Happy release day Ben Walker!

“It’s a very human instinct to try to put a justifying narrative to the chaos,” says Ben Walker about his new album Banish Air from Air, out today on Folkroom Records. “I’ve been a mathematician as long as I’ve been a musician. I’d usually default to music or science to describe the world but folk superstitions offer their own explanations of things we’re still figuring out.”

It’s probably unusual to open a record with a passionate modern madrigal to the physics of gases. You wouldn’t expect to find the work of NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on the long-awaited new record by a BBC Folk Award winning guitarist. It’s unexpected, too, that a broadside ballad from the 1700s would work brilliantly as a trip hop track. But then, Ben Walker has always been quietly full of surprises. One of UK folk’s true time travellers, he is an acute observer of patterns – in language, in history, in people. 

Reviewers of Ben’s first solo album Echo called it exceptional (Folk Radio UK); a profound statement connecting past and present (fRoots), ambitious, distinctive and brilliantly achieved (Songlines) and, quite simply, stunning (The Guardian). Ben’s second album Banish Air From Air hits no lower, exploring the relationship between mankind and nature. Exquisite instrumentals, traditional material and reimagined poems sit alongside Ben’s first forays into songwriting, featuring an enviable list of guest vocalists. These include Mercury Music Prize nominee Sam Lee and fellow BBC Folk Award winner Nancy Kerr alongside some newer voices – indie-folk songwriter Sophie Jamieson’s evocative vocals, Emily Mae Winters’ dramatic storytelling, Louis Brennan’s bleak growl, Lucy Alexander’s post-punk swagger, as well as Ben’s most recent tourmate, acclaimed singer-songwriter Kirsty Merryn

Since the beginning of thought, we’ve seen starlings fly in ever-changing formation, storms wreak destruction out of nowhere, the planets move and the seasons change – and we’ve reached for explanations from myths to maths. Ben Walker draws together folk tales, ghost stories, philosophy, alchemy and science with a characteristically eclectic musical palette.

“We’ve got hypotheses which go back centuries,” says Ben, “from folk myths to religion, from alchemy to science. I love the satisfaction of peeling back the layers of a folk tale and finding that, in its own way, the story still makes sense. I started to play with developing a few of the folk stories I was reading into lyrics to work with musically, and found that I rather liked a couple of them. With everything that’s been going on in the world, it’s taken me nearly three years to make this album, but I hope it’s better for the extra time spent thinking, testing, trying a few things.

Banish Air from Air is out now on Folkroom Records, available to buy via our Bandcamp page.

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