“The Unthanks are capable of such beauty that sometimes I can hardly bear to listen to them.” Martin Freeman“There are few times when you discover a band and they stalk immediately to the heart of everything you love and hold dear.” Maxine Peake'.
Descriptions of The Unthanks range variously from “music that asks you to consider everything you know and un-think it”, to “a take on tradition that flips so effortlessly between jazz, classical, ambient and post-rock, it makes any attempt to put a label on them a waste of time”.
Using the traditional music of the North East of England as a starting point, the influence of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits can be heard in the band’s 14 records to date. Folk music can commonly and affectionately be defined as low culture, but The Unthanks aspire to prove that the beauty and truth present in the oral history of the people, is anything but common. Their approach to storytelling makes easy bedfellows of tradition and adventure, direct social commentary and sophisticated harmony, heart-breaking empathy and glacial minimalism, earning them an army of admiring writers and performers including Mackenzie Crook, Maxine Peake, Nick Hornby, Martin Freeman, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Rosanne Cash, Dawn French, Adrian Edmondson, Stephen Mangan, Colin Firth and members of Portishead and Radiohead.
At the nucleus of a constantly evolving unit which sometimes constitutes a stage full and at other points will be just the three of them, is the traditional upbringing of Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank and the arrangements and writing of composer, pianist, producer and Yorkshireman, Adrian McNally. Mount The Air, their last album proper, won BBC Folk Awards Album of the Year, while recent projects have included a commission to turn Emily Bronte’s poems into song, a return to roots with an unaccompanied album and a symphonic adventure that began the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Charles Hazelwood and culminated with a performance at The Royal Albert Hall BBC Proms.