It isn’t impossible to describe how much harder being in the music industry has got since the pandemic began, but by any measure the scale of the damage to careers and livelihoods has been disastrous. With laughable streaming payments already underlining Silicon Valley’s greed well before 2020, one prominent artist told me that the subsequent ban on live performances had reduced their income by 90% – and they were one of the lucky ones.
For the less well known a monthly cheque from Spotify for a few pence hardly constituted a living wage, but for Leeds based musical collective Fold, quitting was never an option. A socially conscious band in socially incomprehensible times, for spokesperson Seth Mowshowitz their role was clear, one of being a tool in the battle against a Western neo-liberalism that threatens the existence of the planet and everyone on it. It’s a mission he admits that ‘reflects a sense of urgency to bring about a global paradigm shift that places life above profit in all matters.’
Released this week, their third album Aphelion he also says is ‘more cohesive both musically and because it is first and foremost a tribute to the great writer & activist Lorraine Hansberry.’ Highly acclaimed scholar Imani Perry has described the lifelong activist, who died in 1965 of cancer at the age of just 35, as “A prolific and probing artist, she was also one of the most radical, courageous, and prescient artist-intellectuals of the twentieth century—and one of the least understood‘.
Hansberry was perceived a subversive whilst alive – the FBI had a file open on her – and yet as she returns to life via spoken word interludes on Aphelion, the listener realises quickly that her entreaties on inequality, race relations and capitalism hold the same gravity now as they did more than fifty years ago.
Backing her words with an accompaniment of deep and decadent soul, hip-hop and jazz, Mowshowitz and co. make good on their promise; in this worst of times, this is the best Fold have ever sounded. From the nimble, sun-dappled Concrete Things, through the echo-drenching of Make New Sounds to the flutey tones of closer Illuminations, this is material that incontestably places them alongside the likes of Bonobo and Nightmares on Wax.
Even with something so game changing in the bag however there was of course one last throw of bad luck’s dice, supplies of vinyl drying up around Europe and the possibility of landing a physical reminder of the message having to be postponed for another day. Adversity has slings and arrows; Fold have their music and the things they believe in. And in the words of Lorraine Hansberry:
‘There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.’
Aphelion is released on October 17th.