The Unthanks have returned with an album that draws you in and enchants you with magical music and glorious harmonies
he Unthanks are back with their first studio album since Last was released four years ago. The band have been working on Mount The Air for the last two years in their makeshift Northumberland studio and have created something truly special in the process.
Opening with the 10 minute title track it is soon apparent that The Unthanks have forged a unique world within this album, standing outside of current trends and tastes. Written by band member and producer Adrian McNally it is a textured and rhythmic musical suite complete with a brass section surely inspired in equal parts by Robert Wyatt’s Comicopera and Miles Davis.
Various styles raise their heads throughout, traces of trip hop can be heard on Died For Love, orchestral flourishes colour Foundling with spectacular brushstrokes and a feudal drone drives Magpie along with harrowing beauty. This is so much more than a jumble of styles though and is instead beautifully assembled, with the sumptuous harmonies of Rachel and Becky Unthank a common thread throughout.
The album contains some incredibly niche subject matter. Thomas Coram’s 18th Century Foundling Hospital was the inspiration for both Foundling and Lullaby, yet the album never feels overly esoteric or clever. Instead you are invited into an immersive world of melancholy folk music which feels both familiar and mystical. A song like For Dad, with its anguished Irish fiddle, may have always been lost in the mist just waiting to be discovered.
What The Unthanks have achieved with Mount The Air is something similar to that of The Decemberists on The Crane Wife and Midlake on The Courage Of Others. It is a majestic tour de force of classical beauty.
Verdict: A unique musical journey