The Transhistorical Folk Landscapes of Lutine

whiteflowerswebMUSIC: Lutine ~ White Flowers ~ a new album of haunting minmalist folk by Brighton-based duo, Heather Minor and Emma Morton, available to pre-order here

LABEL: Front and Follow

WORDS: Gareth E. Rees

The debut album by Lutine emerges, shimmering, through a rift in time: a grieving widow who wanders the English countryside in a cruel sunshine haze.

In these songs of regret and melancholy, human fate is intertwined with the landscape.

In ‘Sallow Tree’, Morton sings with precision tremolo, “Silent sorrow all around / tears are falling / ancient worlds bring me down and out of reach / underneath the sallow tree / I offer you my sympathy”.

The sallow tree is another term for a willow tree. These are common symbols of sadness and mourning. In Hamlet, Ophelia drowns near a willow. And in Charlotte Smith’s ‘Sonnet 42: Composed during a walk on the Downs, in November 1787’…

 The dark and pillowy cloud,the sallow trees,

Seem o’er the ruins of the year to mourn:

And cold and hollow, the inconstant breeze,

Sobs through the falling leaves and wither’d fern

In Lutine’s lyrics, the landscape often reflects human hope and despair – the technique of pathetic fallacy which Thomas Hardy was fond of using. But they also sing of a natural world which is disinterested in human emotion. Cycles of summer and winter, light and dark, warmth and cold, death and birth. These continue, regardless of our personal grief.Lutine (Emma Morton)

In ‘White Flowers’, a song about a woman mourning for a possibly duplicitous man, the singer wants to “shut out the staring moon”. In ‘Synnove’ (Scandinavian for ‘sun gift’) seasonal cycles are described in a way that suggests our passage through life. In Espera, petals from the singer’s garden are “dried and cut and long forgotten”, whereas her lover promised they would watch the trees blossom together. In ‘To the Sea’, the singer wishes to abandon her body to the landscape, and make her home in the waves.

Remarkably, these aforementioned songs are Lutine’s own compositions. Their vocal phrasing, musical idiom and lyrical symbolism is so finely judged it’s hard to tell which of the tracks on White Flowers are traditional. According to Heather Minor, there are two traditional covers: ‘Death and the Lady’ and ‘Died of Love’.Lutine (Heather Minor)

The latter is an enduring English folk song with a long history (if you’re interested, many of the versions are chronicled here) including a version by nature poet John Clare. A woman is still deeply in love with the man who stole her heart and liberty, making her pregnant before going with another woman.

“I wish I wish but it’s all in vain, I wish I was a maid again, but a maid again I never shall be.”

The third cover version on the album is ‘Come Wander’ [“He came from the sunset, he came from the sea, he came from my sorrow, and could love only me”] which was written in 1964 and is from an eponymous episode of the Twilight Zone which opened with:

“Mr. Floyd Burney, a gentleman songster in search of song, is about to answer the age-old question of whether a man can be in two places at the same time. As far as his folk song is concerned, we can assure Mr. Burney he’ll find everything he’s looking for, although the lyrics may not be all to his liking.”

In answer to the “age-old question” Lutine’s music succeeds in existing in two places at the same time. Their transhistorical lyrics could be 300 years old, or from a science fiction television series. Their sound owes as much to synth pop, minimalism and acid folk as it does to the traditional or classical tradition. Autoharp glides effortlessly across electrified piano. Tales of life and death stretch backwards and forwards through the centuries. The Sallow Tree quivers outside your window.

Lutine’s White Flowers is out on the 29th September. Pre-Order via Front and Follow here or on Bandcamp here.

Catch Lutine on tour in September at one of three coastal gigs – details here.

Lutine: Sallow Tree


Gareth E. Rees is author of Marshland: Dreams & Nightmares on the Edge of London. His work appears in Mount London: Ascents In the Vertical CityAcquired for Development By: A Hackney Anthology, and the album A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes.

More Articles for You

White Tents in the Car Park: A Covid 19 Despatch from Kent

Emilia Ong on the chilling vision of a Covid testing centre in a Margate car park

From Neolithic Roundabouts & Satanic Car Parks to Council Estate Poltergeists – The Weird Lore of Everyday Urban Places

In this video presentation, Gareth E. Rees takes you on a visual journey through the unexpected places he visits in his book, ‘Unofficial Britain’

The Eerie Tale of the Zombie Junction Behind Sainsbury’s Car Park

On an ill-fated supermarket car park walk during the pandemic, Gareth E. Rees ends up stalking the undead beside an abandoned roundabout

The Banshee and the Roundabout: Bizarre stories & folklore today

Irish storyteller Helena Byrne, place writer Marcel Krueger & Gareth E. Rees discuss the importance of folklore, bizarre stories and urban myths in the contemporary world

Nothing With Nothing: A Lonely Drift Down Marine Drive, Margate

Emilia Ong’s meditation on alienation and strangeness on a walk by the amusement arcades of a British seaside town

Ghostspaces Where the Bombs Once Fell

To celebrate Halloween, Deeana Violet tells the tale of the ghosts which filled the spaces created by Blitz devastation in Sheffield