Published on 16th June 2021
Kate Arnold – Rota Fortunae II
Kate Arnold is a multi-instrumentalist with her main instruments being the hammered dulcimer, violin, drum and vocal, often live-looped and put through real-time effects. The first three tracks here are Kate’s compositions with the fourth being an arrangement of Picforth’s (circa 1570-1580) In Nomine for a consort of viol, the only known piece by this composer. A consort usually consists of at least one of a treble, a tenor, and a bass from the viol family of instruments. More familiar composers would be Dowland or Purcell.
Tooth & Claw opens with a solo hammered dulcimer until it is joined by violins, possibly cello, and voice. On this track I find Kate’s voice akin to Thea Gilmore, so no bad thing. I hear only acoustic, although there may be some electronic loops in there. The hammered dulcimer always strikes me as an under-used instrument, a forerunner of the piano, but with a sound that is both earthly and unearthly. Every element of this track maintains a balance and space, it is busy and yet open and clean sounding. The lyrics are clear and thought provoking, a beautiful piece that ends too soon.
[Skeleton Key from Kate’s previous EP demonstrates some of her technique]
Clockwork Man begins with a haunting choral element, added to by the vocal, again haunting but I am unsure of the language used. I think it is Latin, but then I doubt myself, hearing what I think are words played backwards. At around three-and-a-half minutes, the dulcimer joins, followed by some electronic noises and I think a bodhran. It is different from Tooth & Claw but holds the interest with its own charm. My curiosity eventually got the better of me, so I asked Kate Arnold about the track. She told me:
Just Born is my favourite of the Arnold composed tracks, phrasing is not dissimilar to Peter Gabriel – again good company. I sense more experimentation here, but it is delightful to hear a hammered dulcimer put to fine use in a modern composition. Due to a slip of the finger, this track was heard through all the speakers of my surround system, it is an interesting take on the sounds. In a ‘Meet the Artist’ interview with Frances Wilson (‘The Cross-Eyed Pianist’), Kate expressed a view that her ideal venue would be a Medieval church with a good sound board. This comes close.
Last is In Nomine, a short instrumental piece possibly similar in styling to that in which it was originally heard. It is quite moving, and from an instrument that I feel deserves more use in modern music. Kate provided this insight:
Rota Fortunae II is a second part to Rota Fortunae I which was released February 2020, RF II coming out one year later. Both are available on Kate’s Bandcamp individually, but more economically as part of her complete discography, which you can get for £15.30 at present. I have listened to the complete discography, and I can highly recommend it. Kate Arnold also fronts the punk baroque band Fear of the Forest, also available on Bandcamp.
01. Tooth & Claw (4:56)
02. Clockwork Man (5:38)
03. Just Born (6:34)
04. In Nomine (2:25)
Total Time – 19:33
Kate Arnold – Hammered Dulcimer, Violin, Cello, Drums & Percussion, Vocals, Electronics
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th February 2021