Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Memory Band in Pitchfork

The Memory Band
Apron Strings
[Di Cristina Stair; 2006]
Rating: 7.5

Pull out your old copy of Norton's Anthology. Here on their second album, the Memory Band-- once the brainchild of Stephen Cracknell of English folk-electronica outfit Gorodischj, now a fully collaborative unit-- draw from traditional British folk dating back more than a century. One song, here titled "I Wish I Wish", derives from a ballad collected by John Clare in the early 1800s (you might know it from Uncle Tupelo's "I Wish My Baby Was Born").

The album is not, however, the backwards-looking, academic exercise that such a description might imply; wisely, the band modernizes these influences, often in unexpected ways. There are covers of songs by Ronnie Lane ("The Poacher"), Rotary Connection ("Want You to Know"), and Carly Simon ("Why") among these old tunes, as well as a sly nod to Led Zeppelin on the opener "Blackwaterside". Plus, Rhys Morgan introduces programmed beats that are so well integrated into the music that you barely even notice the synthetic encroaching on the organic. Cracknell envisions the Memory Band in the tradition of folk supergroups of the 1960s and 70s, and he has certainly corralled an impressive line-up for Apron Strings, including Adem and members of Hot Chip and Simian.