Milkweed is a hardy, flowering perennial, toxic to many species including humans. For a duo who make music that sounds like different varieties of folk growing in terrifying patterns out of peculiar soil, it’s a fitting name.

The artwork for Milkweed’s Folklore 1979. Photograph: Publicity image

Coming in at nine tracks and just over 10 minutes, this is Milkweed’s third release after 2023’s The Mound People and 2022’s Myths and Legends of Wales, all of which use obscure books as their lyrical source matter. This time aroundan academic folklore studies journal provides strange tales, editors’ letters and obituaries, set against the sounds of zithers, traditional pipes and softly hit drum skins. These could be samples or synthesised replicas, such is the way in which they all crackle unnervingly out of glitchy cassette fuzz.

Kicking off with a track called My Father’s Sheep Is Dead, the project would have more of an air of a blackly humorous hipster in-joke if it didn’t weave such a tantalising, spidery gauze of folk horror throughout. Milkweed’s female singer, known only as G, is the key to this impact, her voice a weirdly mesmerising distant cousin of Anne Briggs and Radie Peat. Giddy phrases leap out of her mouth, like “the breath became the storm and his voice became thunder” in The Snake In Chinese Belief, or “hearing as a boy that the bloodroot’s juice was the dead man’s blood” in The Tree As a Kinship Symbol.

Echoes of the distressing, hauntological electronica of Mordant Music and the Ghost Box label judder around her in these cut-up compositions. Its longest track, Mordred, King Arthur’s Son – a whole 97 seconds – is its best moment. A heady drama in waltz time about an incestuous king locking his daughter in a tower with 12 attendants, who “all gave birth, all drown”, it stings, then it’s gone, but its uneasy shadow remains.

Also out this month

Andy Skellam’s Brighten Up the Place (Pear O’Legs) is a lovely, somnambulist set of songs about wayward hearts, bluebirds and bloodhounds, made intimate in every soft squeak of its chord changes, the whispery husk of Skellam’s voice, and the drawing bows of a cello. Johnny Campbell’s True North (self-released) collects eight traditional songs from northern English counties, field-recorded on or around the highest point of each. Perhaps this was meant to elevate them, although each sounds plain and well-grounded in his rolling Huddersfield accent, accompanied occasionally by birdsong and running water. Heisk’s Headstrong (The Bothy Society) has cover art that recalls Ze Records in its early 80s pomp, and this six-strong all-female band mix accordions, fiddles and electro harp with occasionally disconcerting perky pop. Diamonds is its most successful moment, inventing a new genre: sultry squeezebox R&B.

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