Thursday, 10 October 2013

by Funke and the Two Tone Baby.

What you get with Funke and the Two Tone Baby is percussion, harmonicas, guitar and a growling, “lived in” vocal that can surprise you with its sudden softness.
“Battles” doesn’t start with the title track. It starts with a dramatic, swelling sound that tickles your attention, then grabs it. “Bella’s Kiss” really stamps Funke’s mark on you as a good opening track should. It makes no excuses. Once your attention is deservedly gained the second track “Mountains” takes you high and firmly establishes the tone of the album with its twanging guitar, relentless beats and elemental themes. It takes you to the top of the mountain and dives you deep as the album swings into the intriguing second track “The Woman Who Stood at the Edge of the Sea”. Its double bass sound and tale of waiting and yearning reminds me of travelling troubadours and of wandering, rail-road riding hobo types peddling tunes just because they can. If you are going to tell tales then what better subject matter than pirates, ghosts or witches? Well a song about a “Pirate Ghost Witch” of course. It’s spooky and slightly scary and rides you into the storm at its conclusion preparing you very nicely for the big hitting title track “Battles” which follows it. It’s clearly intended to be the“main event” of the album and its echoing, calling guitars harmonise with the intention of the words. The anger and determination of the lyrics are all part of the battle as is the way the voice and instruments all parry and support each other, rushing in and withdrawing back ending in a sustaining echo.
After all that pounding emotion comes “I’ll Love You”. This is like the sunny picnic in the middle of a challenging day and has become my “mixtape”, sharing track of the week. With the beautiful sounds of Dulcima Showan duetting on vocals and Laura Callaghan on flute it’s a song about technical sentimentalism; the description of emotions in pragmatic terms and the very best use of the word “luminosity” in a song that I have ever heard. The cute jiggyness of this track makes the next one quite startling. “Now You See Me” has a gentle start giving the harshness of the lyric and its subject a subtle shock. This is an instrumentally sparse ballad with a beatbox backbeat. It’s the dichotomy of this track that defines it. The growling vocal blends into a soft plea and right back again. It’s hard and easy, love and hate, fragmented and flowing, a haunting harmonica and a pounding kick drum. How does Funke and The Two Tone baby follow that? With a kick to the stomach that is “Cannonball” that’s how. As we approach the end of the album I get the sense that we are swishing the ice round the whiskey glass as we deal with the introspective “The Morning After”; a tale of loss and friendship. Then we pour ourselves just one more shot and stare into the comforting flames of the fire as the last chords of “The Morning After” mix into the final track “Winter’s Return”. This track is not a pessimistic, self indulgent roll into greyness, but a celebration of winter. It delivers an uplifting, fresh perspective on endings. It’s the longest track on the album, but somehow as it delightfully fades I find myself leaning forward to pour yet another glass, hit repeat and play the whole thing again. “Battles” is an album that could just get you through Winter’s return and bring you back round to Spring.

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