‘Proving how sonically self-assured they truly are, you’ll never be fully prepared for the blossoming musicality.’
Intro to Strawman & The Jackdaws
Previously releasing Precious Star and Swallow back in 2019, Dublin based band Strawman & The Jackdaws deliver their truly sensational debut EP F∇X. Featuring Riccardo Ranzani (Vocals, Guitar), Jacopo Stofler (Guitar), Micheal Reolon (Drums), and Rory Fleming (Saxophone and Synths) – with Niall Stewart (Bass) joining them for live performances – the combination of instruments may seem fairly familiar. But what you’ll realise as soon as you press play on this release is that that’s where familiarities end. Folk influences fuse with elements of jazz, rock, and electronic textures. Musicality that feels understated suddenly bursts into life without any kind of warning. And every single second that you’re listening, you are, in some cases quite literally, kept on your toes! Sure you’ve heard amazing debuts before, but you’ll have never experience anything quite like this. Read more at: Behind the Music: Interview with Strawman & The Jackdaws.
Blending seamlessly with the instrumental title track, the initial moments of ‘Field of Wonders’ are atmospherically gorgeous. Vocals carry a sense of curiosity, celestially tinted synth harmonies transition to bring warmth and depth, and working together in the most beautiful way you are emotionally touched by what you are hearing. It’s the kind of opening that washes over you in the best possible way, and encourages you to take a breathe. You as a listener feel prepared for anything. And yet you will never be fully prepared for the magic that continually blossoms out of these musical seeds.
Generating the most stunning of cinematic textures, as we progress through the opening section our focus gets guided wonderfully around the myriad of evolving elements. Multi-layered swells sparkle brightly. Close vocal harmonies comfort while setting out the folk-influenced story. Melodic saxophone lines move mesmerically. Expanses of resolving chordal movement fill your heart with anticipation. And that isn’t even everything. It is without doubt a truly special listening experience. One that you want to take in and savour every single second of. Additionally, with phrases such as ‘Are there any left in town? We were promised golden apples from the trees’ working within, rather than above their surroundings, the most vivid imagery is generated.
With there being an almost Vangelis edge to what we have just heard, following the briefest of pauses the steadiness gets thrown to one side to reveal the most transformative sound. Bringing a surge of energy, the sense of movement is such that you completely forget the calmness of just now, and simply appreciate this new atmosphere. And that is the key to this entire track being so phenomenally successful. Appearing to be just as much at home here as they did before, it feels and sounds totally authentic. How easy it would be for such a dramatic change to feel forced, out of place even, and like it’s there just for the sake of doing something different. But in fact it’s there because it encompasses exactly what ‘Strawman & The Jackdaws’ are entirely about.
Demanding our attention all over the place, the rhythmical intent is gallop like, joyous and totally infectious. You will smile instantly. You will get covered in goosebumps just as quickly. The cross-cutting instrumental lines, filled with saxophone countermelodies and tempo pushing acoustic guitar strums will each cause you to have a reaction too. Then on hitting the chorus, your focus will be seamlessly drawn back to the vocals. Here, in balancing energy with the soothing nature brought to our initial hearing of the line ‘Someone is still planting some seeds’ earlier, you find yourself truly becoming part of what you are listening to. No more is this sensation apparent though than in what now follows.
Having already provided us with numerous twists and turns to this point, we find ourselves hurtling towards a set of musical sequences unlike anything you will have heard before. The first, one that carries more than a hint of foot-stomping intent, sees saxophone centred melodic riffs project above everything else. Leaping up and down in pitch, they immediately cause you to physically do the same. Equally, with countless tempo-pushing rhythms occurring underneath you will be using up your reserves in no time. Then, in what can only be described as the most sonically self-assured defining moment, we are uplifted in a completely different way.
Hitting us right between the eyes with an absolute wall of sound, we suddenly find ourselves among crashing drums, power-fuelled vocals, soaring sinuous saxophone, and dominating electric guitar. It’s dramatic, intense, and beyond breathtaking, and highlighting the strength of reaction it’s possible to have, you find yourself feeling blessed to experience such musicality. The real masterstroke here though is the lyricism, as in projecting above everything else, we connect with the phrase ‘The providence will provide’ in a way that feels overwhelmingly life-affirming. But while you may feel ‘Strawman & The Jackdaws’ have no more to give, they most certainly do.
Guiding us through a rebuilding of elements, tom-tom fills and ringing acoustic guitar strums hint at a full return of vigorous folk influences. These then blossom to become embellished by contrasting melodic fragments. Meanwhile, the instant earworm of ‘Someday it will crack, One day it will grow back, Midway, along the way back home’ takes on its own development. Sustained harmonies grow into existence. Vocal echoes burst through the texture. Literally everything it being thrown at it, and filling you with adrenaline you just know that there is an utterly epic conclusion on the horizon. A conclusion that when realised makes for a togetherness filled and truly foot-stomping final statement.
Find out more about Strawman & The Jackdaws at:
Behind the Music: Interview with Strawman & The Jackdaws