Review: Bishopskin Sing Their Prayers to the Wind on Debut Album ‘Babble’

“Good Morning, My Lord”.

Far from the bucolic pastures of green Oxfordshire where much of this album was recorded (describing themselves as a group who sing their ‘prayers to the wind’, it’s so easy to imagine these songs being played on golden hills, with lead singer Tiger Nicholson serenading grazing cattle), I first saw Bishopskin at the Brixton Windmill—that Holy Ground for both saints and sinners—where Nicholson breathlessly performed the groups early set of tracks, their Old Testament, his presence on stage seething with a menacing spirituality that infused this punk-folk revivalism with something more suffuse and dreamlike, but always with a genuine joy of performance and an eccentric pageantry, immediately establishing a reputation for being as unpredictable as they are equally consistently excellent.

Following a string of singles over the last year, including ‘Ave Maria’, a beautiful and beatific tribute to Tiger’s wife and firstborn, and most recently ‘Mother’s Steel Bike’, the group have finally shared their debut album ‘Babble’ via Isolar Records. Born out of the embers of James Donovan (formerly of HMLTD) and Nicholson’s desire to reappropriate themes which flourished in early 19th Century Romanticism, the album’s arrangements are much softer and blurrier than the group’s thrumming “fear of god”-style live set, but to its benefit, allowing tracks like ‘Hey Little Sister’, dedicated to Tiger’s twin sister, to melt and become unstrung, while Nicholson’s minium lyrics conjure imagery of a borderless Albion that sweeps from childhood innocence to orgiastic, Blakean visions where meaning is in the mirage.

Often his language itself disintegrating into tongues, shot through with Shamanic severity, or falls into mantra-like repetition in combustible symphony. Musically polyamorous and collaborative, ‘Babble’ is further proof of Bishopskin’s devotion to the power of community, featuring members from other South London post-punk and alternative outfits such as Gently Tender, Human Resources, and The Romance of Baba Loco, and features swooning guest vocals from both Tabitha Avanzato and (qualified priest) Tati Gutteridge. Transcending eras and offering their unique blend of Old England aesthetics with the primal, universal language of sound, ‘Babble’ is like a series of meditations in case of emergency, or little morning prayers to colour an otherwise starless afterglow.

‘Babble’ is out now via Isolar records. Listen in full here.

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