The Bedroom Community roster would make a great five-a-side team. Ben Frost, the aggressive, maverick centre-half; Valgeir Sigurðsson keeping goal, marshalling his team from the back; Nico Muhly the prodigious, young starlet striker; Daniel Bjarnason providing a vibrant presence in midfield; leaving Sam Amidon as the roving full-back, providing casual link-up play down the wings. Ok, tenuous links and stereotypes aside, my point is that they make a great team (and there are five of them!).

To a greater extent than any other record label I can think of, Bedroom Community act like a cooperative, each member featuring and contributing each’s individual talents to each others productions. On I See The Sign, Nico Muhly provides arrangements for strings, brass and woodwinds, Ben Frost appears on electric guitar and Valgeir Sigurðsson performs on bass, percussions and electronics. In addition to this, Shahzad Ismally and Beth Orton (making a welcome reappearance after a lengthy hiatus) feature on several tracks.

Sam Amidon is a bit of a black sheep at Bedroom Community, a humble folk singer among purveyors of expansive, cinematic productions. This works in Amidon’s favour as he reinterprets a series of historic folk songs into wonderfully intricate ballads (before you get excited, Ace Of Base aren’t covered). Nico Muhly’s lavish arrangements are reminiscent of Sigurðsson’s production of Bonnie Prince Billy’s The Letting Go, Beth Orton adopting Dawn McCarthy’s role of providing supporting vocals, delivered in a similarly enchanting tone.

Opening track How Come That Blood is a galloping folk-tronic arrangement similar in sound to The Books or early Tunng. From here on the production is much more orchestral, offset by simple, repetitive lyrics covering a traditional palette of campfire songs, children’s lullabies and gospel classics. There are no weak songs here; You Better Mind (a fantastic duet with Beth Orton), I See The Sign and Rain And Snow particularly stirring. On the only contemporary cover, of an unreleased R. Kelly track Relief, the modern lyrics come as, well.. some relief from the traditional structure of other tracks. The lackadaisical lyrics suit Amidon’s lazy delivery, almost slurring his words as he casually talks of the relief following the conclusion of an unspecified event:

confusion everywhere / and not a clue on how to make it better / I’m alright and you’re alright, so lets celebrate.

I See The Sign is a fascinating, engaging listen and an excellent example of musical collaboration, both between the artists that appear on the album and the historical artifacts that are brought back to life by modern production.

How Come That Blood is available as a free download from Bedroom Community. The entire Bedroom Community collective are performing together on their Whale Watching Tour, playing at the Barbican on April 20th and The National Concert Hall in Dublin on the 21st (among others). For an idea of what to expect, see below.

As a footnote, is it just me or is the front cover a bit rubbish?

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