Laura Marling is history. It's a lazy, obvious comparison to Alessi Laurent-Marke, but it seems that Reading's favourite troubadour is the benchmark for any successful female folk artist, just as Joni Mitchell was before her. Well, it looks like it's finally going to be acceptable to consign her to Americana and the Brits, as Alessi's Ark is our new folk queen. Time Travel, her first release from independent label Bella Union, is a gorgeous journey of melancholy and resignation, taking the usually dubious subjects of love and lust and reinvigorating a genre in need of a spark.

I feel it's necessary to point out early that one cliche is going to be particularly over-used across reviews of this record, that this is a mature album, showcasing the development of Alessi from song-writer to artist, with songs exposing a greater profundity and longevity, more in keeping with Lisa Mitchell and Caitlin Rose. Alessi has a dreamy, husky tone to her voice, rather than the private school twinge now associated with the awfully named 'nu-folk' movement, and it's this dulcet timbre which proves so endearing and extraordinary in the depths of this record. From the delicate brass of 'Wire' (our former Single of the Week) to the country swagger of 'On The Plain', Time Travel gambols through contemporary folk music without being constrained by acoustic limitations. The record is subsequently built around bluesy electric guitar, yet still succeeds in retaining the vulnerability so successfully emphasised on Notes From The Treehouse.

'Must've Grown' is self-explanatory in its introspection, questioning the growth and maturing of this hugely gifted artist, building to a ranging soundscape from stuttering drums and laconic guitar. It comes across as a familiar, yet original track recalling both Cat Power and Bright Eyes. There is even a hint at the epic as heavier chords and multiple guitar hooks are utilised. The eponymous track takes the trademark meandering vocal to new heights of whimsy, doing all the work as the western chords hint at Two Gallants. With the market saturated with folk pretenders, it is only in a truly exceptional vocal that true genius is obvious, and Alessi's Ark goes beyond this with her wandering, fragile voice, drifting from the quivering insecurities of Vashti Bunyan to the assertive squeak of Joanna Newsom. I think that it's telling in the number of comparisons it is possible to make that whilst influenced by a generically niche school of music, Alessi's Ark is a truly individual artist, rewriting contemporary folk. My personal favourite, 'Maybe I Know' (accompanying video here) is ludicrously catchy, underwriting your usual country criteria with piano and a hopeless resignation to optimism.

This is a brilliant album, both a natural progression from earlier works and a perfect introduction to the artist. At just under half an hour it represents a very brief glance at the future of our folk scene, and it looks incredibly promising.

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