It is not very often that you come across a piece of work that completely blows your mind. For me, The Painted Caravan by The Peter Ulrich Collaboration is one such example.
When one listens to it all the way through in one sitting, the sense of accomplishment is immense – that is not to say that it is a hard listen It is not. It is one of the most rewarding listens I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
The first sense that you have is that of wonder. Wonder at how many genres and styles and inflections can be combined to such brilliant effect. You first get a sense of this with the opening track, In This or Other Skin. Folk guitars, bagpipes and military style drumming are heard within the first minute. But at no point does it ever seem too much, too stuffed.
The strength of the storytelling is something to behold as well. From stories of love caught short by death, to the astronomically minded Starship (Golden Eye) as the hero of the tale flies through space to get back to the love he left behind.
Whilst folk influences a hell of a lot of the album, the breadth of genres is fantastic. Take for example the second song, Pureland. Haunting organ notes and a slightly off kilter drum beat are followed by The Secret Gardener and its Arabic Scale guitars. In fact, it’s the Arabic Scale that makes this seem like the most ‘traditional’ song on the album.
A lot of the folksy feel of the album is through the wide and extensive use of instruments I, to be frank, never knew existed. Going through the credits there are such obscure instruments as Uilean pipes, a tabla, something called a darabuka and my favourite – a Yuet Ch’in, also known as a Chinese Moon Guitar. The name alone evokes folk!
The last track, Tempest is aptly titled. It’s a calming end to a tempestuous twelve tracks. Once again, the use..I say the use, in actual fact it is not using, it’s the becoming one with instruments that grabs you. Not a note is wasted, not a vocal utterance is out-of-place. I honestly can’t praise this album enough.
The Painted Caravan was released on Monday 11th March, and the worst thing about it? It has not had the fanfare that lesser-talented teenaged idiots get. Market Square Records is the home of the album, and if I were you I’d get my card out and buy it. I’d then get on Facebook, Twitter and the like and tell everyone about it. It really is that good.
If you need persuading, watch the video for Hanging Man: