There is a fair bit of expectation upon the shoulders of Erland Cooper. Having being introduced to ex Verve guitarist Simon Tong and David Nock, drummer with Paul McCartney's The Firemen, by renowned producer Youth, the Carnival was born. Musically their sound is a mish mash of influences that comes mainly from the 60's progressive British folk movement, but there are also definite shades of Beefheart and Love going on in there.
Erland and the Carnival sound quite unlike anything else around at the moment. Perhaps Fleet Foxes or The Corel would be the closest, but there is an intensity and depth to this album that is quite unique. The songs themselves are mainly made up of reworkings of folk songs from the four corners of the British Isles and beyond, but you would be hard pushed to recognise any of them. Their version of My Name Is Carnival is sublime. The Jackson C Frank song is a personal favourite of mine and it's a brave man who takes it on, but full credit to Cooper as the Orcadian has cast his psychedelic moon dust on it and has perhaps bettered the original, but not Bert Jansch's version. Tramps and Hawkers is one of the most recognisable covers on here, known by most from the version by the late Luke Kelly and The Dubliners. It retains the feel of their version and is brought up to date with chopping drums and chugging guitars. Disturbed This Morning takes a poem from the king of melancholy Leonard Cohen and set it to an original piece of music. The result is dark and mesmerising particularly given the sexual undertones of the words.
The album is brought to a close with the wonderful The Echoing Green. A song that sits slightly out of place musically with the rest of the album, but also works perfectly with it and has single written all over it.
This is a new take on folk, or an old one depending on your point of view, but either way it is an incredibly intense and satisfying one. Come December this album will be sitting on top of many a persons album of the year list.