Erland & The Carnival - Nightingale

Erland & The Carnival - Nightingale

With this album they’ve proven their worth in instrumental experimentation.


Ah yes. The tricky, always difficult second album. For their eponymous debut album released in 2010, Erland & The Carnival - comprised of Orcadian singer / guitarist Erland Cooper, multi-instrumentalist Simon Tong (ex-Verve, ex-The Good, The Bad & The Queen) and drummer David Nock - retooled ’70s era folk (‘Trouble In Mind’) and refashioned Jackson C. Frank’s ‘My Name Is Carnival’ as their own. ‘Erland & The Carnival’ was, for the most part, a show of reverence to folk singer/songwriting legends like the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash with a bit of psych rock thrown in for good measure, setting themselves apart from Mumford & Sons and the rest of the pop-driven, nu-folk movement.

So what about Erland & The Carnival’s follow-up, ‘Nightingale’? You’ll either be pleased or horrified by the use of electronics on this album. Yes, you read that right. Electronics. ‘Map Of An Englishman’ begins with beeps and blips worthy of a video game, before the song really gets going, sounding more like the Coral than you might expect. Still, the lyrics are worth studying: ‘I drew myself an island / of what I am made from / I built it round my consciousness / next to a town called Love’. Stunning.

‘I Wish I Wish’ should be played in planetariums; it’s be great to hear under billions of stars. ‘So Tired In The Morning’ includes Libertines-style guitar flourishes. A subterranean dance feel rounds out ‘The Trees That Grow So High’, it’s like the Chems invited Jim Morrison to sing with them. Speaking of the Doors, ‘The Night’ appears to be a raucous nod to them.

Stealing lyrics from others is not a new concept in popular music: Led Zeppelin conveniently ‘borrowed’ from blues masters like Willie Dixon and others. For ‘Nightingale’, Erland & The Carnival also lean on older bits of inspiration. ‘Dream Of The Rood’ is a retelling of one of the earliest Christian poems written of the same name; it’s as old and creaky as its source and not an effective use of Cooper’s voice, as evidenced by the lovelier, precious (and should be noted, original) ‘East West’. The Egyptian Book Of The Dead was tapped for ‘WeAllDie’; the song features banging guitars and swirling effects prior to echoing vocals. ‘Emmeline’ is an unabashed pilfering of A.A. Milne’s poem that you imagine would figure nicely in the background of a cartoon chase scene on telly.

Indeed, with its lengthy, moody instrumental intros and bridges, most of the tracks on ‘Nightingale’ feel like they’d be right at home soundtracking films: they require suspension of disbelief, putting your trust in the fanciful. The strange echoes and sounds of water make this album even more unique. The band chose a boat moored at Embankment on the river Thames as a suitably dark location for recording. While Erland & The Carnival have moved on quickly to a newer sound for ‘Nightingale’, the overall effect is mostly successful. With this album they’ve proven their worth in instrumental experimentation; with original ideas in the lyric department merged with such imagination, the possibilities for this band are endless.