“Conflict tourism” might at first seem a baffling phrase, but once considered it becomes a thought-provoking one that guides the listening of Gilmore & Roberts’ fourth studio album, set for release on September 18th. A quote from Debra Kamin sets the scene; ‘”People come here every day to see the show,” says Marom, a retired Israel Defense Forces colonel who now works in the tourism industry and brings groups to this point to gaze down on Syria’s bloodletting. “For people visiting the area, it’s interesting. They can go home and tell their friends, ‘I was on the border and I saw a battle.”‘
The BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominated duo, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts, began to notice themes of conflict in their work; not always the war and destruction type, but internal battles. Over the course of eleven tracks, allow the pair to be your tour guides through personal stories, the vignettes so elegantly trapped in a timeless fashioned, suspended between problem and resolution.
Instantly attractive opener Cecilia blends melting vocals with simple shifts of instrumentation among the earthy, worldly backing. Though a sweet song, it touches on repetitive and becomes sickly-sweet once it’s trapped in your head; the rural sound and honey-coated vocals make this apt on all levels. Four minute Jack O Lantern‘s story telling style holds links to folk music in a more traditional sense, whilst layers eerily whisper in the song’s close – an intriguing touch among modern-folk music, but one that leaves it standing out.
A Sandi Thom style floods in with Katriona’s vocals and stripped back to guitar instrumental. This change aids the emotional side of the music, allowing a raw and sensitive side to be better showcased – continuing into Selfish Man, it’s unsurprising to note how the more heartfelt and appealing numbers are often those delivered in first person. An almost rocky punch to Stumble On The Seam pulls the energy levels up whilst the themes thread themselves through, before three minute snippet Balance / Imbalance provides a minimalistic snapshot.
Again, traditional folk embeds itself in the folds of Peggy Airey, story telling and fiddle solos that are an easy highlight of the album guiding the music, and mandolin takes to the forefront of Time Soldiers On. With nothing to hide behind, the duo’s craft is highlighted – and it really is a craft with something so intricate and delicate. An earnest, dreamy feel to Peter Pan adds to the delicacy and love of the album, a blossoming optimism emerging in the lines, “I’m Peter Pan, I’m never growing old”.
Penultimate Warmonger is a snappy and driven number, before haunting Ghost Of A Ring winds up affairs. Deeply personal, so much so that even listening feels intrusive, it’s an anecdote that’s difficult to shift from the mind. Handcrafted and moving, Conflict Tourism is a heartbreakingly honest assortment of folk-y wonderfulness.
You can listen to Peggy Airey below.