Deathfolk Magic – Bye Bye Banshee (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Books and covers, well, more properly Cd’s and covers; I never learn do I but I’m sure that I’m not the only person to look at this side project release from Jezebel Jones and automatically conjure words such as gothic, pagan, theatre, pathos, cliche, etc. But this is actually far removed from the Buffy watching, pseudo-pagan audience that I might have judged it to be aimed at. In fact its so far removed that it can’t even see Sunnydale in the rear view mirror.

Deathfolk Magic is actually a dark, rich and sultry take on an apocalyptic blues sound, one that choses restraint and anticipation over boisterous bombast, one that borrows as much from folk, classical and alternative sources to vary its sonic textures as it does female-centred folklore, loss and longing for its narratives. And whilst that might imply that the music takes a pathway drenched in tears, the clever thing here is that rather than wallow in its own self-pity, it instead plays with melancholy and mood rather than outright misery. It’s a subtle difference that makes the e.p. accessible and relatable rather than merely a tear-jerking wallow in self pity.

If I Die in My Dreams is a classic descending blues progression, one that echoes the softer end of alt-rockers Concrete Blonde rather than the more traditional sound of the genre, strident bass lines, minimal beats and skittering guitar motifs providing the simple musical vehicle to carry the lyrics. The title track is even more atmospheric and transient whilst Psychopomps is a dirge-like lullaby. The final instalment is a fairy-tale waltz with the music a strange blend of sadness and regret, and unexpected infectiousness…the perfect gentle musical death rattle to end the record with.

The whole thing sounds like a New Orleans jam designed to raise the dead, a shamanic ritual and soundtrack in a ballroom beyond time. But for all its bleak subject matter the music is gorgeous in its understatement, engaging, for all of its cemetery themes, and beautifully soothing. Not a cliche in sight. Like I say, books and covers eh? When will I learn?

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