Twelfth Day – Cracks in the Room

Album Review by Harry Harris | 02 May 2017
Album title: Cracks in the Room
Artist: Twelfth Day
Label: Orange Feather Records
Release date: 5 May

For a decade now, fiddler Catriona Price and harpist Esther Swift have been making challenging, interesting, virtuostic music that is far more than the sum of its parts. Somewhere between traditional folk and gypsy jazz, Cracks in the Room underscores their abilities both as musicians and songwriters. 

For a while now, since Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender, people have gotten used to the texture that a harp can give a piece of music when it's pushed front and centre. The downside is, Newsom's spectre remains over a lot of this music upon first listen, it being a low-hanging-fruit in terms of comparison. However, whether by luck or design, Twelfth Day are doing something a little different here. On the title track, Swift uses her harp almost in the way a jazz guitarist might, keeping a tight, choppy rhythm while Price plays inventive lead over the top. The album begins with two more trad-sounding tunes, but once this song kicks in, it really gets going. 

This chamber-pop, Amanda Palmer-esque style suits Twelfth Day down to the ground, allowing them to explore the full range of their instrumental capabilities without ever becoming overly formal. Vocally, too, both voices are produced well – the crags and imperfections haven't been left in, just a drawn breath here, a cracked note there. 

They can do the pastoral folk thing too. Keep Seeking begins with wisping, breezy vocals, before allowing the violin to take the lead towards the end. Similarly, the album's final track, Blackford Hill, a one minute, twenty-four second ode to one of Edinburgh's most beautiful spots, is perfect in its brevity and composition. On first listen you feel like you want more, but going back to it again and again you begin to appreciate it for what it is – a snapshot, or a stolen view, something to enjoy in a flash. 

Listen to: Blackford Hill, Great Green