Release Date: Nov 5, 2012
Record label: Fortuna Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
At this time of year, it’s hard to avoid the references to Halloween or Bonfire Night shoehorned into every aspect of life, with every shop, every brand and every TV show putting a seasonal spin on the autumnal festivities in a bid to make you part with your cash. It’s easy to understand why Darren Hayman might have chosen to release his latest album at this time of year then, although there’s nothing gimmicky about The Violence, a double concept album inspired by the seventeenth century Essex Witch Trials which took place in the midst of the English Civil War. The result of extensive research and Hayman’s talent for bringing even the most obscure subjects to life, The Violence is a lengthy listen that’s initially best considered alongside the insightful sleeve notes penned by the man himself.
In which the ex-Hefner man – arguably the greatest twee-folk hero of the past two decades – explores 17th-century Essex witch trials and Cromwellian politics over an hour of backwards lutes and tablas. It’s Beirut/Bon Iver/PJ Harvey brilliant, taking Damon Albarn’s ‘Dr Dee’ to sublime extremes. The title track makes being burned at the stake sound as exciting as diving out of space, while the lustrous future folk of ‘Elizabeth Clarke’ imagines swinging from the legs of hanging witches, and the psych wonderment of ‘Rebecca West’ could be MGMT doing Neil Young.Mark Beaumont .
A concept album about the 17th century witch trials of Essex? Yes please. Ben Myers 2012 In these bleak economic times the concept of eccentricity seems just about the UK’s remaining viable export. But even in its natural habitat of the music world, the eccentric’s stocks are running low. Today, the hungry public have to subsist on the stand-alone work of previous generational underdog heroes such as Mr Childish, Mr Cope and Mr Cocker, topped up by the occasional outlandish declaration from Mr Lydon or the Manc curmudgeon they call Mr Smith.
"I don't know, and I don't want to know, if she floats or drowns" wrote Darren Hayman on Hefner's ‘The Sad Witch', a decade later he's returning to the subject for The Violence, a concept album based around seventeenth century Essex witch trials and the English Civil war. As concepts go it's not as odd a choice as you might think. Leaving aside allegorical links to the present day, intended or otherwise (society deeply divided on religious lines, the effect of terror and paranoia on ordinary people, "witch hunts") Hayman's gift is to find the human stories amid the history.
There are few songwriters in the UK more prolific than Darren Hayman. The former frontman of the much-loved but now defunct Hefner has already released two albums this year, with’ Lido’ a collection of instrumental tracks and ‘The Shit Piano’ - a Casio reworking of last year’s ‘The Ships Piano’. In addition to the full album release of 2011’s ‘January Songs’ project, 2012 has been an incredibly productive year.