Corvus – Gloves of the Skin of a Fish
CORVUS: Gloves of the skin of a fish
Corvus are in a dimension of their own; their debut album Gloves of the skin of a fish has a wondrous magical feel to it. Eery in lyrics yet comforting in tone, the musicianship is a fantastical mix of Henry VIII melodies performed by Mike Billington and a multicultural modernist take on ancient folk expression written mainly by Bill Pook The opening track Dave’s Fish is what I imagine the vultures in Disney’s The Jungle Book would sound like if they wrote a song: relaying their message of a discussion with fish in a thoughtful 1960’s psychedelic way, but with calm, steady vocals portraying a King Arthur-like character telling an ancient tale from times gone by. Heavy Heads is a much discussed track in circles. It is a controversial telling of an execution in the fifteen hundreds with a chilling reality in a surreal storytelling setting; Bill’s performance could easily be a Jester reciting a sonnet by William Shakespeare to the King and Queen. This tale has split owners of the album leaving some uncomfortable and others excited and amused…either way, it came as no surprise to me that the duo were booked to perform at Festival at the Edge earlier this year and were well received Overall, the album is a much darker medieval take on those Horrible History books children read in the ’90s. Granted, Corvus’ more graphic tales can be disconcerting to some, but there is method to their madness as the album is actually a brilliant and educational listen to the musical and poetic ear. If you’re not convinced and need some reassurance, Genevieve Tudor from BBC Radio Shropshire’s Sunday Folk descrobed the album as just fabulous on the Corvus webpage www.corvus.org.uk. Just give it a go.
Joni Stephens Folk North West. Winter Edition 2010/11
Fish, Slugs and Executions
“That’s brave”, you think to yourself, at the opening of Corvus’ debut album, ‘a novelty song as the first track.’ Except it isn’t. A novelty that is. Gloves of the skin of a fish is a collection of off beat items, that are described as ‘esoteric’ by Mike Billington, one half of the duo. If you’ve ever wondered what water feels like to a fish, then you’re not alone. Corvus do too. As does Dave Eggars, whose short story provides the inspiration for that initial number, titled, not surprisingly, Dave’s Fish. Going down the evolutionary chain a few links there’s a short tribute to a well known garden visitor in Thoughts on a Slug, whose ‘gummy mucoid unctuousness’ is much admired, by Bill Pook, Billington’s partner in, er…slime. By the middle we’re on to primates, in Heavy Heads, as the lads wonder how to weigh that part of the anatomy. The first option is discounted as it’s somewhat grisly, and indeed, lethal, but there’s another, more practical idea mooted a little way down the line. More conventional material is included amongst the curios. Leonard Cohen’s Who by Fire, gets a straightforward treatment, there’s a jolly thrash through Newlyn Town and a version of Richard Thompson’s Beeswing, which inevitably suffers by comparison with the original. At the extremes, this album could be viewed as deliciously inventive or a bit daft. I’m somewhat in the middle. Being different is good. There are identikit acts in folk, as there are in other genres, with artists who offer little of themselves. But what’s on show here doesn’t quite hit the mark with me. There’s no explanation for that, it’s just a matter of personal taste. Don’t let that deter you from making further investigations though. Corvus have a well designed website that contains samples, lyrics and an account on what inspired the contents of the album as well as more information on the musical activities of Messrs Billington and Pook. Pay it a visit. You might find something a little off the beaten track that takes your fancy.
Les Pilling. North West Folk. June 2011