Darren Hayman & The Long Parliament, The Violence

Luke Turner

By Luke Turner

on 11.02.12 in Reviews
Hayman’s finest solo album yet

Witches seem to have a hold on the imagination of many British artists at the moment, from dark ambient practitioners Demdike Stare (Demdike was the most famous of the Pendle witches) to The Eccentronic Research Council, the collective fronted by Maxine Peake of Shameless, who evoke the nefarious goings on of the 16th-century crones of Lancashire. Adding to the brew is Darren Hayman, formerly of Hefner, whose final album in a trilogy devoted to the county of Essex, The Violence, is about the witch trials of the 17th century. These 20 bold tracks take the familiar Hayman template of slightly ramshackle folk and build on it with pastoral instrumentation: banjo, clarinet and lilting guitar. But what makes this Hayman’s finest solo album yet is his knack for a tune. “Impossible Times” is a history lesson set to a jaunty ox-cart rattle, while the yearning “Vinegar Tom” is reminiscent of Mercury Rev in its otherworldly sparkle. “Elizabeth Clarke” is the stand-out track, its jolly trumpet at odds with the recording of a creaking hangman’s rope. And as lines in a love song go, “Who will tug on my ankles when I’m swinging?” (as was customary to ensure a quick death) takes some beating.