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A Magazine for Sheffield

Noise of the Waters

As far back as I remember, I've always seen folk as the ultimate British genre. There's a school of thought that actively mocks the genre, often misunderstanding the calm demeanour as bland. Nostalgia, homesickness and a love of nature are part of folk, yes, but what most people don't get is how it's a manner of oral tradition. Tales of old, accompanied by gentle instrumentation, are in its DNA.

Brighton-based Hickory Signals take a good hold on the oral history of folk, grabbing a cornucopia of literary references to weave a joyful musical quilt. The result is the comfortable sounds of Noise of the Waters. The lead track takes its name from James Joyce's poem, painting grey skies, an autumnal seaside and capturing the exact moment winter breaks in as a violent gust.

'Bows and Arrows' displays Hickory Signals' gorgeous folk sensibilities. The crisp sound captures Laura Ward's powerful vocals, which drive every song home, straight into your heart. Don't get me wrong, the arrangements in each track are beautiful, but it's Ward's vocals that elevate Noise of the Waters into a rarefied atmosphere.

Hickory Signals pay their dues with a cover version of 'The Unquiet Grave'. The gloomy folk standard waltzes in, in the arms of an imaginary truant from the Midlands. It's a beautiful take and a palate cleanser for 'Irish Ways', the stark EP closer that displays Hickory Signals' oral history skills perfectly.

Samuel Valdéz López