All The Bees “All The Bees”

Hobopop Recordings, 2023

Exquisite nature-inspired alt-folk from innovative collaboration.

artwork for All The Bees album "All The Bees"One of the most astonishing things about the duo that comprises All The Bees is that Kirsty McGee and Gitika Partington have met on only a few occasions. Even those were largely social, so this collaboration between two highly accomplished women represents a triumph over adverse conditions. Having suffered personal loss as well as the dearth of opportunity during lockdown, McGee and Partington came together through an online film and TV music course. From this chance meeting they have spent three years concocting and honing a collection of sonic poems whose wistful charm and mournful beauty touches the very heart.

At a shade under thirty minutes, the eponymous ‘All The Bees’ is a relatively short album but like fine wine or a Scottish malt, each nuance is to be savoured. Intricate patterns embroider each of the nine songs, as mystical voices blend with subtle instrumentation in a fusion of jazz, folk-noir and americana.

McGee has her own term for this musical hinterland, terming it “hobopop” in recognition of its peripatetic nature. Never afraid to experiment, she has teamed up with a musician from what seems to be a more orthodox pathway. Choirs and vocal harmony are much in evidence in Partington’s work as an arranger and choral director, where ‘Purple Rain’ is performed a capella and her own version of ‘Hotel California’ is an innovative reinterpretation. The album ‘All The Bees’ has enabled her to spread her wings even further.

With their voices perfectly matched, McGee’s flute is complemented by Partington on recorder. Andy McCrory-Shand adds keyboards and guitars while Lukas Drinkwater provides upright bass. Listening through headphones it becomes clear that the recording has been put together like brush strokes on a canvas, as with the opening track ‘Wildflowers’. A reflection on the balance both in nature and between the sexes, its thoughtful mood is enriched by sympathetic use of organ, percussion and cello.

Throughout the song-cycle, the distinctive voices of McGee and Partington are embellished with choral arrangements that build like angelic choirs across ethereal skyscapes, as on the inspiring ode to ‘King Crow’. Here banjo, double bass and flute wrap around lyrics that show an affinity with nature, like a Ted Hughes poem –

“Crow raised his children in wisdom and in cheer / Watching from the branches year after year / Well he sails upon the thermals as solid black as night / Obeys the ripples of the air like fish that swim through light”.

The pastoral and coastal settings help to unify a diverse group of songs, as hard to categorise as Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’. There’s a soothing lullaby in ‘May Tide’ while the americana-influenced ‘Stone from the Ocean’ could almost be a nineteenth-century Appalachian hymn. Wherever the album might be placed within the musical palette, ‘All The Bees’ is a sublime recording that casts a very warm glow over a winter’s evening.

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8/10
8/10

About Chas Lacey 15 Articles
My musical journey has taken me from Big Pink to southern California. Life in the fast lane now has a sensible 20mph limit which leaves more time for listening to new music and catching live shows.
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Matt Hill

On first listen this is a great album. Kirsty is one of our best British musicians. Never still, always pushing her music into new areas. Often overlooked here in the UK but she has a global audience most musicians would kill for. Looking forward to hearing more All the Bees