We’ve been looking forward all week to this review! Flaming June has just released her latest single, Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm. Released on 28 October 2022, Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm is a dark and brooding folk song that demands your attention.

We here at Send Me Your Ears are suckers for a good story, and the inspiration behind Flaming June’s new track grabbed us before we even listened to the song. Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm is a song based on an unsolved murder in Hagley Woods in Birmingham in 1941. Strange graffiti was seen following the gruesome discovery of a body in the hollow of a wych elm tree. It is the tale of
a group of birds nest poachers who, upon climbing an elm tree, found a human skull in the hollow trunk. The mystery was never solved, and Flaming June has taken inspiration from this gruesome tale to create the song asking “Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?”

With a quick breath in at the start, the song moves directly to the repeated line (who put Bella in the wych elm). The instruments and percussion follow the voice and it feels like an earnest plea.

With harmonies, bass, guitar and minimal percussion, the choruses are persistent and relentless. Like a toddler who needs to know the answer to a question. Who did put Bella in the wych elm?

This is a classic folk song – an interesting folklore story set to music. We commend Flaming June for the creativity here and the ability to create a song out of the most bizarre and grizzly of stories.

There’s a heavy electric guitar section that adds a touch of dystopia to the whole song. At one point the vocals have a lot of drive added to them, making them feel just a touch creepy and making the backdrop to the scene even more uncomfortable. The whispered “who put Bella in the wych elm” that moves from left to right in your ears is even more creepy and unnerving. This is a perfect track to release around Halloween and feels like the backdrop to a horror movie!

The urgency of the voices towards the end where they’re singing in a round, together with the violin picking out just the occasional discordant note, all add to some perfect nightmare-inducing scenes for your imagination to conjure up.

From a production perspective, the mix in this track sounds great and there are some heavy stereo elements too with some instruments and voices panned hard to the left or right. This sounds wonderful in stereo but on the occasions where it might be played in mono, perhaps over AM radio, a lot of the stereo parts, for example, some voices and guitars, will end up effectively deleting each other due to phase cancellation. It may be unlikely that the track will be played through a mono system but it may be something to look at. Also, we noticed that the acoustic guitar is resonating on the F so a careful surgical EQ cut at 172Hz will reduce that peak.

We absolutely loved the creativity of this track. Flaming June was a new name to us today at the Send Me Your Ears studio, but based on what we’ve just heard, we simply must hear more. Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm gets under your skin and will stick with you for days. The perfect recipe for a great folk song.