The Unthanks

Mount The Air

(Rabble Rouser)

How rich. How strange. Four years since their last studio album, and after various diversions into the back catalogues of Robert Wyatt, Antony And The Johnsons and shipyard songs, The Unthanks return with an album that takes the folk tradition the sisters grew up on and sails it into wilder waters. If the north-eastern accents of Rachel and Becky remain front and centre, it's the contribution of Rachel's husband Adrian McNally, violinist Niopha Keegan and bassist Chris Price that grafts a sense of adventure onto Mount The Air. It starts with the trumpet line that opens the ten-minute title track and then swells through the record on a deep bed of brass and strings. An echo of Gavin Bryars's minimalism here (For Dad), a trip hop arrangement there (the gorgeous Flutter). Folk's storytelling tradition is still very much at the heart of this album. But what thrills here is the sense of scale at play in the music, the unrushed, easeful way the musicians stretch into songs, let them linger without ever overstaying their welcome. That and the earthy humanity of the sisters' voices. All in all, "lovely" will cover it.

Teddy Jamieson