It’s not terribly surprising when a band, nearly ten years into their careers, starts to mellow out a bit. Even the fiercest of punk bands seem to remember owning an acoustic guitar. But when it’s an electro-folk band, there’s a question of how much a band can logistically mellow.
Tunng have gotten a little less energetic with every album, a solemnity made most apparent by the less prominent role percussion has played in the arrangements and mixes. But there is a sombre tone about Turbines, their fifth full length set, that suggests a shift in the band’s collective mood.
It sounds like a Tunng album, to be sure, and this seems like the perfect moment for them to be releasing an album. With the retro-aping resurgence of folk and acoustic pop - to sometimes infuriatingly derivative and socially tone deaf extents - Tunng continue to showcase the beauty of songs that are acoustic at their core but are permitted to flourish through electronics.
There is a real sense of experimentation to Turbines, perhaps because the electronic elements, whether they’re keys or Theremin, feel truly integral to the songs rather than add-ons. It shows that Tunng’s notion of folk is built around song structures rather than simply use of acoustic instruments. It’s why steel drum sounds make perfect sense in a song that is in no way meant to invoke images of the Caribbean. It’s the kind of authenticity that so many bearded boys in shabby dress wish they could achieve.
Though most of Turbines reflects that sort of rainy day sedateness to their songs, the emotion that emerges from their temperate deliveries is stunning. There are a few standout vocal arrangements, such as the chorus of 'By This' that has Mike Lindsay, Becky Jacobs, and Ashley Bates’s voices knocking each other down like dominoes, and the weaving of harmonies on the verses of 'Embers'.
Tunng have been moving towards this downbeat place slowly, and their arrival here shows a real cohesion in them as songwriters and as a band. It’s less the sound of a band losing their edge and more the sound of them finding their zen.
7Amanda Farah's Score