What does June McDoom sound like?
The review of June McDoom – With Strings
June McDoom’s debut EP is a love letter to 60s and 70s folk and veered off into some beautiful sound design. Following on from that release, June wanted to rerecord a couple of tracks rearranged for strings and harp. This was to spark a more stripped-down approach to songwriting but truth be told, June’s innate skill with sound design and love for some ghostly undertones takes this release into the lush folk arena. Whilst technically there are fewer instruments and sound, the mix is bursting full of ideas and interesting experiments.
The first two tracks are brand new. ‘Emerald River Dance’ is a cover of Judee Sill, whom June McDoom says influenced her style. It is a beautiful ethereal performance that is heightened by the production effects. Things sound like an early Nina Simone recording where June’s voice bleeds over the microphone when she oohs loudly. Then as she fades away there is a husk of feedback reverb that sounds like a ghostly howl leaving an imprint. When that’s played alongside a stunning harp performance and lamenting strings played very close to the listener’s ear, it evokes a very specific Vinyl overbleed memory in my brain. It’s like discovering a folk album from 1968 that has been unloved and untouched for decades. Timeless and very of its time. This more ghostly, haunted sound is more prominent in ‘Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair’. This track has been covered numerous times but the fact June McDoom references Nina Simone’s version as the one that sparked her to record it is key. Both share an innate femininity and grounded sadness and wisdom in their voice. This cover is superb too.
Alongside the two new tracks are reworks of two tracks from her debut EP. ‘On My Way’ has the most ear-piercing psychedelic finger cymbal I’ve heard in ages due to this retro production. Swapping harps for guitars, this rolling melody basks in layered vocals and beautiful strings that pour in and out like a 1950s movie. The whole song sounds like it has been warped a little on vinyl and is a beautiful showcase for June’s vocals and ability to let a feeling drift over you. In some ways, it reminds me of Larkin Grimm. ‘The City’ is the second track to be given the strings treatment. This debut single that wasn’t on the EP strangely gets a lovely redo here. The varied ambience and mood switches of the original still hold here but are smoothed out with the mesh of strings and guitars. The extended outro is a cascade of dreamy vocals, flowing strings and fairy steps of electric guitar gently soothing the soul. It is a lovely extended edition of the track.
‘With Strings’ is an excellent exploration of stripped-back folk. The clever use of rougher production, in-room hiss and vinyl warping brings so much personality to the recordings too. They sound like lost Nina Simone tapes unearthed 50 years later. Whilst I do think June McDoom’s EP is probably the best place to start to get her overall vibe in a succinct package, ‘With Strings’ is a superb release that any fan of 60s and 70s folk would adore.
Recommended track: Emerald River Dance
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