In Review: FAIR MAIDEN – FAIR MAIDEN (BEDROOM SUCK, 2014)

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Fair Maiden have released an LP on Bedroom Suck. Haunting and intriguing, this album is one of the most interesting products to emerge from an Australian outfit this year.

Fair Maiden is a four-piece “folk” group led by Ellen Carey. I say “folk” this way because there is more to it than simple sweet-dixie twang. Fair Maiden have incorporated elements of morose country, baroque vocalisation and gospel-tinged bluegrass to create a record of almost-sanctity. I say almost because this record is far from being preachy or holy, but its sound does lend a certain transformational power.

Ellen Carey created this album with the help of the Peak Twins, Liam Kenny and Joel Carey as well as long-time collaborator Steph Crase (Summer Flake). This album cleverly weaves together many elements to bring forth something that hasn’t been heard around these parts lately. Thanks to the voices of all four members, Fair Maiden plays like a ritualistic – or maybe spiritualistic – album of equal parts hymnal prayer, doomed romanticism and morose lamentation.

This is a break away from most contemporary sounds as it incorporates elements of Christian folk and (as Mess + Noise’s Freya Zaknich pointed out in her excellent review) some gothic Americana. There are still many other elements in the pot that Ellen Carey is stirring, but they don’t reveal themselves all at once.

Fair Maiden begins with ‘India’, where the throbbing bass and drums create a rhythmic platform on which to march. Carey’s angelic vocals are introduced alongside with that of Steph Crase and all of a sudden we have something bordering on a ritual chant. Juxtaposed with the kumbya-esque and hymnal ‘Lord’, we enter an interesting headspace. Are we praying here? I feel like I should be praying. ‘Wait For You’ and ‘Poison’ play along the lines of the folk you might be accustomed to, yet the country acoustics are underpinned by delicate harmonics which keep the unease flowing into ‘Sad Song’, which is as glum a song as you will hear this year.

It is during the final three songs that I think that Fair Maiden hit their stride. The vocal interplay between female and male voices adds a new dynamic, allowing the music to fall in nicely around it. This is where the heartstrings are tugged and the emotions toyed with. The vocals on this album deserve an award of some kind; they are the key element of this album and it is something that you don’t hear aside from some Peak Twins songs (a-ha, it all falls into place!).

This is an incredible album and is a great addition to the Bedroom Suck (who are having a banner year) catalogue. Haunting and intriguing are two words that probably sum this album up best. It’s a grower but once it grows it sticks, becoming impossible to shake.

FAIR MAIDEN BANDCAMP / BEDROOM SUCK RECORDS

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