Despite very rarely being championed by the national press, when the situation arises Sons of Noel and Adrian are the critics’ choice band to quote, lust after and claim they’ve always loved. That’s usually when referencing the Brighton music scene, their label Willkommen or Laura Marling, with whom the twelve-piece have toured extensively since they formed in 2008.
With various members sharing the stage with the poster boys and girls of the scene, it’s no surprise Sons of Noel and Adrian have been lumped in with the rising folk stars of the last decade. They could just as easily be grouped with Elephant 6 et al – bands more frequently dubbed experimental Americana than folk. They transcend a label. Above all else, Sons of Noel and Adrian are so wholly different from the generic claptrap of primetime radio that they deserve their own tag.
As though to prove my point, a multitude of genres wash over the band’s new album Knots. Like their self-titled debut, at points the second relies on plucked guitars and lullaby melodies to create something awe-inspiringly beautiful. Unlike their self-titled debut, however, there is also a bite and relish here, adding a new scope to the band’s resumé and providing fans of other genres to find something to love too.
Embellished with strings, toe taps and handclaps, though Knots has a delicate composition there are breaks in the barrage of sound that suggest a progressive influence. Not to mention impossibly long song titles like ‘Come Run Fun Stella Baby Mother of the World’. Elsewhere a kind of freestyle orchestral rambling prevails on ‘Black Side of the River’, and throughout. the band echoes Marlon Brando if he had fallen on hard times and turned to a ukulele to recuperate.
The songs that transform Sons of Noel and Adrian’s previously tranquil demeanour into that of a Coleridge-style nightmare are the best. ‘Cathy Come Home’ and ‘Jellyfish Bloom’ pioneer the style, opening with whimsical abandonment before transforming into a furious row, using every instrument available to hand.
The down-and-out-by-the-seaside theme may still be dominant, but they’ve chucked in a bag of salt-cured beef and launched off into treacherous waters. Through an explosion of genres, Sons of Noel and Adrian prevail – controlled, talented and ramshackle; making Knots an intriguing and enchanting listen.