“Don’t Enter!” – Folk First Edition
“If you are a false, don’t entry!” And if you are a false, do enter, because the only rule of this weekly section, in which we present you three short blurbs on music we are currently listening to, is that we are under no circumstance allowed to press the enter key. All of these little reviews shall thus consist of one paragraph only. The more this rule renders the blurb illegible, the more the writer has failed. Check back every Friday for a fresh haul of Don’t Enter.
In this first edition of Don’t Enter, we share our thoughts on 3 folk albums from different parts of Europe. Rest assured that not all folk has to be cheesy, and that the vocal range of good folk artists reaches far beyond the off-key semi-talking that seems to be all the rage among so many neofolk artists.
Krynitza – Во славу солнца (Hail the sun) | Russia, 2014
These days, I’m more excited when I unearth a good folk release than when I learn about a worthwhile metal band. It seems as if well-played, tasteful folk is a rare commodity, whereas passable metal is not hard to encounter. Hence why I jumped out of my chair when I came across Krynitza while browsing through Russian label Autodafé’s excellent online catalogue. Not only does this band know how to strike a more than decent balance between traditional music and modern arrangements, the musicians also execute their ideas with a high degree of professionality. Vo slavu solntsa contains some excellent instrumentation, with guitars, accordions, violins and even drums enriching the more traditional mouth harps, flutes and balalaikas. And fortunately, every musician knows how to handle his respective instrument(s) (which is not a given in folk by a long shot…). Still, the real attraction on of Vo slavu solntsa is the vocal performance. The singing of Rodoslav (who also played in Temnozor for a while) and Marja betrays at least some degree of classical training, and the way their glorious voices soar over the music with such determination and skill provides a more than welcome break from the introvert, off-key mumbling that most neofolk artists are guilty of. On a few occasions, the arrangements may not be entirely balanced in that they reveal too much of the songs’ rock roots: on “Za gorami…”, the basic E-G-C-A electric bass intro induces the fear that a mediocre RAC song is about to kick off, until the rest of the musicians mercifully guide this song into the direction of the embellished folk sound this ensemble excels at. Vo slavu solntsa is an accomplished album for those who are more into the ‘folk’ than the ‘metal’ part of bands such as Arkona and Temnozor. It may still sound a tad too ‘modern’ for traditionalist hardliners, but the point of folk is not to provide a carbon copy of what once was, but rather to use the means we have at our disposal to invoke forlorn glory and remind us who we really are. But more on that later… |Degtyarov
Falkenstein – Urdarbrunnen | Germany, 2008
In Falkenstein’s 2008 offering Urdarbrunnen we can find music that is as beautiful and refreshing as the azure spring water pouring into the mountain rock pool depicted on the cover. Released on the Steinklang Records sub-label (appropriately titled) Heimatfolk, this album is casually lumped in with other emerging neofolk acts however its style, substance and authenticity as a genuinely folkish piece of art puts it closer to the type of ‘heathen Volksmusik’ that we find in acts such as Forseti and aspects of Waldteufel. Sparkling warm acoustic guitars form satisfying chord progressions, with skin-frame drums, string arrangements, moogish keyboards and the occasional flute melody weaving amongst them. Other Falkenstein albums are more stripped down (i.e. Heiliger Wald and Die grosse Gottin), and the following album (Kraftort) takes the group to a more experimental area, however it is on Urdarbrunnen that we find the most masterful expression of Tobias’ vision for the project. Themes of German legend, folklore, customs and very genuine celebrations of the Germanic heathen worldview are expressed through unusually skilled musicianship and pure baritone vocal deliveries; stern without being overly serious, and most importantly bang on every note like an oaken arrow. It is not necessary to dissect each of the 14 songs, though the following pieces are of note for the purity of expression, reflecting the alps, meadows, forests and mountains amongst which Tobias lives: “Die Odaliske”, “Der Sonnwendmann”, “Blumentod”, “Walpurgisnacht”, “Heiliger Holunder” and the re-arrangement of “Weltenbaum” (originally present on the debut album Heiliger Wald). In a desert of sub-par neofolk and self professed ‘folkish’ artists, Falkenstein emerges like a sparkling pool, drawing deeply from the earth and nourishing all who drink from its depths. Urdarbrunnen is one of the most authentic representations of the heidnisch worldview, and like the woodlands and peaks it was birthed in it will repay repeated visits with balm for the modern anti-urban soul. |MDL
Lönndom – Viddernas tolv kapitel | Sweden, 2010
In Holland we have the phrase “to go and live in a cabin on the heath” to express our desire to leave the madness of everyday urban life behind and move to a place where we will be finally left the fuck alone. After all, a secluded existence in the wilds would teach us once more what is important in this life, and anyone who still has the audacity to try and bother us will have to wade through a swamp first. Try selling me a newspaper subscription with a mouthful of leeches, twatface. For those who can sympathise with the ideal of hermitic solitude, it should not be in the least bit surprising that said lifestyle stood at the basis of one of the greatest folk albums of the past 5 years. Lönndom‘s Viddernas tolv kapitel was crafted in the heart of the Swedish wilderness by duo Stefan Sandström and Andreas Petterson. Hailing from the country that brought us Stockholm syndrome and the manspreading non-controversy, it is easy to see why anyone from Svetopia would surround himself with endless forests in an attempt to keep any unwanted urbanised harpies at bay. Viddernas tolv kapitel is scenic, soothing, one with nature. Lönndom perform their songs with warmth and passion akin to a campfire session, embedding their harmonious vocals into the vast, stretched-out melodies. Typical poppy chorus-verse-rinse-repeat structures are all but absent; the compositions instead take a more liberal, meandering direction. Episodic song structures never cease to sway the album into new, unexpected directions, as long instrumental intervals regularly take the compositions off the beaten path. In the end, however, Lönndom always find back the mountain trail towards the summit of this enthralling journey. We learn that, in the Swedish outback, time is aplenty, and you will find your way as long as you stay true to yourself. A cabin on the heath, it is all I ask for. |Degtyarov
Banner image taken from Lönndom‘s Facebook page.
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