Loner folk music.
As a lover of music that wows and surprises by doing unusual and weird things, it takes a lot for me to sit down and appreciate bare-bones music delivery. Someone has to bring a special something to their mix of guitar and voice for me to notice them from the crowd as the genre is packed. Say hell to Brigadoon. Brigadoon specialises in what he calls ‘loner folk’ – but its a great descriptor. ‘Itch Factor’ is crammed full of very depressing and whimsical folk numbers. It caught my ear immediately.
Brigadoon (Barnaby Smith) recorded the album in his shed and that homely warmth comes through the speaker. Across the albums’ 15 tracks, Smith sticks largely to his guitar and his voice but often has several layers of them very slowly moving through their emotions. Think Tunng if Tunng were entirely acoustic and upset with the world or a lo-fi Tim Buckley. The lo-fi nature comes from those recordings that feel like they’ve been on tape for years as you hear the gentle room noise or hiss behind the sometimes watery guitars. The lo-fi doesn’t apply to the songs themselves.
The reason why Brigadoon really clicked with me was because of how simultaneously beautiful and miserable the album is at the same time. Take the track ‘Waterfall’ for example. Brigadoon’s vocals are layered and hazy like purple clouds and the guitar is given a light high pass filter to make it more emotive too. It is beautifully underscored with the tiniest of synths and a xylophone yet the song itself feels so damaged and tired in its beauty. It is a feeling that drenches ‘Itch Factor’ from beginning to end.
On top of that, the album slowly veers towards a more psych folk feel at times. ‘Queen Cow’ feels like a trippy Beatles b-side and other pieces like ‘Tangier’, ‘Loose Feathers’ and ‘From the Middle’ gave me early Beck vibes. There is something wonderfully British and country fair about it all whilst being a little sinister and sad too. Whilst some may find the album stays too sad and clings to its acoustic guitar and vocal roots, I really enjoyed it when Brigadoon gently nudges other things into the mix subtly. The closing track ‘All That is Solar’ uses media snippets and a few tracks use electric guitars like sly snakes to add embellishments. Also, sometimes lost in the hazy hiss of it all, there is a hidden depth of atmospherics and field recordings that add density to what you are listening to. Cleverly, you as the listener never feel like you’ve gone outside of the shed and the immediate and intimate performance in front of you, yet the music goes on a journey without you knowing it.
That is what makes Brigadoon’s ‘Itch Factor’ a really surprising and disarming record. The simplicity that you initially enjoy gives way to lots of clever and subtle tweaks and changes that draw you inside the shed of mystery. It may be a melloncholic ride but it sure is a beautiful one.
Recommended track: Tangier
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