The RMR deck crew lately came across a score of pretty promising folk bands. All kinda trying to escape the supremacy of outfits that often brandish their Medieval and Pagan Folk like an oversized, sophisticated weapon.
Last year, we enjoyed the Swiss band Kyn and their pretty juicy medieval offering. Those that got – contrary to management’s instructions – a full review on an EP. And that’s proof of quality right there. Or – again – Shadygrove got some attention with a poppier brand of that folk thing back in 2018.
Then, we hear that Kanseil from the Northern reaches above Venice are about to hit the scene with a new EP of unchecked acoustics. Things are thus looking a bit more lively in the folk department of the RMR webzine. And that’s jolly good news.
So, here we got ourselves another contender.
Renaissance Folk Rock they claim as their game and Corte di Lunas is their name. Yet in truth, their newest studio album Tales from the Brave Lands turns out a tad more than that. Yet again, their website – at the time of writing this blurb – boasts Celtic Folk Rock as their calling. So, which one is it going to be?
First of all, the album follows a concept. One that mainly speaks of tales from the neck of the woods whence they hail – the Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy. It’s an interesting region with a rich history and even richer folklore. Stories and legends in abundance about white dames, love-stricken ogres, lost souls and the ubiquitous bridge only the devil could have built. Like the one in Cividale del Friule. So, these are rich pickings to fill a tracklist with mystery.
Corte di Lunas are a varied bunch. We truly enjoyed their ability to chant in Italian, English or this complicated local dialect. Yet, Tales from the Brave Lands not only boasts bland Folk Rock. You’ll find pure folk, medieval airs, true renaissance ditties – and incantations. And to that, I just hope they didn’t invoke something they cannot get rid of anymore. Also, I truly enjoyed the polyphonic choir that sometimes chimes in.
The record also sports a penchant towards Prog Rock with the transverse flute that might even awake Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson from his beauty sleep. And whilst the band bravely injects that rock thing as is their wont, it oftentimes does not quite fit.
In other words, the band’s quest for – by their own words – the best sound does – at times – come across as a tad unbalanced. A conglomerate of tracks that kinda lost its compass somewhere. With a tracklist that somehow bobs in the wake of its mighty concept, but does not really know where to turn.
You see, I understand that no folk band worth its salt really wants to sound beery and totally cheesy like dArtagnan (the band). But I would have liked a bit more flow and consistency injected into the theme. Not some sort of a pretty wild medley of style directions embedded in a score of genres.
For instance, La Dama Bianca, which at first enjoys a beautiful interpretation, suddenly gets brutally interrupted by some pretty bizarre prog interlude. A bass-flute-guitar mix that really should not even be here. You see, we already suffered through such atrocities in the ’70s. The rock bands of that era had this sick urge to cut every nice-sounding melody to pieces by injecting some non-sensical blurb. And this did not end well.
Yet, Tales from the Brave Lands contains more such stunts. The traditional Scjaracule Maracule is one of them for instance. Albeit not at such a level of destruction than the latter track ailed from. But apart from that brief misstep, the RMR deck crew positively hummed along with that version. One with a truly artful inclusion of rock with archaic instrumentation.
I also understand that this is a tune firmly ensconced in renaissance lore, even if the origins don’t seem to be quite clear. You’ll literally find scores of different versions of that ditty. Of those, I truly fancy Angelo Branduardi’s famous and pretty dark piece from way back in time (‘Ballo in Fa diesis minore’, La Pulce d’Acqua, 1977).
On the other hand, tracks like The Devil’s Bridge with Lorenzo Marchesi (Folkstone) sport a juicy folk sound. With abundant use of hurdy-gurdy and this change between languages that is particularly well done.
Eolo II – a remake of an earlier version – really showcases how Folk Rock ought to sound. Relatively fast-paced, the track nicely combines modern instruments with unplugged instruments. That one contains a first monologue that perfectively integrates with the abundant flute.
Or the dramatic airs of Rosander with its folksy, yet rocky passages. On that one, don’t miss the somewhat dramatic monologue that – somewhat crazily – reminded me of one Patti Smith a long time ago. And without the virulence, I hasten to add. Yet another cool track.
In other words, the crew here found a welcome boost in maturity towards the end of the record that really took me by surprise. A smoother and more finely distilled style of rock versus archaics.
Tales from the Brave Lands is a truly enjoyable record, despite its shortcomings. Corte di Lunas quite artfully managed this difficult balancing act between rock and true archaic folk. And whilst there’s surely room to improve, here you have a band with a lot of promise.
And you know what? This is one band that surely sounds great on stage. So, good ‘ol RMR will need to move his lazy ass down to Italy and visit one of their gigs. Maybe, one day.
But until that happens, I invite you to enjoy this record without moderation. True tales from a brave land, delivered with passion and gusto on a foundation of juicy tunes. Good stuff.
Record Rating: 6/10 | Label: Self Released | Web: Official Band Site
Album release: 10 February 2020
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