sun 16/12/2018

CD: Mumford & Sons - Delta | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mumford & Sons - Delta

CD: Mumford & Sons - Delta

A decade on from their debut, the British darlings of Americana explore new musical territory

Mumfords 4: stadium folk?

Wow, can it really be 10 years since Mumford & Sons blazed their trail across the musical world with Sigh No More? The release of Delta, the band’s fourth album, marks the start of a 60-date world tour, which will keep them on the road – first in the UK and Ireland – until mid-May.

Recorded in London and produced by Paul Epworth (Adele, Coldplay, Florence and The Machine), it’s generously filled (around an hour of music) and immediately engaging, even if the material is preoccupied with “the four Ds: death, divorce, drugs and depression,” as keyboardist Ben Lovett told Rolling Stone. One must assume that “Darkness Visible” is a reference to William Styron’s “memoir of madness”.

The sessions included “late-night jams where we’ve fallen down an electronic rabbit hole” and the result is an album that’s a long way from the Mumfords’ waistcoated folkie days, which included a notable contribution to Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers’ 2013 movie about the Greenwich Village folk scene. Their first two albums – all banjos, fiddles and accordions – went down a storm in Europe and the US, where in 2011 the band found themselves at the Grammys next to Bob Dylan, who came to fame on the coattails of an earlier folk revival.

Like Dylan, they went electric, split their fanbase and moved on. Delta – all impeccable, multi-tracked harmonies, with acoustic guitars and banjos discernible amid the big sound – seems set to follow the success of the single, “Guiding Light”. Sort of stadium folk. There’s a rich variety of styles and textures though several connecting tropes. “Woman” and “Beloved” are both constructed around ostinato riffs, on acoustic guitar and banjo respectively though while the handclaps give an open, acoustic feel to the former, the latter is soon all electronica.

“If I Say”, Delta’s second single, is arguably its highpoint and the most ambitious song, beginning with just voice and keyboards and building gradually, drums adding urgency and strings a new sound world, entering quietly and building to a climax – before everything drops away, words and music arrested mid-flight. Then follows the delicacy of “Wild Heart”, which opens with a rather exquisite piano figuration, echoing slightly above the vocal which is accompanied by a strummed Spanish guitar and, later, more strings.

In that Rolling Stone interview, Lovett asked what the Mumfords “do”. The band is still searching, he said, adding that he hoped “this record will continue to broaden the sense of what that means.” Delta gives various clues, but let's hope they don't go the way of U2.

Liz Thomson's website

The sessions included 'late night jams where we’ve fallen down an electronic rabbit hole' and the result is an album that’s a long way from the Mumfords’ waistcoated folkie days

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