A few weeks ago, I reviewed the compilation “One Inch Badge Presents: Sea Monsters 2 – The Best of Brighton.”  I was impressed with almost everything that was on that album, but one band that really stood out for me was the lush, dark folk collective Sons of Noel and Adrian.

Here’s the thing: I have a conflicted relationship with folk music. When done wrong, it really ends up sounding like music that’s time has come and gone. On another blog I write for, I once described the current state of traditional folk as “A dead language,” that was relatively unchanging and that no one could sincerely relate to. However, when it’s done right, it is a living thing that has evolved from its centuries-old roots, or even from its rebirth in the 60s, to become something that resonates both musically and lyrically to someone living in a modern city, listening to it on his or her iPod.

“Knots” is definitely the latter. The twelve-piece, featuring members of The Leisure Society, Lightspeed Champion, and the Miserable Rich, amongst others, are challenging folk music, making the music–with its layered strings, complex guitars, and atmospheric production–just as important as the vocals.

The vocals, too, work to establish the dark atmosphere. On “Big Bad Bold,” which starts off with just a single guitar, minimal bass, and vocals,  Jacob Richardson sings:

Meet be by the river

Make sure you bring stones

We’ll throw them in together

To find out what will come

Suddenly, a seeming orchestra explodes, full of menace and melancholy.

Other tracks, such as the Nick Drake-esque “Leaving Mary’s Hand” and the piano-driven “Heroine,” also seem to paint a tapestry out of  a thousand shades of gray, never reaching despair but certainly flirting with lesser degrees of sadness.

The result is an album that broods. “Knots” is a complex exploration of what depths of emotion folk music can reach, and I think it’s something we can all relate to.

“Knots” drops May 21st, 2012 digitally on Willkommen Records, on CD from Broken Sound, and on vinyl from One Inch Badge.

Sons of Noel And Adrian – Facebook