Published on September 9th, 2015 | by Andy Barnes0
Ange Hardy – ‘Esteesee’ Album Review
Anticipation and a stunning line-up of musicians doth not a great album make. Back in 2012, I awaited with baited breath a collaboration by two of the biggest names in Progressive Rock and Metal, Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt under the moniker, ‘Storm Corrosion,’ convinced the record had to be a masterpiece of its kind, how could it not? Very easily it seems, instead of a prog classic, an ill-conceived totally tedious work of self-indulgence appeared, disappointing at every turn. Therefore, when I heard of a new project by one of the folk worlds brightest new lights, which involved a concept based on the life and works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (has Ange gone prog?). While my interest certainly pricked, a nagging doubt about the validity of such a potentially pretentious venture lay in my subconscious. Thankfully, rather than disappoint, ‘Esteesee’ (the phonetic sounds of Coleridge initials S.T.C) delights, Hardy producing a striking collection of songs, which unlike many concept albums, stands alone as individual pieces rather than requiring a necessity to be heard in a single sitting.
The secret is twofold, an undoubted passion for the subject matter, using the life, works, words and influence of Coleridge to meld gorgeous melodies with impeccable wordplay, which even in the darkest instances, exude a serene splendour. Furthermore, instead of concentrating wholly on her own delightfully controlled vocals, Ange includes spoken word from David Milton (Town Crier for Watchet, purportedly the town which inspired Coleridge to write ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’) who quotes verse from the literary epic around ‘The Curse of the Dead Man’s Eye.’ Tamsin Rosewell also reads from ‘Kubla Khan’ in tone which could reside perfectly in a cauldron scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and additional lead vocals from Steve Knightly are used contrastingly during ‘Mother You Will Rue Me,’ one of my highlights within this exceptional thirty eight minute anthology.
As someone who feasts sonically upon a wide variety of musical styles, very rarely does a single genre album hold my attention throughout. Ange Hardy’s fourth offering is one such album. From ‘The Foster-Mother’s tale’ through ‘Elegy for Coleridge’ I find myself enrapt in the unfolding beauty, tenderness and even horror within this homage to the great romantic poet. The amalgamation of music and verse, sublimely played, exquisitely sung, ensures the conceptual ‘Esteesee’ one of the great traditional folk albums of the 21st century.
To accompany the release of ‘Esteesee,’ on September 24th, Ange Hardy will undertake a series of gigs and workshops along ‘The Coleridge Way’ in Somerset between Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 18th October.