Some of us just have a fondness for cellos, strings, and ethereal vocal tracks. Some of us enjoy leaning our ear against the reverb, and letting the layers of misted poetry come in. Some of us are just suckers for bands who work their big ideas unimpeded by low budgets. The determination is strong with The Duke of Norfolk, and the new track, “Dylan Thomas / Bitter Bitter” weighs it’s elements well.
Adam Howard, the man behind The Duke of Norfolk, articulates his vision well. Belonging in tradition but bending the constraints to his will, he produces the kind of folktronica that elevates his material beyond the landscape. On this track Howard shares a lament for the passing of his terminally ill father. Borrowing from Dylan Thomas’s famous poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” the tone is one of bitterness, as well as sweetness, as well as a kind of acceptance. Starting with a sample of the poet’s voice introducing a verse the track then opens up into the kind of defiance that should be shared at every memorial service. There is celebration, as well as mourning. But it’s not easy.
Speaking about the process of mourning Adam Howard said “I’ve long been fascinated by Dumas’s idea that there’s neither happiness nor misery; there is only the comparison of one state to another.” So what’s interesting here is the balance between academic perspective of things, and the emotional content of grief. We know the truth, but feeling the truth is sometimes hard.
There’s a saying in the Hindu faith: “The bad news is that grandfathers, fathers, and sons all die. The good news is that they usually die in that order”. The smartness of Adam Howard is in that he doesn’t debate nature – but rather celebrates it, whilst acknowledging that life sometimes moves too fast – and from our own perspective it can feel terribly unfair. Because life is unfair. But it’s also beautiful.
The visual treatment that sits with the song is a wonderful collage of natural elements and human processes. Opening with a sea swell washing over rocks we’re hypnotized by the forces of nature, indifferent to our presence. Traffic, birds, sky. The details of life that we notice in the quiet moments, or when our senses are heightened by distress, are shared.
In this process there is a letting go of some things, but not all things. It’s the values that Adam Howard retains that are so deeply moving.
HURRY – LISTEN – THE DUKE OF NORFOLK