In their separate ways, Stephen Cracknell (also of the Memory Band) and Sam Genders (also of Tunng) have long explored the boundaries between folk and other genres. Cracknell's Memory Band follows fairly traditional folk melodies and instrumentation, but he is not afraid to slip a Carly Simon cover or an old R&B song into the mix. Tunng adds a shaker or two of electronic experimentation to its pristine folk melodies, and with Bullets, the band turned noticeably toward the pop side of things. So when the two of them get together, as in the Accidental, you can expect folk elements but not folk songs, pop melodies but not exactly pop songs.
The Accidental's extraordinarily pretty debut album starts in an a capella duet, Stephen Cracknell and Hannah Caughlin (of the Bicycle Thieves) blending their wordless "um da-da-das" in "Knock Knock"'s heady syncopation, quiet handclaps keeping the rhythms. A folk-picked guitar enters a bit later, yet this tune is very far from folk. Instead it swirls and pillows like soft scatted vocal jazz or doo-wop, the voices layered in ebbing and flowing harmonies. It is almost disorientingly beautiful, as indeed is much of this album, but very difficult to classify.
The album fluctuates, at times sounding very much like Tunng's caressing pop and glitch songs ("Wolves," "Birthday," and "Time and Space"), at other times like Memory Band's string-embellished folkery ("I Can Hear Your Voice," "Slice Open the Day"). But essentially the two artists meet in the middle, Tunng's percolating rhythms underlying traditional string and guitar arrangements, and cellos flourishing in the corners of bare, whispery "Wolves." There's a new element as well in the elaborate harmonies and vocal counterparts that embellish many of these songs. And there's a sly lyrical sharpness in lines like "Here's to the girl with the incremental eyes" or "Here's to the girl with devil in her hips" that etch images without many words, but through implication and metaphor.
Yet to dissect these songs' components is to miss the point, because they are warm and welcoming and organic and good. If you like Tunng or the Memory Band, you'll want to check this record out, and if you haven't heard either yet, well, what are you waiting for? • Jennifer Kelly
myspace of liam bailey (the group's 4th member)