"First album as manifesto: This Is Broken Folk. A clap of thunder over the often lukewarm waters of contemporary folk... Live, the duo compensates for their minimal setup (voice and percussion) with an intense presence. Currently programmed in small venues, their rightful place is the theatre stage." – François Gorin, Télérama
"Spellbinding." – Dexter Bentley, Resonance FM
"Political, hearty, weird and wondrous." – Brigitte Aphrodite
"Can’t get enough of the Lunatraktors… just when you think you’ve got a hook on what they’re about, they throw a curve ball, keeping you always guessing and starry eyed." – Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate
Dark, trippy overtones and glitchy folk beats to raise your spirits. Launched in February 2017, Margate’s ‘broken folk’ duo Lunatraktors (GB) fuse folk music with body percussion, harmonic singing, tap-dance and live looping. The project strips traditional folksong back to beats and vocals, weaving in influences from cabaret, early punk, hiphop and dance music. Inspired by minimalist composers, queer culture and vaudeville. clowning and live art, Lunatraktors trawl the archives of Irish, English and Australian popular song for offbeat tales. The stories they unearth of bravery in the face of forced migration, political unrest, abuse of authority, and institutional violence find particular resonance today. The duo met in Prague before relocating to become part of Margate’s exciting new creative scene.
Combining the percussive and choreographic talents of Carli Jefferson with the four octave range and haunting overtones of trans folk singer Clair Le Couteur, Lunatraktors use the basic ingredients of body and voice to conjure up expansive, unexpected spaces. Equally at home improvising with hands, feet and voices on a station platform, or electrifying a festival stage with custom drum kit, loops, analogue synth, shruti box and flute, they have played a dizzying variety of venues over the last 18 months. This genre-splicing, gender-blending pair have been taking 'broken folk' everywhere from circus cabarets to the Aldeburgh Festival, contemporary art installations to the main stage at Dreamland for Margate Pride.
Lunatraktors' nine track debut album This Is Broken Folk is due to be released in October 2019 (CD, 12", digital). The album was recorded live at Arco Barco Studio in Ramsgate Harbour and co-produced by Raphael Mann.
The singles 'Turn of the Plough' (11.11.2018), 'Black Raven' (14.02.2019) and 'Jim Jones' (01.05.2019) are available on all major streaming and download services.
The Story behind LUNATRAKTORS This is Broken Folk
Percussionist, choreographer and performance artist Carli Jefferson began her career touring internationally with STOMP, before making a name for herself with body percussion, tap dance and fusion choreographies for stage and screen in the Czech Republic. Jefferson met nonbinary research artist and overtone singer Clair Le Couteur in Prague in 2013, providing percussion for New Myths, Le Couteur’s mythology-inspired solo record. A conversation about what post-apocalyptic folk music might look like – asking what can be done with only body and voice – led the pair to move to Margate in 2017 to form ‘broken folk’ duo Lunatraktors.
This trans-genre project uses the minimal means of vocals and acoustic percussion to strip British, Irish and Australian traditionals down to bare bones. Described by French critic François Gorin as a ‘clap of thunder over the often lukewarm waters of contemporary folk’, Lunatraktors rediscover well-worn ballads as radical, raw takes on Brexit Britain. By turns furious, comic and haunting, Le Couteur’s mercurial four octave range shape-shifts between characters, while Jefferson’s manic tuned percussion arrangements weave together influences from trip-hop, drum’n’bass, jazz and flamenco.
Self-released debut This Is Broken Folk began as an effort to document material from live performances that have taken the pair everywhere from pubs and folk clubs to queer cabarets, art galleries, the V&A Museum and the Aldeburgh festival. Jefferson and Le Couteur were approached by Steve Webbon of Beggars Banquet, who offered to fund a studio experiment. Hidden in the brick viaduct arches under Ramsgate’s Royal Parade, Arco Barco was chosen for its natural reverb. The recordings were made live and in-the-round, using a maximum of three takes and no overdubs to capture the duo’s intensity on stage.
Sounds of boats, gulls and the sea recorded through the studio doors made it onto one of the tracks – Jim Jones – which opens with Le Couteur’s eerie overtone abilities, before shifting gears into a punk infused call-to-arms. Jefferson’s signature body drumming and tap dance style are showcased on Irish-Australian ballads The Catalpa and Jack Donahue. Lunatraktors original Turn of the Plough is even more stripped back, relying on vocal harmonies, hand claps and minimal clog work to lament history repeating itself. In the final track, this minimalism expands into a looping, psychedelic landscape of low whistle and chimes to tell the tale of Australian bushranger Ben Hall.
At the heart of the record are seven ballads from Britain’s troubled colonial past, found by Jefferson and Le Couteur in their search for roots: “We wanted to connect with something that makes sense of the places our families come from, to take up those stories and that music and make it ours.” But it was their translation of Cossack folk song Black Raven that was chosen for the opening track. With only the pulse of a goatskin military drum beneath Le Couteur’s dark baritone, Black Raven sets the tone for This Is Broken Folk as an iconoclastic shot across the bows for English folk music.
Carli Jefferson (1978, UK) is a trans-disciplinary performance artist, dancer, percussionist, choreographer and clown. After graduating in Dance and Visual Practice with Liz Aggiss (Brighton, 2000), she touring with STOMP for three years before developing Stepflow, a combination of tap, body percussion and dance techniques. Carli currently performs, teaches and choreographs worldwide in multi-genre projects from folk to street dance, film to textiles, gallery installation to international stage musicals. Recent personal projects include a residency at ]performance space[ Folkestone, and Footfall (2018), a performance for the Draw To Perform festival, Brighton.
Dr Clair Le Couteur (1982, UK) is a non-binary trans research artist and singer, who recently completed their practice-based PhD – ‘The Fictive Museum’ – at the Royal College of Art, London. Recent projects include: Transportation Blues (2016), a live-looped folk song cycle at the Horse Hospital, London; Roots Between the Tides (2016), an a network installation of 144 images on long-term loan to Warrington Museum; essays for Gender Forum, Shades of Noir, and the Oxford Artistic Research platform. Clair teaches workshops on trans theory, research art and folk music at postgraduate level for institutions including Goldsmiths and Open School East.
LUNATRAKTORS, Empty Shop HQ, Durham / Sick Nature, Constable’s Studio, Brighton / LUNATRAKTORS, Vinyl Head Café, Ramsgate / LUNATRAKTORS, The Pumphouse, Aldeburgh Festival / Afternoon Tea, Chiara Williams Contemporary Art, Margate / Muckle Mouth, Horse Hospital Gallery, London / SWAN Women Artists Day, Swan Theatre, Prague / Daybreak, Peckham Asylum, London / Oral Rinse, Dalston Hive, London / LUNATRAKTORS, Tibet Open House, Prague / Trutnov Dance Festival, Czech Republic / Curious Couples, Looping the Loop Festival, Margate / Art is something much more dangerous, Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable / Profound Sound Festival, Folkestone / Fine Art Lecture Series, Goldsmiths College, London / Circus Cabaret, Fun Fatale Festival, Prague / Natur Blick, Koppel Project Hive, London / Screaming Alley Cabaret, Royal British Legion, Ramsgate / LUNATRAKTORS, Queen Charlotte, Ramsgate / Why do you never speak? Horsebridge Centre, Whitstable / Variety II, Dreamland, Margate / Margate Pride 2018 / FREE RANGE, Canterbury / Easycome, Skehan's, London / Elsewhere, Margate / Bar Wotever, RVT, London / Queer Voices, Gallery Cafe, London / Connect Nothing With Nothing, Stretch Gallery, Margate / LUNATRAKTORS, Rosslyn Court, Margate / Sonic Boom: Friday Late, V&A Museum, London / LUNATRAKTORS, JW3, London / LUNATRAKTORS vs Oscar Wilde, The Hot Tin, Faversham / This Is Broken Folk, Chapel Playhouse, London / Artist's Forum, London Bronze Casting, Squire & Partners, London / LUNATRAKTORS, Green Note, London / Trans-Folk NatureCultures, The Window, Paris / Lunatraktors, Cour:87, Nantes / TEDx Folkestone, Quarterhouse / The Breath, Alice Zawadski, Lunatraktors, Dalston Curve Garden, London / Leigh-on-Sea Folk Festival / Lunatraktors, Smugglers Café, Sandwich / Landing Place, Turner Contemporary, Margate / Folkestone Pride 2019 / Rainbow's End, Prague / Broadstairs Folk Week / Maui Waui Festival / Smugglers Festival /