Hermit-like probably describes them most acutely, melancholy and weathered and bearded also. Yet musically, these traits somehow intertwine with a refined, textured, close-to-nature, autumnal vibe – these three monks are harmoniously dishevelled in both character and verse.
A debut mini-album released in 2007, on James Endicott’s (Libertines/The Strokes) new venture 1965 Records, found the Monks under the direction of manager and ex-Alfie front man Lee Gorton. High praise followed from the likes of the NME, Uncut and The Times. A UK tour, slots at Glastonbury, support to Badly Drawn Boy, live sessions on BBC 6Music plus a collaboration with the New York City Ballet followed. The Monks then withdrew to a loft somewhere in North West London to write and record. These “loft sessions” produced the majority of their new record, “Music from…” and span nearly five years.
True to character, the Monks played no gigs in the intervening years. This period did see them stream dozens of free tracks and outtakes online.
Their lavishly recorded debut “The Wind May Howl”, which saw Paul Weller/Noel Gallagher producer Stan Kybert take the helm, was recorded in just six days. In contrast, this 2nd album was recorded by the Monks over a leisurely five years. As a result these songs rendered mostly on patched up or borrowed equipment possess a far grainier, worn in and distinctly homely feel. Despite the differing approach, the same descriptors lent to their debut still apply here. And while it knowingly tips its hat to the past, is unashamedly lo-fi and certainly isn’t rushed, what counts, is its depth – its darker realms being blacker than before while the lighter moments aim for greater heights.
Make no mistake, this record is subtle and strange and requires some degree of immersion from the listener. Nonetheless it contains both epic soundscape moments juxtaposed with home recorded campfire ditties. There’s poetry, harmony, twelve strings, autoharps, pianos and xylophones a-plenty, along with a distinct lack of choruses, no clear lead singer and half the tracks being instrumental. The only tangible thread throughout is that you have no clue what form of conjured beauty or dark rambling wonderment will follow. What you do know is that it will be harmonious, dishevelled and probably another five years before you hear a peep from these reclusive folksters again.