Kula Shaker - Strangefolk

Tim Miller 02/08/2007

Rating: 4/5

In the midst of what's been a prolific year for reunions, Kula Shaker have joined the dots of their original line up after a six year adjournment, employed a full-time organ player (the instrument so memorably etched on their super hit Hush) and created a new album inspired by today's brave new world.

Kula Shaker always had that mystic edge, their music - debut album 'K' particularly - not so much tinged as covered with veils of gentle psychedelia, and it's a refreshing feature of their new release, Strangefolk. Forthcoming single Second Sight sees dual vocals drawing directly from the kaleidoscope sound of the Sixties, while title track Strangefolk is but a short interlude, a mythical spoken-word folk tale over an exotic, twanging backdrop.

The journey into the mystical doesn't end there though. Song of Love/Narayana is a fusion between today's Kula Shaker and a (superb) track from Prodigy's The Fat of the Land, producing a bluesy, full blown jam with haunting mantras and wild brass motifs.

Their love of familiar classic rock habits is the second key element to Strangefolk, with some songs hinting, quite brilliantly, at The Beatles. Fool That I Am is exactly the sort of song Lennon and McCartney would conspire to create today, double-tracked vocals mapping a melodic mid tempo rock ballad with a blues-driven chorus, while Ol' Jack Tar evokes the spirit of George Harrison to such a worryingly accurate degree that it sounds like George himself is singing the Maharaja melody to the song.

Kula Shaker have got a bit more political now, however. Ten years from their enthusiastic debut, the world has changed and so has the band. The double entendre within the lyrics to Great Dictator (Of The Free World) - “I'm a dic-, I'm a dic-, I'm a dictator” - is plain for all to see, and the message behind Die For Love is similarly transparent; “Don't want to be wrapped up in a flag/don't want to die for some pack of lies”.

With that noted, and while politically bands are banging their heads against a brick wall at this stage, at least Kula Shaker are not conforming to generic music with it too. Strangefolk is a spicy variety of sounds, pinching influences from world music, mysticism, classic Sixties pop songwriting, straight-up blues and rock. It's the sort of vivid, hallucogenic patchwork quilt that made their debut so engaging a decade ago, and on the strength of this album, Strangefolk is the second coming of Kula Shaker.

Album released 20th August 2007.