Friday, June 14, 2024



It is nearly a decade since I featured Laura Cannell on this blog soon after she released her debut solo album Quick Sparrows Over the Black Earth. In that time she has made records that respond in different ways to specific landscapes and sites, bird and animals, folklore and local legends. Her current project is 'A Year of Lore' - a set of 12 EPs released one a month. These began in January with 'Sealore', inspired by the red deer antler harpoon found in 1931 by Norfolk fishermen off the coast of Cromer, once owned by an inhabitant of Doggerland. The latest is 'Ravenlore' which 'embraces the low tones of Raven vocalisations and was improvised and recorded live in St Andrews Church in Raveningham, Norfolk.' 

I was curious to see a map of the buildings where she has improvised and made recordings, so I made one (I'm sure this isn't remotely exhaustive). St Andrews Church is the place she keeps returning to, for New Christmas Rituals, The Sky Untuned, Sing as the Crow Flies, Reckonings and that early record, Quick Sparrows over the Black Earth. In 2022 she made We Long to be Haunted using the church's organ and 'overbow' violin, plus 'field recordings of bells and a tawny owl from her garden.' Here's how she described the experience of arriving at the church: 

In the blazing August heatwave I drove along the Waveney Valley past scorched remains of the recent field fire at Stockton. I turned into the long drive of the Hall grounds where the church resides and rattled over the cattle grid, slowly passing the animals who were sheltering from the heat together under a single tree. I longed that the church would still be cool from the night before and empty of people. Leaving my car on the dry meadow I walked the stony path alongside the woods and pushed the oak and iron door open. Inside I said hello to the familiar names carved into the stone floors and marble walls and began our conversation.

A year earlier she was engaged in These Feral Lands, a year-long project with Kate Ellis and a few other collaborators documented on Caught by the River, although as this was still the time of Covid it didn't involve too much travelling about. Another recent venture is the zine Marshlore, focused on East Anglian folk stories. I said at the start of this post that Laura Cannell responds to landscapes but she cast doubt on this notion in a 2022  Wire interview: "I don’t think about the landscape at all, so it’s interesting to me when I’m associated with it.” She says much the same thing in Justin Hopper's recent Uncanny Landscapes podcast, although she accepts that 'landscape' is there in the music. When Quick Sparrows over the Black Earth came out, "people were describing it in such a way that was so related to the landscape... It's exactly what I was in but I just never knew you could hear it."

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