The first time I played Ark by Craig Fortnam, I put it on straight after finishing listening to a 5cd Box set by The Incredible String Band and it dovetailed nicely and seemed to build on that most revered and at times most out there of English folk bands. Craig Fortnam made his name in The North Sea Radio Orchestra and in Arch Garrison.
On this solo album as well as vocals he also plays, guitars, organ, synth, piano and percussion. He is joined by Nicky Baigent: Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, Luke Crooks: bassoon, Harry Escott: cello, James Larcombe: piano, Brian Wright: violin, viola, Hugh Wilkinson: vibraphone.
Ark was the perfect song and album to put on straight after hearing a 5 cd Incredible String Band box set as this tune builds on the bucolic isolation and neo classical beauty ISB traded in but with a less weird and drug drenched approach, So that Ark sounds like classical leaning English folk music with careful orchestration and almost hushed vocals of being on the Ark gently floating towards the new dawn.
The Gargoyle's Seaweed Hair is a minute long interlude of strings and I think Bassoon and keyboards of far more loveliness than the title suggests. Ravensodd sounds like a 17th century folk tale set to a string quartet with some additional instrumentation as the tale of the Raven unfolds.
The single from the album German Ocean has the rhythms of the waves in the strings to accompany this tale of sailing the high seas on a song that has a bit of a Fairport Convention feel to it.
Managed Decline Of The Orford Ness sounds like treated field recordings of a wild and bleak landscape slowly eroding away and changing with the seasons. With an icy ambience that then slowly starts to build like the tide is coming in, hoping to wash away the remains and memories of Orford Ness part in the Atomic Weapons program, certainly a tune as lovely as this is not a harbinger of nuclear doom, just some coastal erosion.
Crack Haven is not the sound of a man on a month-long crack binge, but somewhere between folk song and neo-classical composition of a loveliness a crack head may find hard to listen too without twitching.
Strophic no doubt refers to the method of composition used on the gently bewitching folk song that has certain cadences to it that beguiles, and I'd like to hear played on a big church organ.
A Speck I Am is the first tune on the album with a noticeable bassline that the violins then work around before Craig's vocals come in to make this sound very reminiscent of The Big Huge era of The Incredible String Band as Craig sings about being an incredible shrinking man.
Heaven Knows opens with heavenly strings for this song of memories of the songs we all know, that uses some very familiar musical phrases that help make this a gently moving piece.
The album closes with Now Floods The Tempest High that is as timely a title as any in this year of floods and fires and other natural disasters, although musically this is far prettier than the title suggests as it almost feels like you'd want to be at the epicentre of this particular tempest.
Find out more at https://craigfortnam.bandcamp.com/album/ark https://www.facebook.com/craig.fortnam.9