Damn – you write a piece banging on about how surprisingly little poetry is set to pop music, then along comes a whole album full of the stuff. These are the Wraiths, and they hail from – where else? – Bristol.
Theirs is just about the perfect moniker, given the poetry the duo set on This is Charing Cross. Ford Maddox Ford’s title poem has the bereaved widows of First World War soldiers gathering at the station for trains which will never disgorge their husbands. The women’s faces, and those of their children, are dead. Living ghosts. All of the poems the Wraiths set seem carefully chosen for their resonance, their timeless and lyrical beauty, and capture moments – ghosts of moments – that but for poets would go unrecorded, uncelebrated. They set them to music which is decidedly more corporeal, more substantial, Elizabethan folk blended with the kind of acoustic instrumentation and guitar play that might have graced work at the literate end of eighties and nineties indie-pop (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mog Fry and Jon Hunt turned out to have form in this respect). It’s a winning combination, as a listen to ‘The curlews’ on their MySpace site will bear out.
Mog comes across as a warmer Trish Keenan, trading the latter’s icy distinction for a far greater range, so that she’ll sing ‘The junk of many pearls’ with appropriate aquamarine ethereality and then go to town belting out ‘Movers and shakers of the world’ (Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s ‘Ode’). And having been captivated initially by these more immediate songs, I’ve found myself returning to the softer settings. ‘The darkness’ (D.H. Lawrence’s ‘At the window’) is as gently evocative of weather, season and mood as, say, ‘Saturday’ by the Clientele. The Wraiths have the same lightness of touch and This is Charing Cross bears repeated listening.
Thanks are once again due to Tim, who increasingly seems to be this blog’s eyes and ears on the ground. I really should get out more, as the Wraiths prove.