Harpsichord Row, Bethany Weimers’ debut release, is steeped in a sense of place, both in its sound and its subject matter. The Oxford based musician’s 10-track album is an exposition of her refined alt-folk, distinguished in its purity and elegance. The whole album has a lucid quality; every song is well refined and clear-textured, free from non-necessity. It is partly this stripped down characteristic that helps construct the haunting, otherworldly atmosphere, complimented by Weimers’ pure, glassy vocal. This quiet potency is composed into the music, and Weimers’ poised performance and simple production impart this aura most effectively.
This power is felt throughout the album’s spectrum of genres, ranging from the English folk of Fairport Convention, namely in ‘The Letter’, to the up-tempo pop found in ‘William & His Ghost’. Weimers’ powerful vocals liken her to Kate Bush and Florence Welch, both clear musical influences, with the piano oriented pop of ‘Lucky Day’ comparable to the former and the tribal drum-filled folk of ‘William & His Ghost’ to the later.
The originally composed folk songs have a timeless quality, but the production is far from nostalgic and is just as embracive of new technology as its self-distribution. Weimer’s employment of Pro Tools in her instrumentation may offend some traditionalist folk-lovers, but the album’s embrace of the here and now, and its sidestepping of a conservative view of authenticity, creates an interesting and individual aesthetic; both ancient and very much in touch with the present.
In fact, time and its passing is a core theme in Harpsichord Row, taking its name from a forgotten Oxford terraced street trapped in the past after its 1929 demolition (the patch of grass by London Place is its only visible remains). Many of the songs embody similar ideas and evocations of time; ‘30000 Days’ takes its name from the length of an average human life, and ‘1784’ portrays a man named John, born in that year, allegedly Weimer’s great-great-grandfather.
Harpsichord Row takes the best from the past and the present and does so with both musical and conceptual clarity. This is a beautiful album and a very promising debut.
Self-Released on 7th May 2012