny Trunk has dredged up from eerie early 80s kids’ TV, and Thomas Truax’s “Greensleeves” which reinvigorates the familiar tune as a Plaid-a-like clockwork gamelan lullaby. Scottish singer Kirsty Law’s lovely lilting drone and voice piece is the most traditional here, balanced nicely by The Children Of The Midnight Chimes, who sound like a Russian choir going down a plughole (ie great). Only Mann Castell’s “Peg-a-Ramsey/ Yellow Horse” is a let-down, some drunks mumbling in a culvert which no amount of ghostly reverb or flagrant Autotune can salvage: clear the taste away with Brickwork Lizard’s good-natured take on “Fortune My Foe”, which ends by tossing the tune into a raucous tavern in which the weird sisters themselves may well be pouring the pints.
This may not be Oxford’s musical response to Shakespeare’s universal drama and glorious poetry – we’d suggest Borderville and Bug Prentice head the bill for that one – but it’s a recommended listen. A hit, a very palpable hit.