By The Staves
At the risk of dumbing things down but for the benefit of the uninitiated, Communion is a burgeoning record label, established live music network and collective of like-minded souls. In part responsible for the UK's current revival in all things folk, the roll-call of artists achieving success means the music continues to reach an ever-growing audience. Laura Marling, Ben Howard, Anna Calvi, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Alessi's Ark and Matthew and the Atlas all have their roots in Communion. Mumford and Sons are at the heart of Communion and the broad appeal their own music is enjoying must seem far-removed from the Sunday sessions where fledgling musicians convene at Notting Hill's Arts Club. When Mojo Magazine put out a stunning compilation of Communion artists earlier in the year, I wanted to hear more. This led me to 'The Flowerpot Sessions' which again, showcased perfectly what the collective is about.
'Mexico' was one of the stand-out moments on 'The Flowerpot Sessions' and acts both as the perfect opener to this EP and as a sweet introduction to the music of The Staves. Lush is a word that springs to mind from the first note to the last, as a simple guitar directs the hauntingly innocent three-part vocals and occasional cymbal splashes lift the tune in just the right places. There is a melancholy to the music but it's not without hope. The simplicity of instrumentation means you get to soak yourself in rich vocal harmonies, which is definitely the strength of The Staves for me.
If after 'Mexico' you need further proof of the authenticity of their music then 'Icarus' should offer the pretty persuasion you need. The tune moves along gently, again with a simple guitar, however this is a beautifully crafted piece in its own right. The voices weaving deftly around the continuo of the guitar and the shift in voices taking their part, followed by moments of togetherness add strength to the spirit of the song.
'I Try' is the third and final song on the EP and is more obviously uplifting than the two previous offerings. There's still the element of self-doubt, insecurity and honesty in the lyrics but this time with a more confident gait and determined spirit in the music. The vocals are simpler than with the previous two songs but still demonstrate here, how well the girls play together. I think from this song more than with the others, I could hear potential influences on their music but nothing to the point where I thought the girls were delivering anything but a fresh and original sound.
Emotive but still accessible, naive and yet thoughtful, moving but somehow uplifting - I'm really impressed with these songs as I am with their earlier releases. If you fall for the music too, I'd recommend you check out their free EP, 'Live at Cecil Sharp House'. Also, they're playing at Nation of Shopkeepers on 1st December which would mean you get to hear the girls playing their beautifully haunting strains, in person. On the strength of what I've heard so far, I'll definitely be there.