Album Review: “Embers” by August and After

Having just reviewed a lovely EP by Sophie Jamieson, let’s stick around the London folk scene for one more  up and coming band to watch, the duo of Ned Mortimer and Vedantha Kumar who are the creative core of August and After.   The m.o. of the group is to “weave vocal harmonies and thoughtful lyricism onto layers of guitar, piano, strings and brass”, and this they absolutely succeed to do.  As evidence, last month, they released their debut LP, “Embers”, a fine collection of tunes that fits that description perfectly.

On their Facebook page, Ned & Vedantha cite a number of influences that are all very compatible with their music, some of which will undoubtedly spring to mind immediately when hearing the record, such as Simon and Garfunkel and Kings of Convenience.  The record covers a diverse range of moods & styles, sometimes melancholic, sometimes romantic, sometimes lively & playful.  The arrangements are also clever, perhaps even ambitious at times.  Liberal use is made of additional musicians, including excellent backing and lead female vocalists, cajon, strings, and horns.

August and After puts their hearts right on their sleeves from the get go, starting with a romantic recollection of the passing of Halley’s comet, before the truly lovely and melancholy ‘Waltz for Marie’ which features a duet with the aforementioned Sophie Jamieson.  The next track, “The Orchard” is a song which might be the most definitive of the album’s style and talent.  It is simple, eloquent, beautifully arranged, and I found it repeating itself in my mind for hours after having listened to it.

The guitar work and orchestral elements come to the fore in ‘Valley de la Luna’ before the album takes a playful detour with ‘The Jailbreak Song’,  a tune with a little dash of Django Reinhardt acoustic swing and lots of clever touches.  Highlights of the remainder of the album are the haunting ‘Gleam Behind the Ghosts’, the ballad ‘Set Sail’, and the lovely interplay of guitar and horns in the closer, ‘Salamander’.

“Embers” is a very refreshing record.  It is easy on the ears, but full of inventiveness, beauty, and even a little fun, something that Ned and Vedantha try to generate in their live performances.  It should be noted that August and After seems to strive more than most to involve other artists to collaborate and not just in the medium of music.  They are working on a variety of video collaborations featuring animation and dance as well as blogging about the album making process.  August and After are clearly a creative force on the rise, a delight to listen to and fun to watch.  Long may it continue.

“Embers” is available through must digital distribution methods including the group’s Bandcamp site where you can also order a nice limited edition CD package.

Album info: http://augustandafter.bandcamp.com/album/embers

You may enjoy watching this lovely animated video for the song ‘Set Sail’

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