With the accompanying press release our only introduction to UK acoustic folk/soul trio Arcelia it is fair to say that the mesmeric seducing encountered within Wrap Your Bones was startlingly unexpected. As with any promo piece words were in praise of the release and quotes glowing, but neither truly hinted at the charm and tantalising glory of the album. Consisting of thirteen songs which bask in striking songwriting fuelled by shapely vocal and melodic harmonies, the release is a serenade for the senses and an evocative summer for the imagination; and the ears get rather wonderfully treated too.
With a name taken from an old Spanish word meaning ‘treasure chest’, Arcelia (pronounced Ah – KELL- ia) brings three striking musicians and voices together at its core. Simon Foster is a member of legendary acapella band The Flying Pickets and Teresa Gallagher a well-known voice artists who has appeared in a wealth of BBC Radio 4 plays and voiced countless characters in animated series such as The Octonauts, Noddy, Mr Men, and Gumball. Alongside the pair is accomplished songwriter and guitarist Gavin Alexander, completing a threesome which create a unique and virulently persuasion engagement through evocative sounds and bewitching vocals, as evidenced by their debut album. Coming together in 2012 the Kent based band’s sound has seemingly been feverishly embraced leading to their sharing tours and stages with the likes of Chris Difford, Mark Nevin, Mike Lindup (Level 42), Hamish Stuart (Average White Band), and Coope Booyes & Simpson. Wrap Your Bones is the band’s step into a wider sure to be keenly attentive spotlight and you suspect the start of a heady ascent.
The inspiring fusion of voice, guitar, cajon, and percussion from the trio, with just as flavoursome instrumentation from guest musicians to colour the acoustic elegance, Wrap Your Bones takes little time in tenderly wrapping ears in a lingering coaxing. Opener 45 Seconds instantly merges with emotions as a guitar dances through ears beneath almost as instantaneous harmonies. A piano is soon adding its evocative hues as the sandy tones of Alexander embrace the lyrical narrative and subsequently a swiftly established appetite for it. It is a masterful lure but one which reaches deeper into the passions through the melancholic call of the cello aided by the dark throat of a double bass as a southern breeze is touched by banjo and dobro guitar, all adding to the sultry atmosphere cast by the album’s entrance.
The following Long Man sees the simultaneously husky and dramatically melodic voice of Foster leading an emotive croon wrapped in again irresistible dark cello seduction. Though not quite as gripping as its predecessor initially, the slow burner steals thoughts and emotions with sublime ease eventually providing an essence of The Christians within its soulful suasion before making way for the Gallagher led Petal. With her warm sirenesque vocals a powerful caress alone, the song spreads melodic and enterprising hues across its easy going gentleness. The whole album sees one of the three core protagonists providing the lead vocals on individual songs but it is the balmy harmonies the three conjure together within songs as here which very often leave ears and emotions bewitched.
As impressive and enjoyable as the songs are to this point Cupid brings the first pinnacle, its shadowed strings against the riveting vocals of Alexander, a delicious flirtation for the passions over the simple percussive pull and irresistible harmonies. The song is a blaze of enticement but within an inventive restraint which plays the imagination and emotions as resourcefully as Phil Mulford and Ben Trigg do the double bass and cello respectively.
Both the humid emotive landscape of the Busking Birds, sculpted by guitar and Foster alone, and the summer glazed She’s Not Lost coat ears in a fascinating thought washing weave of inciting beauty, the second of the pair a mesmeric breeze of vocal addiction. They each thrill and seduce but are themselves put into the shade by the infectious romp of Another Song. There is a Buddy Holly like simplicity and irresistible hooking to its opening and ever persistent lure which enslaves right away before expanding into a catchy web of vocal and melodic bait. The word alchemy has been used in describing the prowess and ingenuity of Arcelia’s sound elsewhere, and right here it is hard to find any other word to describe the track’s majesty.
Through the poetic soul bearing Blossom and the emotionally beguiling This Time pleasure continues to ooze from the album whilst Save Your Soul offers a mouthwatering captivation, Gallagher uniting with a soulful guitar and a transfixing cello call for a breath-taking kiss on the senses. It is another heady peak in the lofty range of passion drawing songs, readily supported if not quite to the same level, by the provocatively twanged Lovely Bones and the outstanding aromatically melody flavoured Heaven which brings a pungent blues touched soul flame to ignite ears all over again. The latter of the two is a spellbinding encounter with all vocalists combining and aligning their specific beauty together in an equally dramatic weave of sound.
The album is closed by bonus track Broken, another slice of aural mesmerism which leaves a broad smile of pleasure and temptation on the face of ears and passions. It is a riveting temptress which just epitomises the quality and beauty of the band’s songwriting and sound as it brings a quite wonderful album to a potent end. Arcelia is one of those treats which you do not come across often, a band which can seduce the most riotous tastes and hearts as easily as those hungry for a gentle seducing whilst providing a quite arresting encounter.
Wrap Your Bones is available now.
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