19th October 2017
Hunter Huntress Hawker
“On the dark edges of folk music lingers Laura Cannell, a violinist and recorder player who uses traditional instruments to evoke unearthly, ageless narratives. Her fourth album is a series of improvisations recorded in a church on the crumbling coast of Covehithe in Suffolk, roaring into life under her fiddle’s curved, baroque bow. This technique involves the four strings being played simultaneously and the effect is aggressive, unsettling, but also primordially beautiful, the harmonies of the drones often clashing cruelly before resolving themselves. Many moments are also unapologetically, uncompromisingly difficult. The harsh, stabbing playing in Blacksmith is like a metalworker’s studio in sound, while Air Splinters Through feels freshly torn from a horror soundtrack. It’s not a record for early mornings. But while this music feels ancient, it also feels brutally alive, as if a giant was waking from long slumbers, about to make its way in the world.”
“She hushes the Scala to a whisper with only a slackened overbow at her disposal.”
LIVE REPORT from The Quietus
“Laura Cannell’s music flutters and swoops across the grand open space of the Barbican concert hall. Harmonies graciously interweave; splay dramatically into separate strands; re-align like birds reclaiming flight formation; dive and rise like leaves hurdling a light wind. When playing the overbowed fiddle (which replaces the standard bow with one that wraps around the body of the fiddle, allowing four strings to be played simultaneously), she tugs music out of the instrument like a thread unspooled from a blanket, firm in execution and ultimately graceful in output. When she switches to double recorder (two recorders played simultaneously), I hear snatches of imitated birdsong, quaint rural dances and melted medieval fanfare. About halfway into her set, Cannell starts to preface her pieces by explaining their narratives and inspirations: adaptions of 5th Century psalms, 14th Century Spanish songs, the music of King Henry VIII, murderous dogs in towering Suffolk cathedrals. I start to hear the ribbon of history rippling through her music, embedding the influence of ancient music within a musical dialect that ultimately seems rooted in personal instinct.”
ATTN:MAGAZINE LIVE REVIEW : THE BARBICAN 30.3.16
“One of the most exciting instrumentalists around”
THE GUARDIAN 2016
Swooping Talons Remix Album
Out on 11.12.15
“The remarkable strength of this collection of remixes lies in the roster of Front & Follow associates reworking them… you can hear the exceptional individual intelligence that’s gone into their transformations”
Full page review in the August 2015 Wire Magazine and you can also hear tracks and read part of The Wire review HERE.
“daring performances, expertly balanced between intuition and technique”
“Cannell coaxes fresh magic from age-old techniques”
“Beautiful and haunting”
Tom Ravenscroft BBC6 Music
“an essential work of modern British folk and avant-garde composition.”
“bracing and uncompromising … fearsome and fearless”
“utterly beguiling, bleak and beautiful”
“Profoundly beautiful… another triumphant album.”
Folk Radio UK
“Beneath Swooping Talons is an enigmatic and strangely enchanting musical country well worth exploring.”
NE:MM Magazine Full Review HERE
“an extraordinary talent for improvisation – converts that feeling into compositions which are a cross between archaic and experimental, and in which the intense power and beauty of the inspiration is maintained.” PEEKABOO MUSIC & MOVIE Magazine (Belgium)
Uncut Magazine, Sept 2015 (Magazine & online)
Shindig, #49 Review
Folk Radio UK Review
The Skinny Review (& see print mag)
Narc Magazine Review (& see print mag)
An Idiot’s Guide to Dreaming – Blog Review
NE:MM Magazine Review
DOR Delusions of Adequacy Review
Whisperin’ & Hollerin’ Blog Review
Peekaboo Music & Movie Magazine – Review [85/100]
“The raw beauty of her melodies glimmer through prickly thickets of stark and dissonant chordal drones”
“Laura Cannell conjures a sonic portal between the past and present.”
Interview with Stuart Maconie for BBC Radio 6 Music March 2015
LIVE REPORT: SAISONSCAPE
At St John’s Church, Bethnal Green 22nd March 2015
With Richard Skelton & Rob St John.
Laura Cannell’s set played on acoustic instruments is quite the change of atmosphere. Cannell, whose landscape inspiration comes from the Norfolk and Suffolk borders, drags early music into a contemporary sphere, most recently with a remix record featuring the likes of Ekoplekz, Kemper Norton and Hacker Farm. Tonight she uses twin recorders and violin played with the wood of her bow under the body of the instrument, the strings above, creating a scraping drone. Her music is based on fragments of ancient pieces, such as work by 12th century visionary Hildegard Von Bingen and The Cantigas de Santa Maria, a set of medieval poems. ‘Deer Bark’ is, she says, “based on the sound of deers barking in the woods by my house and a piece by Henry VIII”, and makes use of her recorder as an instrument to convey the sound of breath as well as melody. Cannell taps into the connection between landscape and the sacred with music that stretches time.
Quick Sparrows Over the Black Earth is…
NUMBER 44 in The Wire’s Top 50 Albums of 2014
TUSK Festival live Review – THE QUIETUS October 2014
“Laura Cannell is the Roland Rahsaan Kirk of neo-medieval music… The noon hangover slot has produced some of the greatest Tusk moments….. and an outstanding set of neo-medieval music for fiddle and recorder from Norfolk based Laura Cannell. A collaborator with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward and Ralph ‘Bass Clef’ Cumbers, among others, Cannell is no academic revivalist, finding her individual voice through an open-minded compositional approach and innovative instrumental techniques. She often plays her fiddle with a deconstructed bow, placing the hair over the strings to create a droning chordal accompaniment to her beautiful edge-of-the-world melodies. Recalling the jazz multi-instrumentalist Roland Rahsaan Kirk, whose signature technique was the playing of several horns at once, Cannell reconstructs the music of 12th century mystic Hildegard Von Bingen on double recorders, her left hand weaving an alto counterpoint around the right hand melody. A magical set which deftly captures the ancient-modern spirit of Tusk.”
QUICK SPARROWS OVER THE BLACK EARTH – Album Reviews 2014
SONGLINES MAGAZINE Review July/August 2014
Click on Image Below for full review
“Cannell’s weird and often eerie choice of instruments, her attention to historical and musical detail, and in particular her improvisational prowess give this remarkable and at times elemental album a personality of its own.” FOLK RADIO UK Read the full feature here…
“Wonderful advances to the tradition, taking onboard the developments of the past 100 years and integrating with the ageless”
CHARLES HAYWARD (This Heat)
“…where Early / Medieval Music, Folk, Drone and Improv overlap…beautifully-paced / well-judged performances – also tap into / invoke a very strong emotional undercurrent.”
Read the full review/interview here…
SPIRAL EARTH INTERVIEW
“We were bowled over by the album when we reviewed it and wanted to find out more…” Read the interview here…
“Following on from our review of her forthcoming solo album, ‘Quick Sparrows Over The Black Earth’, Tim Carroll stole some time from her busy schedule to talk with Laura Cannell, recorder and fiddle player, and innovative performer and explorer of early music about the album, her music, her time with the band Horses Brawl and the directions she’s taking with her evocative music.” Read it here…
“Listening to this album is akin to stumbling into a sunlit woodland glade filled with birdsong, arresting, beautiful and uplifting.”
SPIRAL EARTH (April 2014) Read Full Review…
” Our album of the week, ancient stories retold by laura on ‘Quick Sparrows Over the Black Earth’ ”
KIT RECORDS (April 2014) Read More…
“An album that transcends beauty and takes on an almost spiritual form”
FOLKWORDS (April 2014) Read full review…
“Something wild, primitive and creative can be felt from within.”
“Reminiscent of Philip Glass’s droning, haunting minimalism.”
BEARDED Magazine (2012)
“Powerful & Absorbing”
SONGLINES ****4/5 stars (2012)
“Mysterious, energetic and rustic: sometimes kinda Third Ear, sometimes kinda minimalist, but invariably intriguing”
“The nature of folk music has always made it open to embellishment, but Horses Brawl is taking the genre to new levels”
THE GUARDIAN (2010)
“Elegant, intricate and utterly engaging”
EASTERN DAILY PRESS (2005)
“Exciting virtuosity and sonic imagination”
DERBY TELEGRAPH (2008)
”Tremendous energy, virtuosity and verve”
“A truly memorable sound”
BRIGHT YOUNG FOLK (2009)
“A plethora of finely crafted music entwines control with improvisation – in the same moment it’s ancient and embryonic, disciplined and liberated”
“Fascinating, jolly, mysterious, hypnoticm melancholic”
EARLY MUSIC TODAY (2007)
“Virtuoso Magpie Musicians”
THE TIMES ****4/5 stars (2009)
“Astonishing and Beautiful Sounds”
THE ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND
Feathered Swing of the Raven
Reviewer: A CLOSER LISTEN 2012
“Recorder and harp is not a combination we’ve previously encountered, so it might be fair to say that this is the best recorder and harp album we’ve ever heard. But it would also be fair to say that this is an excellent album in any category.
The listener’s first task is to put aside any expectations about the sound. Many of us played the plastic recorder as children, then laid the fragile instrument down; and many consider the harp to be a new age ensemble instrument. Yet Feathered Swing of the Harp has more in common with the avant-garde than the mainstream. It’s as much a drone album as one of modern composition; a fair portion is improvised. Laura Cannell animates double barreled recorders (the renaissance alto and baroque soprano), while Rhodri Davies draws a double bow across the harp, making it sound like a cello. Together, they fill the sonic field, often coming across like a quartet.
The flatlands and reedbeds of Norfolk are said to be an inspiration. The album’s aura is suitably expansive: wide swaths of sound over which a raven might to fly. A slight air of ancient melody is present as well, a nod to Cannell’s Renaissance leanings. The first two pieces act as warm-ups: the improvisations of “The Glimmering” followed by the reedy highs of “Desperada”. But then the duo delves into dissonance, and the mood darkens significantly. At this point, by turning its back on life, the album – ironically – comes alive.
On “Ground”, Cannell and Davies extend chords to the breaking point. The first second includes a breath, but after that the lightness retreats. One can easily imagine a shadow falling over a once-prosperous kingdom. ”Maske” follows the path to an even more somber conclusion. Listening is like walking a path at sunset, only to encounter a dead end. Lest the reader misinterpret, this is a very good thing. Far too many artists glorify the Renaissance as a time of unending lightness and joy, ignoring the suffering that affected the typical family, the workers in the fields, the superstitious poor. To them, the sight of a raven might be interpreted as a portent of death, and dissonance the work of the devil. Cannell and Davies pay homage to that time without gloss; the raven’s feathers glisten with oil, just as the edges of these performances shine with the promise of gold. “Even a Moment” provides the solace of a feminine voice: a necessary balm, like the lullaby of a parent to a fevered child. Closer “To Hinder the Night” buries its message in the title, but intimations of better days can be gleaned from the higher pitch of the notes. The plague is ending, the gardens are growing, the children are playing once more.”
” Grazing into strange meadows….From their beginnings as an enjoyable, slightly quirky, folk-inflected early music band, Horses Brawl have developed into a very different outfit indeed. Founding member Laura Cannell now plays with new guitarist and harmonium placer Andre Bosman. They still use renaissance and medieval tunes as a starting point, but the worl their music inhabits is much darker, suffused with a bleak beauty, and built of a relentless, almost obsessive examination and re-examination of fragments – particals of shattered dances, love songs and songs of praise.
Via a deliberately restricted palette of sonorities, rhythms, pitch and range, and subversively non-standard techniques, with fiddle scarpings, knocks and rattles and a bowed guitar, the listener is led into a state of menaced trance. The pervasive drones render many of the cadences points of unrest, while sounds of breathing, or mutterings – like the noise of insects or the rustle of feathers – envelop and corrupt the innocence of the original melodies. ‘Brid one Brere’, reputedly the oldest know English love song, can stand as an example. The tune is sketched out, its texture is thickened by parallel open fifths, before it collapses into a haunted, scrubbing ostinato, with harmonium and violin frantic, almost despairing, until the piece simply disappears. Even “Isabella Dansa Alta’, the most overtly dance-like track of all, has the air of a fever-dream. There is little comfort in this music, but it’s a powerful, absorbing, and oddly cleansing experience.”
SONGLINES JULY 2012
The Bright Young Folk review
“Horses Brawl return with their fifth album, the intriguingly-named Ruminantia, which is a class of ruminant animals, including sheep and deer if you were wondering.
The album was recorded using single takes, and the resultant sound is therefore both impressive and raw, unimpeded by over-production or perfectionism. That is not to say there is anything rough though, this is a striking set of tunes played with skill.
Laura and Andre play an unusual set of instruments: fiddles, recorder, guitars and harmonium, which allows for some curious combinations such as the hardanger fiddle and Indian harmonium that appear on Brid one Brere. They combine in a percussive piece that meditates around a theme in a slightly hypnotic manner.
Trip to Paris is a different affair entirely, and an upbeat opener to the album. It is based on a traditional English country dance tune, but the harmonium draws the music towards the continent, particularly in the repeated emphasising low notes.
The Medieval and Renaissance periods are well represented with the Renaissance alto recorder on Onse Vader and Magister particularly well played. Making recorders enjoyable to listen to is mean feat if the listener has ever had to sit through a school concert, but these are a delight.
The music Horses Brawl have chosen is well-traveled, some in distance, like the atmospheric final piece Skolion from Greece, and others in time. Yet, the combination of different origins works well to produce an album that combines authentic historical playing with intriguing, innovative musical combinations.”
Liz Osman – BRIGHT YOUNG FOLK
The band’s fourth album is like a musical detox
“Over the last decade, Laura Cannell and various collaborators have explored medieval folk and church music as Horses Brawl. Their fourth album marks the debut of a new line-up, with Cannell’s conservatory training and self-taught folk chops allied to the more experimental background of Andre Bosman, who, as Hoofus, makes so-called “sine wave and sample based music”.
This series of duets alternates between contemplative religiosity and – when the fiddles pick up the tempo a notch or two – the occasional, more celebratory, mode. The tracks on this album are virtuoso improvisations based on fragments of ancient tunes.
The drones of Bosman’s harmonium create a spooky mood, while over the rhythms of his guitar and acoustic bass guitar, Cannell overlays melodies on recorders, hardanger fiddle (an 8/9-stringed violin, rather than the average four, used to play traditional Norwegian music), and the wonderfully named crumhorn (a Renaissance woodwind instrument).
The jaunty fiddle of opener ‘Trip to Paris’ is about as upbeat as the album gets, while the pace tends towards the funereal on occasions. The harmonium is reminiscent of Philip Glass’s droning, haunting minimalism; while melodies are layered in a way that sometimes, to modern ears, hints at dissonance.
Horses Brawl have featured on Radio Three’s Late Junction and received an Arts Council grant, and their music has a whiff of the uncompromisingly highbrow. This is pretty austere stuff, without much of the joyousness evinced by their peers, festival favourites A Hawk and a Hacksaw.
However, if you want a break from trend-chasing, too cool for school indie scenesters, or bombastic acts determined to throw the kitchen sink at you, these missives from an impossibly distant era could be just the ticket. This is musical detox, the auditory equivalent of a bracingly cold shower or a long run after a night on the sauce.”
Review By Ben Wood BEARDED Magazine
‘An elemental quality flows through ‘Ruminantia’ from Horses Brawl’ FolkWords Review (February 14, 2012)
“There’s an unearthly, vaporous, almost elemental quality flowing through ‘Ruminantia’ from Horses Brawl, with contributing elements quarried from the depths of traditional and medieval, overlaid on contemporary experimental directions. A plethora of finely crafted music entwines control with improvisation – in the same moment it’s ancient and embryonic, disciplined and liberated.
According to Horses Brawl – that’s Laura Cannell and Andre Bosman – the album was recorded in single takes and minimally mixed to create an intimate encompassing feel. That much is certainly true and it’s an approach that reveals considerable presence. It takes but a second to feel you’re right there with the performance. On ‘Ruminantia’ Laura plays fiddle, hardanger fiddle, recorders and crumhorn while Andre plays guitar, acoustic bass guitar and Indian harmonium. There’s a catalytic interaction between these instruments that’s on occasion gentle and calming, while at others almost quarrelsome and combative. It’s those combinations that make this album inspiring and intriguing.
Among the album’s nine tracks there’s the spirited dance ‘A Trip to Paris’ the lingering beauty of the love song ‘Brid One Bere’ the soft yet insistent engagement of ‘Isabella Dansa Alta’ and the sonorous depth of ‘Magister’.
The musical foundations that Horses Brawl use include English country dance, ancient love songs, medieval estampie dance tunes, plus influences from ancient Greece, Spain and Sweden. Around the structure of those groundworks Laura and Andre build their tunes. Ruminantia defies traditional classification as it deftly moves between musical worlds and times. Go to www.horsesbrawl.co.uk and buy it – it’s a treat.” FOLKWORDS
“Impossible to pigeonhole, these virtuoso magpie musician’s duck and weave….a breath of fresh air”
THE TIMES **** Stars
“A truly memorable sound“BRIGHT YOUNG FOLK
“Norfolk duo Horses Brawl are causing a stir in the lofty world of traditional folk by bowing their guitars. Their third album, Wild Lament, sees them turn fragments of Bulgarian wedding dances, Irish minuets and Bolivian melodies into chilling experimental art – via the medium of “preparation”. The pair meld renaissance styles with pop music by adding stickers and clothes pegs to their fiddles and recorders. The nature of folk music has always made it open to embellishment, but adding modern paraphernalia in this fashion is taking the genre to new levels.” THE GUARDIAN
“Elegant, intricate and utterly engaging”
EASTERN DAILY PRESS
“Fascinating, jolly, mysterious, hypnoticm melancholic”
EARLY MUSIC TODAY
“Virtuosic and experimental…simultaneously accessible and challenging” BBC RADIO 2
“Gymnastic anachronisms from terpsichorean trio “The music of this trio, with Laura Cannell on recorder and crumhorn, Adrian Lever on guitar and Jonathan Manton on cello, takes as its starting point the dance music of medieval and Renaissance Europe, performed with tremendous energy, virtuosity and verve. It’s clear that each performer has achieved a level of technical assurance and experience, and their familiarity with elements of European folk adds an extra dimension to the sound. Romanian, Bulgarian and English Traditional dances rub shoulders with material such as ‘Douce Dame Jolie’, a virelai by the seminal French composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut (performed here as an instrumental), and happy experiments with sound colour and technique means that it is sometimes impossible to tell exactly who is doing what. Cannell’s fleet recorder scoots along above lively ostinato figures and rambunctious strumming, while slower pieces carefully balance emotion and poise. The bouncy good humour that marks much of the playing here is clearly founded on deep knowledge and long study, yet there is neither a slavish attempt to imitate folk styles, nor have the players taken out shares in the deeply irritating ‘Merrie Englande Inc’. Instead they have come up with a solid piece of work which bears repeated listening, and makes me want to see them live – not simply to find out how they produce such fascinating and intricate textures with a band that is only three members strong.”
“Their playing methods were highly experimental, Horses Brawl’s performance was wonderful. It all seemed so natural as if the instruments have always been played like that. This combined with their choice of tunes and fun banter made it well worth making the effort to see them live. Indeed, unless you’ve had the chance to see them live, it’s impossible to appreciate just how some of their wonderful sounds are made. A fantastic, vibrant performance, I’d strongly recommend their CD”
TRADITION MAGAZINE Live Album launch review
Live Review from The Hexham Courant – Hexham Abbey Festival (October 2008)
“Horses Brawl is currently a duo, consisting of Adrian Lever on prepared and bowed guitar and Laura Cannel on fiddle, a collection of recorders and on crumhorn – a capped double reed medieval instrument. They use these resources to create music that was at one moment delicate, reflective, gentle and often plaintive; at other times driving, intense, dynamic and dramatic.
An affection for the music deepened as the concert went on, and the audience assimilated the different sounds created with a limited palette of instruments. Often this was done by the creation of antique sounds on modern instruments by the use on the fiddle of a lighter baroque bow or the use of a heavy viol bow and metal mute to recreate the rare Welsh fiddle, the crwth. The simple addition of clothes pegs muted the sound of a modern metal stringed fiddle to create a gut-stringed viol sound.
The excellent intricate guitar work relied on lots of different open tunings; on occasion the use of an oyster card or piece of sponge, or on one lovely piece the use of a bow to create sad long sustained sounds, typical of the ancient forerunner of the modern guitar. Fascinating as their undoubted technical and musical virtuosity was, even more fascinating was their creation of a patchwork quilt of different music from different backgrounds, times and geographies.
A typical piece might have started with a Welsh traditional gaillard, move on to a Bulgarian wedding tune and finish on a 13th century estompie – a hopping dance of the era in which we were all invited to participate! An early French dance tune was married to a French chanson and finished with a contemporary Irish minuet.
Bewildering, maybe, but it did work, the joins were perfect and seamless – each part complementing in a wonderful interconnectedness; fusion music, a dreadful and overused term, if you like, but of a different and more magical nature. What it did conclusively for me was to render inane the use of boxes and labels – early music, Renaissance music, folk music and medieval dance music etc. – all of which have frequently been used to describe these musicians and their various styles.
Their music to me is about demonstrating the common roots and interconnections that link all these music and traditions, and the echoes and valid relationships that have passed down into more modern music and especially what is termed contemporary folk music. They seemingly reinvent the medieval musical world into the modern, while creating a very satisfying, cohesive and organic whole that made this a very rewarding evening.
“Exciting virtuosity and sonic imagination”
DERBY TELEGRAPH read the Derby Telegraph in full here
Live review from Brighton Early Music Festival
‘The Harvest Queen’ by Horses Brawl Extended Line-up in The Argus – Brighton here