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Reviews for “Bow Low Bright Glow

“Has anyone ever truly reckoned the influence The Incredible String Band continues to exert on successive generations of British folk musicians? Those in doubt should listen immediately to The Family Elan’s latest album – follow up to 2007’s debut Stare Of Dawn. Take the eight minute opening track, “Thousands Of Patterns Of You”, with its drone, tabla and finger cymbals, its meandering, episodic storytelling, and the way Hanna Tuulikki’s quirky, little girl vocals summon the spirit of erstwhile ISB vocalist Licorice McKechnie, twined around Chris Hladowski’s more stentorian, bardic tone. The whole thing plays like an astonishingly accurate impersonation of an outtake from I Looked Up. Moreover, The Family Elan’s central preoccupation with the folk music of Asia Minor, while unusual, is a direct descendent of ISB’s pioneering 1960s work incorporating non-Western instruments and influences into traditional European folk and Early Music, all given a psychedelic tweak…Which isn’t to deny that it’s all deliriously entertaining. For most of the tracks here, Yorkshireman Hladowski (largely playing stringed instruments including oud, bouzouki and guitar) and Finnish-English vocalist and flautist Tuulikki are joined by Patrick Farmer on Egyptian tablas and other percussion, blazing through a selection of dances and folk song from Uzbekistan, Greece, Azerbaijan and elsewhere with puckish abandon – in much the same way that Jeremy Barnes (a former collaborator with Hladowski) has done with the music of the Balkans through his work with A Hawk And A Hacksaw. It’s done with a clear-eyed instrumental virtuosity that sets it apart from most free folk, but Hladowski’s original compositions allow the wyrd-psych aspect to come to the fore, with “Our Bed Is Green” incorporating freeform ripples and heat-haze electric guitar along with stoner vocals reminiscent of MV+EE before they became a Neil Young tribute act. Put simply, it’s unselfconsciously upbeat, 21st century acid-World-folk – and the perfect plate-smashing music, too.” Daniel Spicer, The Wire

“Rapturous experimental folk, tinged with East European promise. Formerly of Scatter, Chris Hladowski and Hanna Tuulikki have emerged from the Glasgow free folk scene with a ravishing fusion of Balkan trance and ecstatic drone-song. Liberal deployment of bouzoukis, frame drums, dulcimers and Jew’s harps ensures “Kavalla Oyun Havasi” and “Rok Mashki” keep one foot in the medieval troubadour world, while “Our Bed Is Green” recalls the drumless songs of late MBV. Hladowski’s robotic strum and Patrick Farmer’s buzzing percussion conjure hypnotic washes of colour, while Tuulikki yelps glorious sun salutations on “The Black Planets Of Her Eyes”. Rob Young, UNCUT ****


(high-res photo for download, please credit ©okli6@mac.com)

Review for “Stare of Dawn

“Chris Hladowski is a member of Glasgow based folk wierdos The One Ensemble, led by Volcano The Bear’s Daniel Padden, and the trio Nalle. The Family Elan is his own project, and while both the group’s name and the fact that this debut album features Nalle’s Hanna Tuulikki suggest otherwise, it is essentially a one man operation. Stare of Dawn is built around Hladowski’s tough, confident performances on bouzouki and related instruments, embellished with his slightly dazed vocals and errant fiddle work. Each piece sounds like it might take off in another direction at any moment, and both “All Around” and “Cascade – Danse of Airs” (the latter clocking in at 16 minutes) frequently do. When Hladowski achieves instrumental levitation, the ghosts of Comus, Jan Dukes De Grey and The Incredible String Band might be hovering over his shoulder; there’s a similar sense of acid-spiked, dervish abandon. Like the latter, he references ethnic music – Indian ragas, Balkan gypsy dances, Greek rembetika – but with a rare feeling and finesse, and not a trace of whimsy. As with Padden’s ensemble, a deft balance is struck between the purposeful and the charmingly nonchalant. There’s a dark sensuality to the sound, partly the result of the clash and overlap of overtones produced by the droning pedal notes of the various acoustic instruments, partly because of the strength of the modal melodies and their inspired variations. An exciting, dramatic and often hauntingly beautiful collection of songs.” Keith Moline, The Wire

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