Members of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s cult bands sing songs about local and natural history backed by widescreen psychedelic sounds.
It’s worth delving into the backgrounds of the musicians assembled for this debut by ‘cult super group’ Loudhailer Electric Company to understand maybe a little of how they’ve arrived at producing this, their debut album called ‘Cursus’.
Singer, bass player and songwriter Lou Duffy Howard (formerly Barlow) was a member of Hull’s Red Guitars in the 80’s, a band championed by John Peel that regularly topped the Indie charts of the time with a string of singles that often offered a commentary on the state of the nation during those dark Thatcher years (Good Technology, Steeltown, Fact!). Following the break-up of the band, she formed Planet Wilson, another band that received critical acclaim and more recently has been a member of world music band Celtarabia and performed vocal duties for electronic outfit 4ourth 4loor.
Husband Rich Duffy Howard plays acoustic guitar, bass and harmonica and is also known as a poet and former member of psychedelic world dub pioneers Nazca Nine. He’s regarded a leading authority on the Primula Auricula flower…
Jeff Parsons was a member of glam punk band Dead Fingers Talk (debut album ‘Storm the Reality Studios’ was produced by Mick Ronson) alongside the enigmatically named Bobo Phoenix and has also added his searing lead and rhythm guitar textures to many young bands in the Hull area as well as his own projects.
The band is completed by Chris Heron, a classically trained violinist who wasn’t even born when Jeff and Lou were playing their early licks, and Rich Walker who adds the beats and drum fills to great effect.
So far, so much variety, which all adds up to the sum of the sound presented here. The album name is a bit of a pointer to much of the lyrical content, ‘Cursus’ being ancient structures of ditches with parallel banks which are found across the UK, one example being in the East Yorkshire village of Rudston, site of the largest standing stone in the country. Many of the lyrics have ancient or traditional themes or cover local geographical features, with an earthy and personal feel giving the impression of being in appreciative awe of their surroundings and history.
A good example is Gypsey Race, which is the name given to a chalk stream that flows over and underground through several villages in the Yorkshire Wolds. Folklore states that when it floods it’s a sign of pending disaster. Woven into this lyric is the idea of ordinary men or soldiers questioning their participation in some unnamed war. Another example is the epic closer ‘Night Heron’ which features the spoken word poetry of Rich Duffy Howard which in turn was inspired by a Heron Lantern installation on Lake Windermere.
The songs which feature both Duffy Howard’s on vocals are fascinating. ‘Sing-Sing for Everything’ features a kind of word association between the two, though whether it was written spontaneously or not, I have no idea. Either way it fits well with the stop start feel of the song with its simple but effective chorus and subtly soaring violin. Similarly, ‘Night Heron’ features more spoken word from both and the opening line ‘C’mon, we’re gonna take you on a trip’, which fits the whole album on two levels. Lyrically, the trip is like an open top bus ride around their locality with tour guide Lou giving you the lowdown. Musically, it’s more of a psychedelic trip with folky influences and some stunning playing.
The guitar playing of Jeff Parsons kicks off the album with some bluesy slide and is a highlight throughout. Chris Heron’s violin adds tension in that opener and is also a feature over the course of the album. ‘The Messenger’ has an early REM feel to it with some nice interplay between Parsons and Heron while ‘Gypsey Race’ has echoes of no less than Mick Ronson in its lead guitar while Lou Duffy Howard sounds like a less manic, less intense Patti Smith. At times the lead guitar and violin blend almost seamlessly into one.
The marching drum intro, picked guitar, hushed vocal and spacey lead (think David Gilmour) add atmosphere to a tale of loved ones at war on ‘Aftermath’ while things take a darker turn with ‘On The Run’s story of escape after committing murder, though the chorus might suggest a sense of freedom for the perpetrator. ‘Hawk Moon’ travels at breakneck speed with more stratospheric fret work and manic fiddle (at times I’m reminded of the playing on Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’).
The aforementioned closer ‘Night Heron’ distils the albums positives into a nine minute piece that goes from gentle, atmospheric folky strummer to late 60’s psychedelia, early 80’s post punk and Indie incorporating Rich Duffy Howard’s spoken word poetry as it builds to a grand, ambitious finale that includes Lou Duffy Howard replicating some singing that has been recorded backwards and sympathetic drumming that matches the mood every step of the way. As with the rest of the album, this is pulled off with aplomb.
The album is released on DHM Records and is available through their website: