20 Dec The Quietus: Attic Thieves
Despite their association with kerazee cross-over comedy superstars the Mighty Boosh, Attic Thieves is perhaps unlikely to propel the Ralfe Band into the nation’s living rooms like their appearances in the hit comedy.
No matter. It’s not as if they need a big budget to make their insidiously catchy, rustic music, with clattering, off-kilter percussion, off-key trumpets, tinkling mandolins and thumbed nylon-strings, with Olly Ralfe’s enervated vocal sitting on top like a drunk on a rodeo horse (his larynx may not be the strongest, but it’s deviously charming nonetheless). On a first listen one is tempted to be fooled into the assumption that there’s no ‘Women of Japan’ or ‘Albatross Waltz’ here, but those songs weren’t immediate either if you cast your mind back.
The Ralfe Band are such a conundrum that it must have been a headache even compiling the track listing. Songs sound similar, and yet on closer inspection bear little resemble to each other. It’s all about warped subtlety with this lot: ‘Lost Like Gods’, cast unfavourably into 10th position on the menu, oozes understated beauty, ‘Hemutzine’ jitters along joyfully, telling the story of Olly’s short husband who fell overboard and drowned. Non-sequiturs mix happily with anomalies, mixed metaphors fraternise with faulty syllogisms. Everything is right, but it’s wrong somehow. Like Swords before it, their sophomore offering gives us more delightfully lo-fi sketches, pretty in a slightly wonky, slightly wrong way, like Rosanna Arquette in Crash.
An enthusiast for the 3/4 metre, Olly Ralfe makes playful, well-crafted tunes that breath new life into forgotten ways of doing things, and for this magnificent musical abstruseness, one only hopes the Ralfe Band can find an audience beyond skunk-addled students, chortling at the ‘Boosh. Even if they can eek out a living and exist on the peripheries, then those that are party to Attic Thieves intelligent blundering will be happier to know there are still some likable oddballs out there making strange songs while still managing to get by, treasures hidden in amongst the rafters, waiting to be found.