“Exquisite Idols” by The North Sea
Eight skewed slices of sing-along outsider pop.
Brad Rose is easily one of the free-folk movement’s busiest exponents, splitting his time somehow between running the Digitalis and Foxglove labels, the FoxyDigitalis webzine and writing his own music under a variety of different monikers with a host of collaborators (Ajilvsga, Eastern Fox Squirrels, Alligator Crystal Moth, Corsican Paintbrush, Sea Zombies). Through all this pain and suffering at the hands of a busy and now somewhat hip scene he has managed to put together a brand new album which elegantly follows a hugely acclaimed collaboration with UK’s Rameses III ‘Night of the Ankou’. However, whereas ‘Night of the Ankou’ explored both acts occasional leanings towards ambience and drone, ‘Exquisite Idols’ instead shows Rose digging deep into the dusty vaults of his American heritage and drumming up an album dripping with blues, folk and free experimentation.
This is folk music as played from a snow-drift in Tulsa, in a Mid-West wasteland or a forgotten forest drenched in moonlight, it is personal, secluded and almost lonely, but Rose never allows the melancholy to take over. From the jubilant opening crackles of ‘Eternal Birds’ right up until the rockin’ stomp of ‘Feather-Cloaked Silver Priestess’ there is the distinct feeling that although this might be labeled as free folk, there’s a barn somewhere full of like-minded drunkards waiting eagerly to get dancing on them there hay-bails. Just flip to the rip-roaring folk stomp of ‘Take it from me Brother Moses’, take a swig of moonshine and let your feet do the talking.
‘Exquisite Idols’ is an album steeped in tradition yet its greatness comes from Roses ability to absorb other cultures so easily – there are traces of Indian traditional music, Greek music and more, all hidden within the cacophony of banjo, guitar and clanging percussion. This is what sets him apart from his contemporaries and makes his music so absorbing – this might be the least sacred devotional music ever made.