Album review: The Eighteenth Day Of May – S/T Retrospective

Source: album artwork

Words by Alexandra Dominica

Today we are living in a time outside of time. Unusual circumstances befall us in the creative community and nothing is as it seems. Still as a result of this anomalous pause in history we have learned a great deal about ourselves and we can see that something new is ready to emerge. There is magic in the air and as such opportunities abound for musical metamorphosis. To remember such a time it is important we edify the future generations through immortalising and enshrining our discoveries through art, creativity and song. It’s difficult to challenge that there is no better way to do this than through the medium of music and oral tradition. No culture has ever been discovered that does not have a history filled with oral tradition, fairy tales and folklore. 

Generally used to express a moral lesson or serve a greater purpose, these tales have always been sung before they were written.  With this in mind, we will be travelling back to 15 years ago, where the indie music press found itself a new obsession – Folk.  The Eighteenth Day of May’s self titled and only album was released in 2005, a quite chaotic period in the music industry. TEDOM began its sadly very short life in East London as a triad consisting of  the Hanging Stars’ frontman and multi-instrumentalist Richard Olsen, flutist and vocalist Allison Brice (Lake Ruth) and English artist Ben Phillipson. While other bands submerged themselves in revivalist nostalgia for Psych Folk, the band instead refuted the term “retro” and claimed their modern stamp on the genre due to their use of drone and feedback across their album. “Eighteen Days” kicks off with Allison’s mellifluous and enchanting vocals alongside a stellar production that makes use of both charming but universally neglected instruments, the glockenspiel and mandolin.  

The Eighteenth Day Of May

Although rooted in story-time revelry and the pastoral, TEDOM don’t drag their hands through the waters pooled by Steeleye Span, Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny but instead lightly dips their feet into the mossy pool. Not to their discredit however, as they pull off the likeness well with a clean, natural but still very much underground sound akin to the folk club experimentals of Edinburgh’s The Incredible String Band. The band also embraces the more Celtic influences that had not arisen since before darker folk was the fashion in the late sixties. Here with vocals reminiscent of St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, they offer a hybridised and derivative take on modern British psych-folk that is splashed with mysticism.  One of my favourites from this album was “Stone Cold”, a track that feels like a soft hallucination or gentle visitation from a spirit. Another being “Hide and Seek” with their rousing Pentangle grooves bring also The Albion Country Band to mind. Championing sequential woodsy guitar jangles, permeating flute and Brice’s songbird vocals, TEDOM haunt and beguile the listener into an hour long trance that feels almost never ending.  

As it usually turns out in an increasingly profit driven industry, the band sadly ended up splitting not long after their initial debut. One could say TEDOM belong to that lighter strain of British Folk, as their joyous, unbridled and free sound proved in 2005, despite such mass fixation with the rise of technological advancement in mass media outlets, a revisitation to our more pastoral roots in music was indeed necessary and welcomed. We might not have been quite ready for them then, but we are certainly ready for them now.

The Eighteenth Day of May’s only record came out on Hannibal Records in 2005. It’s now on vinyl for the first time through Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube Records to be released on May 18th 2020. 

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One thought on “Album review: The Eighteenth Day Of May – S/T Retrospective

  1. Only got to see them once but have cherished the album. At least there were offshoots.

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