Innovative West Country hurdy-gurdy player and brilliant multi-instrumentalist Steve Tyler has performed across the UK and Ireland and across Europe; he is a founder member of medieval music ensembles Daughters of Elvin and Misericordia, and in 2011 he co-founded Woodwose with bagpiper Katy Marchant to explore composing new music for historical instruments. He has toured with Puppetcraft’s show The Tin Forest, played for French dances with The Wendigo and with Jon Swayne and Becky Price, provided music for radio, television and films and been involved in more experimental projects such as An English Journey Reimagined, with Shirley Collins. He also teaches hurdy gurdy, runs workshops or gives individual lessons – in fact the respected Blowzabella bagpiper and the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s Chief Executive Officer at Halsway Manor, Paul James, paid this glowing tribute: “Steve Tyler is blessed with virtuosic technique and imagination. He is amongst the best players on the European scene.”
The Enduring And The Ephemeral is the first album comprising Steve’s own startling and creative compositions, and it really deserves to be heard. Jane Harbour of the Bristol band Spiro is there, contributing voice and violin on the concluding ‘Lullaby’, which she wrote with him; Katy Marchant plays bagpipes on the enormous 12-minute ‘Exercise Two’ and ‘The Great Unconformity’, plus shawm, recorder and voice; but the most poignant of all has to be ‘Tethys’, with Katy’s improvisatory vocals and a single bass viol sample by the late Mike Edwards, cellist with the original lineup of the Electric Light Orchestra. Mike performed and recorded in a band with Steve but was sadly killed in an unlikely accident. He was always interested in new projects, and he would have loved to play on ‘Tethys’; this 2007 sample miraculously fitted, as if he had had this piece in mind at the time.
However, Steve is multitracked all alone, and he plays hurdy-gurdies, cittern, reed organ, guitar, bass guitar, gothic harp and percussion; despite instruments going back hundreds of years, his go-ahead composing and spacey arrangements mark this as a totally relevant music of the future. The opening ‘The Second Law’ envelopes doomy and menacing bass, swirling gurdies and insistent percussion; the seven-minute ‘Chronophage’ is the follow-up, and the fanfare and coda is psychedelic-like restless, chattering instruments. The aforementioned ‘Exercise Two’ pictures an endlessly ticking clock, and Steve moulds this whole album into a thoroughly trance-like and hypnotic experience. It’s all very moving and completely inspirational – and I’m looking forward to his next recording with the greatest of pleasures.
- Mick Tems, Folk Wales.
Independent release RUFUS5
Wikipedia-Style disambiguation first: this Steve Tyler isn’t the one who’s the lead screecher from Aerosmith, proud father of Liv, the elven queen in Lord of the Rings.
I’d never heard of this one until now. He’s a hurdy gurdy player who’s been involved with mediaeval music, theatre, and a swathe of performers from German electronica to the folk-verse’s very own Jackie Oates.
Though the gurdy’s an acoustic instrument with a proud history in folk music, this isn’t a folk record. It’s PROG, with a depth and degree of prog-ness that I thought became extinct at the same time as my undergraduate days.
The album’s subtitle says it’s ‘multitrack music for the end of time’; in the sleeve notes Tyler calls it ‘a lot of noise made on hurdy gurdies.’ There’s doomy, powerful synth riffing down the bottom end. Gurdies swoop and chatter. A soprano vocalises, wordlessly. Mythical birds. Primordial chaos. And the end of time, as previously advertised.
It’s fey, bonkers. Hypnotic, and terrific. Its mad grandeur makes me want to throw back my head and stretch out my arms to a dark sky pierced by a billion stars.
An unexpected, highly recommended surprise. Play it loud.
- Chris Manners, TykesStirrings.