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Kula Shaker - Strange Folk

Kula Shaker, Strange Folk

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

AFTER a lengthy time away from the music industry, Crispian Mills and Kula Shaker return with their first new material in six years and immediately impress with their expert blend of indie rock and retro haze.

Strange Folk is an album steeped in classic values – hinting at both the mysticism of K era tracks like Govinda but also drawing from the likes of Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Doors, The Beatles and The Beach Boys at times.

Rather than appearing as a mere imitation, however, the songs contain a vibrancy that keeps them contemporary, while trading well on the current guitar revival that has paved the way for countless new acts and a fair few revivals over the past few months.

Early evidence of Kula Shaker’s return to prominence came in the form of sweeping first single Second Sight, which offered a thrilling combo of guitars and stylaphones, complete with psychedelic vocals and some thrilling tempo changes. One second it’s flirting with glam-rock, the next psychedelia, and the next some of the best riffing of Zeppelin and Hendrix.

Yet throughout, the hits come thick and fast. There’s a clever nod to global politics on the super-charged Great Dictator (Of The Free World) that jostles some thumping guitar licks with intricate, Beach Boys-laced vocal melodies. The chorus is one to get people chanting.

While Song Of Love/Narayana combines hammonds, funky bass and some brass-like stabs to brilliant effect, and also draws on some mystical chanting.

Shadowlands is a magnificently moody slow-builder about love that just gets better and better the further you get into it, and Fool That I Am is another retro-steeped beauty that’s sure to provoke comparisons with The Yardbirds.

Hurricane Season, meanwhile, is a real epic that starts off folksy and occasionally Dylan-esque before exploding to life on a couple of occasion with some hammond organs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Jim Morrison cut. It comes complete with sea-side sound effects (gulls, sea breeze, etc), just to lay its summery credentials bare.

Ol’ Jack Tar, meanwhile, flirts with the mysticism of Tattva as well as late era Beatles, enabling Mills’ vocals to come over really laidback and psychedelic. It’s the sort of hazy daydream of a track that’s designed to ease the blues away.

Dr Kitt, on the other hand, opens with a seductive harp and some 70s-era flute to usher in another gem of a recording – the type of track that could easily grace a hallucogenic Austin Powers sequence, or be found on the jukebox of a Tarantino movie.

And the album ends in rousing fashion with the more straight forward rock of Super CB Operator, the sort of classic effort that ought to appeal to anyone who gets their kicks out of Oasis and Kasabian at their most swaggering. It’s a fun track that signs off in style, leaving you on a high.

Kula Shaker’s return is therefore a major triumph for them – a gloriously old school joyride through the best the guitar genre has to offer, cheekily soundchecking some of the greats while simultaneously impressing on its own merits. We’d urge you to become acquainted with the Strange Folk.

Download picks: Second Sight, Fool That I Am, Great Dictator, Shadowlands, Ol Jack Tar, Dr Kitt, Super CB Operator

Track listing:

  1. Out On The Highway
  2. Second Sight
  3. Die For Love
  4. Great Dictator
  5. Strangefolk
  6. Song Of Love / Narayana
  7. Shadowlands
  8. Fool That I Am
  9. Hurricane Season
  10. Ol’ Jack Tar
  11. 6ft Down Blues
  12. Dr Kitt
  13. Super CB Operator

  1. No doubt all Kula Shaker fans everywhere were waiting with baited breath for this addition to K and Peasant Pigs and Astronauts. And after the VERY long wait Stangefolk is the result!

    A great variation of songs, from catchy rocky numbers to tender love songs and everything in between means that there’s something for everyone. Although the album is different to the other two, it still has the psychedelic and indian influences in places as well as the brilliant guitar solos, making it a non-skipper.

    So all in all, Strangefolk is an awesome comeback album, and compared to the brilliance of K, 4/5 is a more than credible score. Welcome Back boys!

    Leila    Aug 26    #
  2. After splitting up in 1999, despite demonstrating realms of potential, Kula Shaker finally return with a masterful, well thought out and beautifully conceived third album.
    All the ingredients that were present before have returned – psychedelia, spirituality and Indian harmonies and are supported by perhaps a more finely tuned sense of humour and the ridiculousness of modernity. This is the album Kula Shaker were born to make. Every track is perfect for what it's meant to be, there's no filler on this album.
    Stand out tracks include the epic Song of Love/Narayana on which Mills really lets lose with unrestrained passion, Out on the Highway, where Mills’ lyrical ability shines and Shadowlands, which is quite simply beautiful.
    Fool That I Am, Dr Kitt and Second Sight stand out as strong tracks also, taking you through the albu as a coherent form, not a collection of disparate songs.
    Closing on Persephone, the band channels the spirit of Nick Drake in a folky, gentle track that ends the album wonderfully. Quite simply you need to hear this album. Forget any preconceptions of the Shakers and open your mind to the return of the year.

    Sarah    Aug 29    #