Review: Gadarene – Butchers Of Bristol (2021)


Gadarene are alternative-folk trailblazers who share an uplifting brand of dance-influenced grooves on ‘Butchers of Bristol’, their first studio album. They transform obscure English 18th and 19th-century tunes into compelling modern dance hits drawing on styles from Pop, Rock, Funk, Reggae, Electronica and Club Trance.

The band comprise of seasoned musicians Matt Norman (mandolin), Nick Wyke (fiddle), Jon Dyer (flute), Laurel Swift (double bass and Clogs) and Si Paull (drums) and have enlisted the services of Polly Meyrick (saxophones) and Josh Westrip (trumpets / trombone) on this release.

The album kicks off with `Black And Grey` and it`s a wonderful Balkan beats kind of number. There`s a sort of Eastern European feel with fiddle, bass, drums, and a flute solo with vocal snippets that makes you want to get up and dance. It really reminded me of the superb Polish folk rock band Brathanki. We have a much jazzier feel to `Childgrove` which begins quietly with flute before opening up with what sounds like a mandolin and trumpets before the flute returns to give it a Jethro Tull tinge. The brass really takes over for a little while then fiddle, flute and violin all contrive and lead us out.

`Breeches Loose` is a quite mesmerising reflective Celtic offering that will take you on an almost otherworldly journey, a delightfully contemplative offering. What I assume is handclapping leads us into `Lord Albermarle`s Delight’ which had a more contemporary almost Cuban come Caribbean flavour about it.

`Mrs Gibson`s Favourite` was a more intricate pop tinged piece, quite diverse with intricate and varied musical swathes. A double bass tapped drum rim and whistling lead us along title track `Butchers of Bristol` an old country dance tune found in The William Irwin Manuscript dating from 1838. It twists and turns as it progresses with a reggae and an almost Mexican standoff not quite mariachi vibe but heading there, towards the latter part. It concludes with a mix of reggae and folk with some whistling added to the mix.

`Northern Frisk` felt a little pensive with a slight feeling of despondency about it. A melancholic, weighty, and meditative musing. We have almost the reverse with `Yellow Stockings`, which seems again quite introspective but relayed in a more assertive faster paced folk feast.

`Mr Key`s Hornpipe` is one of those folk tunes that you`ll hear at most folk festivals or folk gigs that will have all and sundry up and dancing whether they should or not. The once a year raver that really should know better but with a tune like this its hard not to let yourself go and join in. The strangely titled `Hod the Lass Till I Run At Her` is an interesting one. A flute and drumbeat leads us through this journey and is joined at certain points by certain instruments such as double bass, fiddle, and mandolin. A difficult tune to describe so probably better just to listen to it.

`Go To the Devil And Shake Yourself` is another wonderfully named tune. Another that has a Celtic texture with flute, fiddle and bass running throughout and the sound of somebody clog dancing along to the melody. There`s another curious number with `The Sigh` which seems to have a slight edge about it and is a little difficult to classify. It had some jazzy elements but could have easily fitted into a Peter Greenaway film soundtrack.

The album closes out with `The Red Rose` another captivating track that has almost layers building on each other as the tune evolves. Airy flute, sombre fiddle, mandolin, tense double bass, and a crashing drum beat drive us through this slightly mournful, ruminative aria.

‘Butchers of Bristol’ is a marvellous slice of folk at its best. There are some numbers here that will have you up and dancing like a loon and others that are certainly more reflective but overall, it’s a sheer delight. I imagine seeing this band live would be sensational. The definition of Gadarene is apparently engaging in a headlong rush and I have to say on the strength of this release, it certainly is.

Rating 9 /10     

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