Aerialists’ first full-length album encompasses any number of genres – folk, indie, and Celtic to name a few. It’s a unique sound that can only be a product of its creation – when a university in Boston brought together a handful of folk and indie musicians, including a harpist, to form a band deeply rooted in the past, and yet surprisingly current.
Initially formed in 2014 by Adam Iredale-Gray, one of the founders of Fish & Bird and Vancouver-born fiddler Elise Boeur, the pair were joined by bassist Nate Sabat and Scottish harpist Mairi Chaimbeul to round out the band’s regular lineup—although a number of other musicians have also lent a hand at times.
The band’s far-flung founders can all be felt on Group Manoeuvre, an album that lives up to its name by incorporating the Boeur’s interest in traditional Irish music, Iredale-Gray’s indie rock past and Chaimbeul’s deft touch on an instrument that rarely makes an appearance in this sort of setting.
The result is an album that shows off the best of its influences, jigging through long interludes, slowing the pace down to feature some of its more unusual instrumentation and then leaping ahead into subtle rock riffs, like on “Gangar etter Eivind Spellemann,” that offer the slightest jolt as you realize the album’s sweeping scope.
Touring companion Emily Millard provides vocals on “Group Manoeuvre II” and “Holocene” (a Bon Iver cover), songs that stand out for vocals on an otherwise instrument-heavy collection, while Chaimbeul lends her voice to the spritely “Foxhunters/Jessica Winter’s” at the album’s halfway point.
Group Manoeuvre is a ranging album, covering old territory in new ways, and maybe even new territory in old ones. What stands out is how impossible it is to pin down—just like the Aerialists.
Top Track: “Otter’s Holt”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)