Tucked away in the east of our small island, often forgotten and neglected, the Fens has long bewitched people with its mysteries. It is a place of shrouded fog and hidden meanings, damp mists and watery hiding places. It is where Magwich first confronted Pip in Great Expectations, inspired the “Fenny snake” serpent of Macbeth, and, more recently, had its bleak moroseness captured perfectly in Graham Swift’s Waterland.
A perfect place then for Straw Bear to gather up inspiration and ideas and present them back to us with their second album Black Bank (released today via Oilbug). While it can perhaps (lazily) be categorised as a folk album, it is a record that is far more original than that simple description implies, drawing influences from the swampy vistas and vast, flat landscapes to create an atmosphere which regularly uses black humour to mask tales that drip with underlying malevolence or isolated melancholy.
It is an ambitious, imaginative record, layered with sometimes complex melodies and off-kilter pop sensibilities that are unable to hide the sense of eeriness and unsettling nature of much of the material.
Lyrically astute, sometimes sardonic, often wry, but never lazy, the album also cleverly draws on 60s psychedelia and classic 80s indie jangle as well as the more obvious country and folk suspects. Listen to a couple of tracks below, a dreamy ditty for anyone troubled by the nocturnal moanings of the oversexed urban fox, and the poignant yearning of diaphanous album opener Kitty.
Buy the album here.