Here we have the latest four-track EP from dream folk artists French For Rabbits, which saw them return to the studio where twelve years ago earlier they recorded their debut EP, ‘Claimed by the Sea’. I only have the new songs to review, but if you get the limited-edition vinyl then one side is the new EP and the other is the debut, allowing you to hear a bookend of their career to date. Last year’s album, ‘The Overland’, was nominated for the 2022 Taite Music Prize and was nothing short of a triumph, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been lucky enough to see them on the consequent tour which was simply magical.
Led by vocalist Brooke Singer (who also provides guitar and piano), the band comprises John Fitzgerald (electric guitar), Penelope Esplin (vocals, synthesizer, who is also in the excellent Grawlixes), drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa, Phoebe Johnson (bass, vocals) and Rachelle Eastwood (flute) while here they have also been joined by The Black Quartet (strings). New Zealand has been producing some incredible performers within the dream folk genre in recent years, and here is yet another fine example of one of our best. The main issue here is that there are just four songs with a running time of 17 minutes as that is plenty of time for the listener to fall into the world they have created, and it is jarring when returned to reality. The music is massively layered, with space an incredibly important element, but at its heart is Brooke, sometimes accompanying herself, and others with instruments coming in and out. The ethereal harmonies move in and out, so much so that the music feels like a babbling stream (a brook possibly?), picking up elements here and there as it gently makes its way through the landscape of our minds. There is a place for everything, and even though there are plenty of elements it never feels crowded but rather this fragility has been carefully constructed and is actually full of strength. The acoustic bass adds warmth, the piano an underlying melody, the flute some nuances, the strings additional depth, and together the arrangement allows for the ethereal vocals to always be centre stage. Wonderful.
By Kev Rowland