Saturday, February 03, 2024

South London’s Tapir Release D.I.Y Folk Odyssey From The Depths Of Their Relentless Imagination

If you haven’t already enjoyed the eclectic sounds of South London band Tapir, then you may have unwillingly observed their charming character through the guise of their elephant-like mascot, The Pilgrim. 

Travelling through the backstreets of London whistling some frantic tune, the pilgrim has become a creative beacon for the genre-bending music the band continue to release, and through his giddy waltz, Tapir have rightfully claimed the top spot, as one of London's most interesting bands. 

Their debut album, ‘The Pilgrim, Their God, and the King of My Decrepit Mountain’, released on Heavenly Records under licence to Pias, is marvellous in its roaming beauty, a fable that continues to impress on every listen.

Just as all good stories do, Tapir's debut album emerges from bright and humble beginnings. The first track, ‘Act 1: The Pilgrim,’ paints a dainty picture of the landscape we are about to unravel, and by employing the use of fellow post-modern troubadours Little Wings, the track beams around the interesting use of narration. As interesting and delicate guitar parts dance around a naïve melody, it is easy to become hooked by the track's tuneful cheeriness. Embellished with flowing harmonies and even the odd whistle, the track is a sign of new beginnings and a journey for the pilgrim that he will never forget. Then, with a trip and a fall, we are met by the track ‘On a Grassy Knoll (We'll Bow Together),’ which immediately throws us into the arms of a much faster rhythm, evident of a musical and conceptual change of pace. The use of a drum machine to complement the echoing guitar parts provides an incredibly interesting soundscape, in which lead singer Ike Grey can impart his distinctive vocal musings. 

Act one is, for the most part, a playful and optimistic snippet of the band's storytelling, settling us for further landmarks in the pilgrim’s heroic story. Perhaps the most involving of all three acts, Act Two is encompassed by a gentle, moody selection of songs that are raw in spirit and ageless in their folk-like invention. The track ‘Gymnopedie’ samples musical phrases from 19th-century French pianist Erik Satie, to create a powerfully spirited unified anthem that is evident of the Pilgrim’s hardened determination. Similarly, track ‘Eidolon’, trundles behind the dragging heels of the pilgrim as beautifully written acoustic guitar parts transport a simplified vocal lilt. The beauty imparted in Act 2 is amplified in many ways by its simplicity, and there is a talent that resonates from each note that is solely imparted to the albums concept. The band's musical craftsmanship shines in the definite and well timed  appearance of synths and string ensemble, creating a constantly intriguing sound that knows exactly when to allow us time to absorb its beauty.

Act Three is a conclusion to the Pilgrims arduous journey, a metaphorical sigh of relief for the Pilgrim, and a gentle bowing out for Tapirs musical brilliance. Arguably my favourite track on the album ‘Untitled’ is again littered with folky brilliance and powered by a gentle floating melody that is reminiscent of the work of familiar folk magician Rachid Fakhre (Skydaddy). Then, almost as if the end were in sight, the track “My God” arrives as  a well-balanced, rousing encore of what Tapir has seemingly mastered throughout the album's entirety: relentless imagination. While each track is on its own, becomes a brilliant contribution to their gentle folktronica, ‘My God’ is a perfect example of Tapirs undoubtable ability to impart their own creative musical imagination upon the listener, and create a marvellously listenable ballad.

By enlisting interesting modes of storytelling and acting outside of typical band-like conventions, the six-piece have successfully created a gripping universe that will outlast their art-folk sound. Whether it's in their creative representation on social media or through the mythological ruminations that form the basis of their debut album, Tapir have tackled our ideals of musical convention through whimsical narratives and beautiful storytelling. In a world in which music is often consumed by rolling billboards and intense PR manoeuvrings, Tapir have managed to stand triumphantly with an armour built from restless creativity, wicked talent, and most of all, authenticity. 

Their debut album, ‘The Pilgrim, Their God, and the King of My Decrepit Mountain’, is an album that brings new life to what it may mean to create an inventive concept album in 2024, and for that alone, it is brilliant in its inception.

Ewan Bourne


Image: ‘The Pilgrim,Their God, and the King Of My Decrepit Mountain’ Official Album Cover


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