White Flowers begins with ‘Espera’, which means waiting/hoping/expecting, and sounds like an open window on a cold sunny morning: bright, pure voices, and a buzzing hum which could be a harmonium or a discordant amp. The song lyrics throughout have an intricacy that makes them sound like poems, as if they’ve been lifted from a page of Christina Rossetti, especially in ‘Died of Love’ and ‘Death and the Lady’, which make me wonder if they are new or traditional folk songs, resung.
However, this isn’t only traditional folk. Title track ‘White Flowers’ is old-fashioned, poignant and gorgeous, bare piano and voice, but the synthesiser on ‘Synnove’ feels more contemporary, Metronomy-like. As the record moves on, the sound diversifies, with traces of Indian and Chinese influences, but Heather Minor and Emma Morton’s voices keep up their rounded English vowels, creating subtle contrasting touches. Occasionally, White Flowers feels halfway between the traditionalism of The Unthanks and the experimentalism of Stealing Sheep; ‘All I Have Is Gold’ is especially experimental-medieval. Lutine suggest that they’re ‘inspired equally by Thomas Hardy and The Twilight Zone’.
Aside from this web of influences, the songs sound completely lovely, underpinned by evocative, emotional melodies, like choirchildren singing in the woods. Exquisite is the word that keeps coming to mind, especially for ‘Sallow Tree’. As with Joanna Newsom’s work, I can’t write White Flowers off as nostalgia, despite its medieval romance. It’s more ambitious than that, and very beautiful.