‘Jarków' by Keltik Fish

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‘Jarków' by Keltik Fish

Review

One of the things I do like about the musicians we feature is their sense of community and personally a fair percentage of artists whom I review and feature on the "Hot Music Live Presents" compilations only appear on my radar thanks to tip offs from members of this community.

Few people are as au fait with the esoteric & underground as Joe Wilson and without his suggestion, you'd not be reading this Keltik Fish review: thank you Joe.

Their just released album ‘Jarków' was recorded in 2015 in "rural" Poland (I'm guessing in the village of the same name) and how it's taken the best part of nine years to reach our ears is fascinating: so many of the factors bands experience appear in the story, but seldom so many & few then end with the album appearing after so long. We normally just have a footnote in the glorious history of popular music to mark what might have been.

I'll try & be as succinct as possible, but leaving too much out would probably spoil the article & mar your understanding.

Keltik Fish came together at school In Rugby in 2010 and released their debut album, the appropriately named ‘Self Titled' four years later. This led to career momentum, plenty of gigging and the songs for ‘Jarków'.

At which critical point their bass player left.

Fortunately, they were able to recruit a guitarist from another band their drummer had by that time joined, to play bass.

The band who cut  ‘Jarków'  were therefore: Sara Jennings-Bates (vocals), Dani Nightingale  (bass, vocals (they/them pronouns)) Jan Krause (drums, programming, keyboards) and Tommy Jennings-Bates  (guitar, vocals, programming)

Their good luck ran on further in the family home of relatives of their singer & drummer (who are siblings) where they laid down the bulk of the album. The remaining overdubs were completed back in the UK and ‘Jarków' was on the verge of being ready.

Except that the other band (Conjurer) that their rhythm section was in, really took off at this moment. Understandably they had to give that band priority & so both Keltik Fish and their album had to more or less be put on hold.

The good news is that Tommy (to whom I'm indebted for all this background), and Sara got married in this interim period and so they too were content to put the recordings aside.

Eventually, Jan retired from Conjurer and as the band member whom the others felt had "by far the best ear and talent for that side of things", was free to lead the mixing process: which leads us to where we are today.

Fairly obviously the career impetus from 2015 has dissipated and all that might have derived from a release then when things were hot, has not happened. I'm under no illusions that however well received ‘Jarków' might be, Keltik Fish will not (cannot) reform off the back of it, as all members have moved on. However, as Tommy tells me "I honestly think this album perfectly encapsulates what we were trying to do in Keltik Fish" and so it must serve instead as a final career statement with strong hints of what might have been.

If you are expecting me to write "better late than never" at some point, I'll do it now.

As noted above, tapes of never released albums sit on shelves around the world and only occasionally do they see the light of day, so we should be grateful that the right stars aligned in this case.

Yes, I do think that it's sad that their promise never got fulfilled in the traditional sense and I can only hope that the talented former embers can express themselves in other ways (certainly it looks like Jan can already claim a successful career via Conjurer).

The tracks on the album ("Fourteen Years", "Islands", "Insomnia One", "The Ballad of…", "Pixels Fading", "Free Falling", "Awake", "Insomnia Two", (which came out as a single a month or so ago) "Escape", "Render Me Delicate", "Rot into The Ground" "Inside My Eyes" and "Amaze") are significant evidence of why Tommy and his colleagues are able to process the material as representing what they were capable of but also why Joe contacted me in the first place: Deathsex Bloodbath played a gig with them "a billion years ago", which while not wholly consistent with the official timeline, is an author's way of expressing the feeling of subsequent time elapsed.

Not that Keltik Fish share many (if any) of DSB's singular lyrical interests (who could?) but they certainly are in sympathy as regards musical curiosity and refusal to be confined by the expectations of any particular genre.

‘Jarków'  is a real smorgasbord of your favourite types of music and most songs are fascinating hybrids of often many accepted forms: this band can whip you from heavy rock (you can see why an extreme metal band recruited their drummer) via ska to what may well be traditional Polish folk styles. You can see why "Insomnia Two" was a teaser for the album (though how any track could in itself prepare you for the diversity you find within is questionable) as it's a beautiful folk rock/indie ballad composition that hopefully will delight existing fans & speak to you too (as the band have kindly made  ‘Jarków' available via Bandcamp on a "pay what you feel right" basis, checking it out is simple). Given "Insomnia One" and "Awake" also being on the album, one might reasonably guess that at least one of the band was plagued by sleepless nights (hopefully that's improved in the subsequent decade) and all three in their unique ways at least start off gently (the Keltik Fish trademark is definitely to provide variety (to the point of extremes in some cases) within individual tracks so a quiet start is no guarantee that that's what you'll get all song: in fact you can pretty much assume that it'll start roaring at some point later. For example, another standout track, "Render Me Delicate" goes on delicately for most of its duration but it does build impressively towards its end: just when you might have been forgiven for thinking they weren't going to do it this time. In "Rot into the Ground" we even experience transitions from classical music to hip hop via full on rock. You really do have to have a listen for yourselves as I could spend hours trying to list all the details of all the songs.

With that level of fine detailing, it's all the more gratifying that ‘Jarków' has emerged at last: what a waste all that vision & hard work would have been otherwise . Recapturing it live must have demonstrated a really high proficiency level.

Conceived as a labour of love, judging by what one hears, one can only speculate at the angst felt by its creators during the years when others could not hear it and their subsequent feelings now they can. But at least we are in a position to be able to do so.

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