Lilo set their sights on a folklore of their own with life-affirming debut EP ‘Sleep Country’.

The stories on ‘Sleep Country’ feel as precious as an heirloom, except it’s one entrusted to you by your chosen family.

Photo: Matilda Hill-Jenkins | Words: Charlie Brown

After drip-feeding us single after single, lilo’s ‘Sleep Country’ is finally released in all its subtle glory. The EP which arrives via label Practice Music and feels as precious as an heirloom, except it’s one entrusted to you by your chosen family. Crafted by Helen Dixon and Christine Gardener alongside producer Joseph Futak, ‘Sleep Country’ invoked a sort of sentimentality in me, despite the fact I’d only been listening to it for a few weeks. Its best parts are annoyingly life-affirming, its worst parts are practically non-existent.

Lilo (take note: lower case l) was founded in Winchester when Dixon and Gardener met at school, they moved to the capital and have spent since summer 2020 piecing together what would become their debut EP ‘Sleep Country’, a collection of wistful folk for the 21st century. The range of emotions shown by the duo via their recordings (which includes contributions from members of fellow south London troubadours Snailbeach and Buggs) gives the EP a certain domesticity; as if you’re back home for the weekend, where doilies dampen drum skins and the organ’s on the mantlepiece. But don’t take that the wrong way and think ‘Sleep Country’ is ‘small’, it deals with hefty themes in beautiful ways, occupying the realm of folk-pop found on Laura Marling’s ‘Songs For Our Daughter’. Offering up stories of romantic boundaries (on ‘Change’) and the power of platonic love (on ‘Losing’), ‘Sleep Country’ as a whole is set to become legend amongst young folk songwriters to come.

Whether it’s the percussion-less ‘Scarecrow’ or the subtle synthesisers in ‘Beach (Real Love)’, Futak’s production underlines the maturity of lilo’s songwriting, offering no more and no less than each song requires. Highlight ‘Scarecrow’ is anything but brainless, the vocals effortlessly interweave before you as you try to make sense of the lyrics, knowing there’s a golden meaning within but are unable to find it. Before long we come to ‘Somekind’, which begins as Aldous Harding’s ‘Weight of the Planets’ in a different font, before amalgamating all the different shades of relief into a kaleidoscope of lap-steel trimmed sound.