Where traditions are not lost to the winds of time, some survive in forms faithful to the original, while others morph and take on new, hybrid definitions. In the case of Cale – the Celtic folk-rock music project of English musician Andy Beck – the latter is undoubtedly the case, with time-honoured Irish folk elements at the core of the music and a periphery of 20th and 21st-century influences drawn from several contemporary sources.
One obvious parallel could be drawn with the music of The Pogues – a group that has taken the joyous, romantic sound of traditional folk and bashed it around the head with a strong dose of rock 😉 But there’s more to the music of Cale than just taking inspiration from folk legends like The Tossers, Flogging Molly or the aforementioned band whose name derives from the Irish for “kiss my arse”. On debut Cale EP “Even From Here”, the new listener is presented with five tracks that, at various points, summon disparate influences ranging from José Gonzalez and Nick Drake via Aphex Twin and Bon Iver to Metallica and Stormtroopers of Death. Not something you get on your average folk record, then!
Looking more closely at the musicianship itself, another key influence – equally time-honoured in its nature – is the music of the inimitable Mike Oldfield, himself half-Irish. At the age of 19, Oldfield recorded his landmark work Tubular Bells and played nearly all of the instruments on the album himself – an astounding feat for the time. “Even From Here” – whilst not to be held in the same light as the masterpiece recorded thirteen years prior to Andy’s birth – draws obvious inspiration from the “Bells” and Oldfield’s subsequent records, with Andy playing all but a handful of the featured instruments (some instruments were actually keyboard or computer plugins, whilst the screaming vocals on closing track and comedy song “Chinese Mandolin Deathtrack” were handled in part by close friend and long-time collaborator Dean Ince). But for a first EP, Andy was aware of which external input was indispensable, and he loved and learned from the teaching of studio recordists and engineers Karl Coryat, Ian Shepherd and David Eley. The final piece of the puzzle was respected German producer Lennart Jeschke, to whom the responsibility of mastering the EP was outsourced and who had previously produced an album by Bremen-born act Versengold, another of Andy’s folk favourites from his six-year stint of living in and travelling around Germany.
So the instruments used on the “Even From Here” EP fit broadly into two categories: rock and folk. We find the drums, bass, acoustic guitars and occasional distorted electric guitars that one has come to know and expect of anything with the “rock” label slapped on it. But it is the folk ingredients that give the music its quirky edge, being the tin whistle, banjo, accordion, harp…and the mandolin 😉 And the influences haven’t entirely stopped there, either – track #4 “Glaciers” is the other surprise card in the hand, shimmering with the minimalistic beauty of Bon Iver’s second album and some early Aphex Twin, plus a call-and-response format evocative of the aforementioned Mike Oldfield’s sophomore effort “Hergest Ridge”.
The output of Cale so far is the product of these sources of inspiration, which date back at the very latest to the mediaeval market days and Irish pub evenings enjoyed by Andy in a handful of European locations. It was in the pubs, especially those in the German capital, that he grew to love the Irish and Scottish standards (both instrumental and sung), while the mediaeval festivals and parties can be credited with slowly nourishing the belief that the life of an artist is worth it, and preferable to the life led by many dissatisfied citizens feeling like just another cog in the wheel of Western capitalism. Andy may be of Kentish, urban origins himself, but his love of music, art and modern European languages has taken his imagination and emotions beyond the hell created by a system based excessively on money and feeding perceived social norms. “There are things in this world that money can’t really touch”, Andy himself says. “And there is definitely more to life than fast-food chains, crap advertising and meaningless pop music. I know for certain that handmade music, art and language is not dying out anytime soon.”