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The Wyrd Meme

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Album Review

The title of this four-song EP — the prolific Scotsman's second release of 2009 — says a lot about what you'll find here: a combination of ancient-sounding Bardic tradition and a modern sensibility. Alasdair Roberts, late of alt-folk outfit Appendix Out, bears an ostensibly traditional Scottish folk style, but close listening quickly reveals that he's no Dick Gaughan. He doesn't so much subvert the folk tradition here as extend/update it. Musically, this feat is accomplished in subtle ways, like the sudden appearance of atmospheric electric (or electronic) drones amid the spare, acoustic settings, unexpected shifts in meter, and the mid-song downtuning of a string in order to reach a lower note. Most striking, though, is the way Roberts makes centuries-old language and imagery modern by framing it in his own inspired, idiosyncratic song-poetry.

Roberts freely mixes mythical Gnostic images like Abraxas and Ouroboros with contemporary phraseology, all in the service of lyrics that are rich with poetic resonance but never feel overcooked. You'd be well within your rights to call him the indie folk Robert Burns without raising too many eyebrows. And as with Burns (or pretty much any great poet), you don't always need to know exactly what Roberts is talking about in order to get a visceral charge from his words. That's not to say these songs are obtuse, by any means, though; for instance, in "The Royal Road at the World's End," when he sings "the world ends in the skirl of the war pipes," however archaic the language may feel, the message Roberts imparts is an undeniably timeless one. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Biography

Born: Swabia, Germany

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Scottish songwriter Alasdair Roberts' career as a recording artist sprang into a critically lauded, cult-praised profession when a demo he made with his group Appendix Out found its way into the hands of intimate nouveau folkie Will Oldham. Oldham identified with Appendix Out's similarly calculated sound enough that he released their first recording, the 7" titled Ice Age/Pissed with You, on his own Palace Records label in 1996. The momentum from this release's affiliation with Oldham sparked not...
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The Wyrd Meme, Alasdair Roberts
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