CMU Approved

Approved: Lunatraktors

By | Published on Thursday 14 February 2019


Hard to solidly pin down genre-wise, Lunatraktors term the music they make ‘broken folk’ and proudly proclaim it so in the title of their upcoming debut album, ‘This Is Broken Folk’.

The project brings to life vocalist Clair Le Couteur’s academic study of traditional folk through this collaboration with percussionist and vocalist Carli Jefferson. For the album, they have selected songs from Britain, Ireland, Australia and Russia. While in many cases these songs date back as far as the 1800s, the duo’s vibrant performances give them immediacy and relevance.

Le Couteur’s embodiment of the different characters in the songs brings humour and compassion to their stories, which – touching on themes like institutional violence, forced migration and personal hardship – can seem very contemporary. Jefferson’s percussion, which can take the form of drums, tap dance or body percussion, adds a beating heart to the stripped back performances.

“It’s straight up archival folk music”, Le Couteur explains. “I don’t change the words, I don’t change the tune. We add to the rhythm, we complexify the rhythm, but we don’t really change the rhythm”.

Jefferson adds: “We both grew up experiencing a lot of hip hop, trip hop, jungle, all this kind of stuff. There’s a big mix in our influences, and I think that comes out in the rhythms. [One] reason for the term ‘broken folk’ is that idea of broken beat and things shifting, not knowing where something’s gonna drop, messing with it”.

The latest single, ‘Black Raven’, is released today. Le Couteur explains: “‘Black Raven’ is a new English mis-translation of a traditional Cossack folk song that is well known in Russia, reworked through the lens of English folk and blues”.

“We found it while researching world music about corvids – crows, ravens, magpies – which are a kind of clan emblem for us. The tune feels soaring, magnetic, with extremely deep roots. Something in the melody transports us, seems to open up a landscape, a trans-temporal space of connection with something very big, and very old, and very dark”.

It certainly provides a powerful opening to the album, due out on 18 May, and a good introduction to Lunatraktors. You can next catch them live at JW3 in London on 28 Feb. Right now, listen to ‘Black Raven’ here:

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.