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Vena Portae are an Anglo-Swedish alt-folk band, comprised of BAFTA award-winning singer songwriter Emily Barker, songwriter and performer Dom Coyote, and Swedish producer and multi-instrumentalist Ruben Engzell. Vena Portae’s eponymous debut album draws the listener into an epic journey of love, loss, memory and longing. From the heady alt-pop highs of ‘Flames’, ‘Fury’ and ‘Summer Kills’, to the dark, atmospheric depths of ‘Turning Key’ and ‘Transatlantic’, this is an album that is atmospheric, moving and irresistible. The album is due for release on 18th August and features stunning lead single ‘Summer Kills’, which is remixed by Swedish indie legend Peter Morén (lead singer of Peter, Bjorn and John). As the band puts it ‘Summer Kills’ is “A song about longing, about a broken past and an uncertain future. A song about regret and vain hopes. A song about love.” "Vena Portae" means "vein portal" in Latin; it’s a short vein that carries blood to the liver. The band were inspired by ideas of roads, rivers, veins, portals, creative openings, connections between people, places and life force. In the winter of 2012, Vena Portae found themselves in the tiny, snowed-in Swedish town of Mölnbo just outside Stockholm. They built a make shift studio, full to the rafters with analogue equipment, spring reverbs, electric guitars, banjos, pianos and an array of weird and wonderful instruments. Over the space of a month, they recorded a treasure trove of songs, inspired by heartbreak, passion, and intrigue, which together make up the album Vena Portae. Emily Barker is the BAFTA award-winning writer and performer of the theme to BBC TV crime drama Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh. With her band The Red Clay Halo, she also provided the atmospheric theme to highly acclaimed noir thriller The Shadow Line. Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo have released four critically acclaimed albums, toured extensively over the world, performed alongside friend and collaborator Frank Turner at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and recently released their album ‘Dear River’ in the UK on Linn Records to critical acclaim, with four and five star reviews across the board. British songwriter-theatre maker Dom Coyote is an associate artist with the world renowned Kneehigh Theatre and has performed in sold out shows with them throughout the UK, South America and the U.S. He has performed and composed for acclaimed companies such as The Royal Shakespeare Company, Art Angel and the National Theatre as well as creating his own brand of gig-theatre, mixing alt-folk, rock, world music and multimedia. Ruben Engzell is a shining light in the Swedish music scene. Working with Christian Kjellvander, Peter Morén and EP’s Trailer Park to name a few, Ruben worked on ground-breaking London projects such as Future Cinema and Sona Soul before returning to his home country to set up his own studio in SoFo, the creative heart of Stockholm. Jesper Jonsson, who joins the band onstage as a live drummer/percussionist, grew up on the remote Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic sea, before moving to Stockholm where he headed up the rhythm sections for highly regarded artists such as EP’s Trailer Park, Lisa Lindal and Laakso.
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A little slow in places, but if you like simple, de-constructed songs that are easy on your frazzled brain after a long day at work, this album will help you unwind.
was one of the loveliest albums of that year. It is good to hear her again, therefore,
in this new collaboration with Dom Coyote and Ruben Enzell as Vena Portae.
These eleven songs are so easy to soak up. The folksy/country flavour of their
work has a timeless cabin-in-the-woods quality about it which could, in may ways,
have sprung into the listening world at any point during the past half century.
Wistful, melancholy and quietly affecting, these compositions are crammed
full of good tunes, warm vocal harmonies and deft instrumental arrangements.
Ms Barker can be heard at her best on opening number 'Summer Kills' where
her delightful warble seems to have been touched just a little by the spirit of
Dolly Parton; the brass embellishments deliver additional warmth and depth.
The plaintive harmonica solo on 'Before The Winter Came' works especially
well in a very pretty song which has a bit of a whiff of Peter, Paul and Mary
about it (and nothing wrong with that!) The simple magic of 'Magpie's Carol',
and the salty seafaring ambience of 'Stingrays' are nothing if not enchanting.
A terrific set from a gifted ensemble. There's nothing not to love here.
It is a good album and the overall sound is lovely. Emily Barker is a fine singer who is on good form here, and the arrangements and harmonies are all nicely done, reminding me just a little of The Civil Wars in places. There's much to like and nothing to object to at all, but...
It's hard to put my finger on my exact reservations about this album. I think it's that it sounds a little like an awful lot of other music around at the moment. Emily Barker's previous work has been so classy and distinctive with really interesting music and lyrics, and arrangements with The Red Clay Halo which really give it a sound of its own, whereas this blends slightly into the background for me. There's nothing with the really lasting quality of some of the songs on Almanac or Dear River, I think, so I am just a little disappointed in this.
Don't let me put you off; it's a perfectly decent album of good songs performed with skill and taste so perhaps it's unfair of me to carp so much. It's just that I expect something really special from Emily Barker, and this isn't particularly special. However, no-one who likes this Americana-ish genre could possibly dislike it and I can still recommend it.