Lovely to get an Agent Starling Track featured on Fresh on the Net – and a great review of it to boot – here’s what they have to say about ‘Valley to Mountainside’ from our second album ‘Constellation of Birds’.
‘One thing I like about Fresh On The Net’s inbox is that you never know what you’re going to get. You will always get surprised. You can never accurately tell which way it’s going to go, and that’s the beauty of an independent music blog. The ten that we close out the summer with are all thought provoking and the first track to open this Fresh Faves is no different, and while I’m listening to this, I hear a bit of folk, a bit of prog rock, Celtic… it’s all there. And it’s dizzyingly good! 3/4 time, a flute, fiddle, a bass riffing away, and vocals drenched in reverb and sung in a round, I feel like I’m in a time warp – a tv show from the 60s and 70s, or maybe lying in the grass in Greenwich Park watching the clouds go by and making shapes… This is something isn’t it? Very dreamy. “Valley to mountainsidehigh up and look down at sea salt to ozone and fly out and don’t look back” This is all sung in a round! Agent Starling is Quentin Budworth on Hurdy Gurdy, Lou Duffy-Howard all other instruments and vocals, except violin by special guest Dexter Duffy-Howard. According to their gorgeously designed site: “Quentin and Lou both have strong musical provenance. Lou was originally in recently reformed prophetic UK Indie band Red Guitars and has gigged and recorded ever since, currently heading up psychedelic rock band Loudhailer Electric Company. Originally part of Suns of Arqa, hurdy-gurdy specialist Quentin is the force behind world fusion medieval rave band Celtarabia. Agent Starling are preparing to tour in 2023.” For some reason I have deja vu around them but I just can’t think why, maybe they are time travellers, and they are evoking the multiverse with their sound, whatever it is, it’s definitely left an impression on me’.
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“…(Constellation of Birds) is compelling, demanding, progressive, and fuses a range of cross-cultural folk-based sounds and moods. The album challenges and stretches boundaries, and occasionally – in a good way – feels slightly unhinged, but I absolutely love it when musicians dare to tread forth where many would turn on their heels and run…” John Reed Fatea Magazine
“…an album that both respects and goes far beyond the traditions of Hurdy-Gurdy and European Folk, embracing genres and creating lovely textures. You will not hear another album like this in 2022.” Neil March Trust the Doc
“… the disparate textures and threads they weave coalesce into a mesmerising tapestry of sound that is uniquely theirs.” Mike Davies, Folking
“Purveyors of hurdy-gurdy and weirdness” Andy Inns, Black Dog Radio
Experimental hurdy-gurdy on duo’s impressive debut. European Howl is a complex, immersive and at times disorienting listening experience. Opening track ‘Helicopter Arms’ sets the tone – pulsating, intriguing, the distinctive droning, buzzing but melodic sound of the hurdy-gurdy and whispered spoken-word vocals … ‘Minor Surgery’ is a cyber-Morricone soundtrack with whipcrack noises and a splendid rumbling bassline. (SONGLINES July 2021)
In all the years since this podcast started I don’t think we’ve ever knowingly featured a hurdy-gurdy – but there’s a first time for everything thanks to Agent Starling. (Tom Robinson, BBC Radio 6 Music)
This is wonderful. It has a feeling of antiquity and a feeling of something new. The music is a blast and the images are a constant wow (Dan Kellaway – Luthier)
Its epic! Really well constructed, like reading a book. (Jim Mclaughlin Director Musicport Festival)
Very interesting instrumentation, textures and approach… ambient meets world. Very unique and enjoyable. (Kluane Takhini)
Both haunting and exhilarating at the same time. (Les Ray – Strummers and Dreamers Radio Show)
Such original use of a hurdy-gurdy (Readifolk Radio)
This is wonderful. Love the fluid bass figures (Landi Michaels)
You went deep with this! Cool experimental track! (Minor Surgery) (Jaguar – BBC Introducing Dance)
There’s only room for the most fabulous music on the planet. We started our two-hour #681 sound journey from the UK with ′′ European Howl “, formidable debut album of the Agent Starling trio, training that breaks out strong in the landscape of traditional inspiration with a proposal that has its gravitational center in the zanfona. (Jordi Demésenllà Transglobal World Music Chart)
Very tasty mix of beats with the exotics. Great work! (Junkyard of Silenced Poets)
Brilliant again! If someone ever did a spaghetti western film in the graphic novel cinematic style of Sin City – this would be perfect music for it! Very tasty mix of beats with the exotics. Great work! (Junkyard of Silenced Poets)
Absolutely loving these tunes (Mark Whitby Dandelion Radio)
I love the sound of a hurdy-gurdy and this album’s wonderful arrangements of hurdy-gurdy, strings, percussion and softly spoken lyrics really hits the spot for me (Folk Roots News)
Lots of wonderful hurdy-gurdy, drones, bass experimentalism, and other worldly goodness. Recommended! (Ian Stacey)
I am listening to this as I write. I will certainly play something from the album in next week’s show. I am only halfway through listening but already this has gone on to my long list for Album of the Year 2021 … it’s up there with anything else I have received this year. (Ian Blues and Roots Radio)
This stunning track is difficult to pigeon-hole since it is too organic to be considered electronic, too ambient to be considered anything to do with Rock but does verge on classical. Lou provides enigmatic story-telling spoken word while the music develops from long chords, tremolo violin and a host of other ideas and techniques to create a semi-meditative feel despite the busy activity continuously driving it along. Earthy but complex, this is an impressive demonstration of how they are able to combine such individual timbres to create such an uplifting atmosphere. (Trust the Doc Edition 54)
Congratulations on your new release! I really enjoyed listening to it today, there’s so much depth! Very interesting sounds too, it reminds me of Lithuanian folklore at some points. (Jonas Lapinas)
What a great song (Maija Handover Sound UK – Extraordinary musical encounters)
Great video and what a wonderful, unusual sound! (Aine Kennedy)
Agent Starling – I see the deserts of Mongolia and flags blowin’ in the wind (Cowboy DC)
Love this stuff soul-moving (Kelvin Richmond)
It’s a 21st century Van Der Graaf Generator (Andrew Lee)
What a wonderful album. It’s the kind of sound and complexity that I love to hear as well as play. (Cruise Cycle)
Beautiful in every way. The music, the playing and the photography are all amazing (Richard Harries)
This was a fascinating experience… Interesting, confusing, thought provoking, earie, troubling and hypnotic – all at the same time. I didn’t know what to make of it – but loved it! I think it’s more – a piece of art than it is music, it begs to be part of a larger physical experience within an art instillation or a maze or to be listened to while rotating in a gyroscope… All in all – very interesting!
For once I am lost for words… In short, I think this is something with much greater potential than just the music on its own. It’s very clever and powerful – I hope you have plans for it. I’d be interested to know what happens next? Congratulations on creating something truly original and uniquely mystifying… (Trevor C. Krueger Founder Equal Ability Radio)
Klasse!! (Merit Zloch)
Beautiful, and great production (Don V.Lax)
The album is freaking excellent! (Michael Hunter Roots and Branch Radio Australia)
NORTHERN LIGHTS TRILOGY EP
“I doubt very much that you will hear anything quite like this anywhere else in current music in 2021. Truly wondrous.” Neil March Trust the Doc Issue 62
“Festive EP… features the self-penned, spoken poem title track with its tinkling icicle keyboards (and a snatch of Prokofiev’s ‘Troika’), shimmering melody lines and cascading chorus alongside new arrangements of traditional tunes ‘Stockport Polka’ and ‘The Cordwainer’s Lament’” Folking Magazine
“Something very different here, something quite addictive to listen to, from the Northern Lights EP I give you Agent Starling …” One World Music Radio
‘Wow what a track that is, absolutely awesome and compelling that was Agent Starling and Northern Light taken from their winter EP The Northern Lights Trilogy’. David Chamberlain-Acoustic Routes
“The Cordwainer’s Lament owes its unique sound to the Hurdy Gurdy, that strange medieval instrument that’s part hand-cranked organ, part bowed string instrument, but sounds equally like neither. Capable of producing eerie drones as well as bowed melodies, it infuses the track with an atmosphere of the distant past, with an almost Eastern quality in its texture.
And this track really does have texture. Images of moss-covered cliffs, lashed by storm waves and haunted by souls lost at sea instantly spring to mind; you can practically smell the sharpness of the salty mist in the air, as Gulls whirl daringly above the sea foam. This is perfect music for a BBC costume drama or a film soundtrack.” Andy Page Fresh on the Net moderator
“The Cordwainer’s Lament’ sounds like an atmospheric musical walk down a snowy country lane. ‘Northern Lights’ … mixes spoken-word with musical quotes from Prokofiev’s ‘Troika’ … It’s a joyful, wintry offering. Amid a soundscape of sleigh bells and church bells, Lou sings “I know you yearn for calm, long for night, but my heart dances with the Northern Lights.” Finally, we have the exuberant ‘Stockport Polka … “
“It’s all terrific fun and, for me, it’s the 2021 equivalent of the Cocteau Twins’ glorious 1993 Christmas EP Snow. If you’re short of Christmas cheer this year, you could do worse than to go to Bandcamp and get hold of the Northern Lights Trilogy.” Tony Gillam, Passengers in Time
DHM RECORD LABEL RADIO PRESS RELEASE For immediate release
Agent Starling release European Howl
Agent Starling’s debut album, European Howl releases on all the usual digital outlets on May 4th, 2021. The ten-track album is full of catchy hurdy-gurdy tunes, new songs, hypnotic drones, live bass grooves & strings, all with an experimental edge.
Agent Starling are Quentin Budworth hurdy-gurdy and Lou Loudhailer voices & other instruments. Recorded in the first three months of 2021, European Howl also features Dexter Duffy-Howard on violin and cello. Recorded in Yorkshire UK by Agent Starling, the album was mastered in Oregon by Kevin Carafa.
The album is influenced by musical traditions from nations across Europe. A mix of instrumental pieces, spoken word and songs, themes range from a miscellany of Greek Tales (Wine Dark Sea), an elegy by a dying lover (Requiem) to Helicopter Arms, inspired by the glorious gurdy tune at the heart of the song. Delores County Ride is a tribute to the women who hop trains in Arno Bitschy’s film This Train I Ride, and the album’s title track is an ode to being European, a call for connection in today’s isolationist climate.
Quentin and Lou both have strong musical provenance. Lou was originally in prophetic UK Indie band Red Guitars and has gigged and recorded ever since, heading up psychedelic rock band Loudhailer Electric Company. Originally part of Suns of Arqa, Quentin is the force behind world fusion medieval rave band Celtarabia, also featuring Lou on bass. He spent the year before lockdown touring Europe meeting with other top hurdy-gurdy players exchanging tunes, techniques and experiences. The band usually play the alternative festival circuit throughout the summer, but due to lockdown restrictions on live music, Lou and Quentin joined forces to create Agent Starling and record European Howl.
European Howl releases on all the usual digital outlets on May 4th, 2021 on the DHM record label, catalogue number DHM028, distributed by Label Worx.