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Wooden Arms are a seven-piece folkchestra from Norfolk, and their latest opus, ‘December’, was released a couple of weeks ago as a double-A side with ‘Tide’. That Wooden Arms care little for convention is clear from their curious choice of releasing a wintry tale, delicate as a snowflake, just as the green shoots of spring are showing their reluctant presence. No matter, because ‘December’ is as delicately timeless as the most precious archaeological discovery. The first minute sets the tone, rich with keening strings and ethereal piano, before a haunting of angelic harmony introduces Jeff Smith’s nakedly vulnerable vocal refrain. Distant, insistent drums and mariachi trumpet complete the ensemble; a dark groove ensues, pushing through to the sudden climax and final decay of reverb.

Much as their name would imply, Wooden Arms evoke the twilit embrace of a pine forest: between gently sighing boughs and pliant needle-bed there hangs the hint of menace, of the unknown, and perhaps the gentle crunch of rabbit skull underfoot as a reminder of the ever-present threat of one’s own mortality. This is music to be savoured, rather than devoured: every scratch of bow, every plosive consonant, every touch of stick on skin carries its own burden of emotive presence. In pressing classical instrumentation into the service of the modernist folk song, Wooden Arms have created a compelling, unsettling, and timeless combination of virtues. I can’t wait for the other eleven months.

Words by Martin Sharman

Tipped by Adam from Alphabet Bands

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