"Layla's Wood" by Speak, BrotherReview
I trust that you have, by now heard the last Speak, Brother single "Even Though We Are Strangers" (reviewed in the magazine on 30th September). You might even have discovered it (and twenty other great tracks) on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two (available for free via https://hotmusiclivepresents.bandcamp.com/album/hot-music-live-presents-volume-two).
Today however marks the release of the third part of their ‘Chaos' trilogy, namely "Layla's Wood".
As the band themselves (James Herring, Matthew Cotterill, Nathan Morris, and Sam Oakes) put it far better than I could: "(it's the)...Winter Solstice where we begin to leave our darkest days behind us and slowly and steadily in the midst of the cold winter, new life is stirring. New seeds are germinating under the bed of dead leaves and past failure".
Wise words I'm sure you'd agree.
So what is the song like?
Well just as "Even Though We Are Strangers" didn't sound (to my ears at least) much like their previous oeuvre, "Layla's Wood" sounds like yet another departure up an exciting new pathway. I guess that's what walking through woods is like, following mysterious trails without knowing exactly where you are heading & hoping for surprises and adventures en route.
The classiness of the playing is less of a surprise & various Speak, Brother trademarks are present, albeit in evolved forms. The pulsating bass that appears in all sorts of contexts and forms, the subtle instrumental textures which drop in & out to add nuance without distracting nor overwhelming.
While the previous single was something of a dance track, this one tends towards the pastoral. Rather like Izzie Derry's recent "In A Year", the season is evoked through clever & oblique playing, without the need for dubbing on sleigh bells nor children's choirs. In this instance we are talking little almost icy licks & arpeggios on various instruments which chime & tinkle briefly, like perhaps walking through frosty grass & leaves.
The theme of the song is definitely mindfulness & in some ways it reads like a guide to better mental health. Reflection, self reflection, communing with nature, enjoying peace, enjoying companionship, accepting the cycle of the seasons & embracing it are all gently offered up to us as beneficial possibilities. Specifics & metaphors dance round each other throughout...The band suggest that we can overcome negativities & create positives from bad experiences. If you visit local libraries you can find sections called "Books on Prescription" which include books (good ones too) on these issues: maybe the NHS should offer "Layla's Wood" on prescription similarly? It works.
This is an exquisite song & it touched me personally. In terms of what it is trying to achieve, it is actually really ambitious, yet it is done with such a light & tasteful touch that it does not come across as heavy nor polemic.