John Knox Sex Club – Raise Ravens
Firstly, it’s strongly folk influenced, an attribute which was flushed clean out of the zeitgeist by the success of Mumford and Sons. There may still be money to be made in it, but the hipsters are staying well clear.
Secondly, it’s bombastic as fuck, not a hint of irony, not a hint of clever retroism, cool detachment, nothing. They absolutely go for it, with not a care for the sort of cool kid who might sneer at them for genuinely and honestly giving themselves over to what they do and letting it run riot.
I first heard of this band when the awesome Sparrow & the Workshop kept insisting to me every time we met that they were the best live band in Scotland, but for some reason I never really made the time to listen to them. Then their amazing version of Katie Cruel appeared on the Sways Records mixtape, Sparrow & the Workshop came back in to record a podcast with us and mentioned the band again, and a couple of weeks later they themselves got in touch to ask if I would like to hear their new album.
I did, it was fucking ace, and I immediately invited the band to play an Ides of Toad night a couple of weeks back, where they were absolutely incredible. The intensity is quite evident on record, which is an impressive enough achievement in itself, but live they really were something else.
In fact, seeing them live made some sense of the record for me, as well. Songs like Above Us the Waves and Katie Cruel grabbed me instantly, but tracks like the epic thirteen minute opener Kiss the Dirt struck me initially as just a bit too much of a prog-folk pomp-a-thon for me to really love it. I mean, the rest of the music kind of flirts with that anyway, but a couple felt a little over the top when all I had heard was the album.
Seeing them play it live, though, was incredible. The plaintive, pained beginning was even more emotive, and the song didn’t so much build to a crescendo as twist itself into a whirlwind which ended up pretty much tearing it apart entirely. It was an immense and visceral experience. Sparrow were right.
One song, The Neighbours, still doesn’t quite click with me I have to confess, but everything else on here is brilliant. For a band that were reluctant to record in the first place, they’ve done a fucking great job of it – for this is one of the best jobs of capturing raw energy and creepy, disturbing loveliness on the same recording that I’ve heard in a long time.
And if you buy the CD you will be sent a hand-crafted package made by the band themselves, as if to reassure you that they haven’t abandoned their principles entirely by actually recording their music!