Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

James Wells

You’ll always find black metallers and pagan neofolkers in the woods. I don’t mean that whenever I go for a walk in woods near me that I happen upon people in cloaks and corpse paint lumbering around clutching instruments, but how often do you see a video where they’re exploring scenes of urban squalor or even indoors? Do you think any of them would last a winter out there – or even a night? Could they construct a shelter, do you think? Could they light a fire, or spear some wild creature to feed themselves, in those threads?

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I’d wager not, but Canadian trio Hem Netjer seem more the type to venture into the woods to commune with nature than to live as part of it, and the video captures them meditative contemplative, cross-legged on a large rock.

The last single from their forthcoming debut album, The Song Of Trees, scheduled for release at the end of February 2023, ‘Elemental Cry’ is dark yet somehow celebratory, with dense synths swirling about a thumping tribal beat and overlaid with tense strings and a soaring vocal performance.

The atmosphere is thick and murky, the production favouring the lower and mid-ranged that give the track an earthy feel, and it’s bold and cinematic and it doesn’t really matter if some of it feels a shade cliché with its lyrics about death and trees and moths, because it’s a ‘big’ tune in every way, not just the fact it’s almost six minutes long, and RavenRissy’s vocals are more operatic than folk, and are outstanding and send a shiver down the spine.

A strong song with a strong message, ‘Elemental Cry’ is pretty powerful work that reaches the primal depths of the psyche and speaks to senses long lost in the name of ‘progress’.

Cruel Nature Records – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems I’ve blinked and missed a while slew of releases from Ontario experimentalist Clara Engel since writing about Hatching Under the Stars in the spring of 2020. Then again, the spring of 2020 doesn’t so much feel like a lifetime ago, as much as it does another life. Released on 5th April 2020, we were only just over a week into the first lockdown here in England, and we had no sense of what was to come.

As the blurb outlines, the album was ‘recorded entirely at home / solo’ and ‘Their Invisible Hands presents 13 tracks of subtle dream-like beauty… A mystical work, mixing classical and dark folk wanderings with misty soundscapes, which creates an abstract, new world atmosphere.’ Self-released in April digitally and on CD, Cruel Nature are giving it a cassette release.

In a way, returning to Clara’s work now is a powerful, and grounding experience. What has happened in the space between? Everything…and nothing. As they explain in the accompanying text, replicated on their Bandcamp, “I’m not writing the same song over and over so much as writing one long continuous song that will end when I die.”

If the last couple of years or so have reminded us of anything, it’s our mortality. And the sound of Their Invisible Hands is both spiritual and earthy. To unpack that, the sparse instrumentation, which consists predominantly of creening woodwind, chiming, picked strings, and hand percussion, has a simple, primitive aspect to it, and the slow, rhythmic undulations are attuned to elements of nature, as grounded as the act of breathing. ‘Dead Tree March’ is exemplary, a long, expansive drone that pulses in and out, repetitively, hypnotically, a sparse guide to a meditation.

Engel’s vocals, meanwhile, are ethereal and other-worldly, with a primal folk leaning that moves effortlessly between narrative and incantation, both of which tap into that subconscious part of the mind that it seems only music and nature can reach.

These themes of nature and of the ancient, of thoughts and tales lost in time, are constants in Engel’s work, giving credence to their comment about writing one long continuous song. In this context, it’s easy to see their entire catalogue as an interrogation and exploration of a quite specific field. Engel’s world is one full of magic and mystery, cryptids and magic beans and magnificent birds which sing. These songs are steeped in atmosphere and wonderment.

‘Ginko’s Blues’ is perhaps the most overtly classical piece on the album, a sparse composition led by picked acoustic guitar that calls to mind a stretched, dispersed rendition of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, as it’s slowly dragged into a sea of scratched strings and gauze-like reverb.

Dissecting Their Invisible Hands too hard is to misunderstand its nature. It’s not an album to pick apart for the various elements, or even to comprehend its structures, origins, or meanings: any attempt to do so is to demystify its resonance. ‘It’s all fun and games ‘till somebody shows you their heart.. on a platter on a stake on a riverbed rusted…’ they sing on ‘High Alien Priest’. The metaphorical and the literal blur unsettlingly.

You shiver and find yourself mute as Engel leads you through an array of evocative soundscapes. All you can do is let go, and to explore them.

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They say all good things arrive in threes, and the third single to be cut from Addie’s upcoming album ‘That Dog Don’t Hunt’ (out 25 November, via Itza Records) is a prime example.

A song that dwells upon the laws of the ultimate numbers game, “The First Odd Prime” finds Addie reflecting on Fibonacci’s revolutionary sequence, and the natural order of things. As Addie explains: “This is about compassion, as seen through the lens of Nature, The Golden Ratio, Fibonacci Numbers, with the fairy dust of the Charles Laughton film, Night of The Hunter, thrown in for colour.”

Chiming with the themes of “odd primes, the Golden Mean, rescue and homecoming” expressed in the song, the new single arrives with a mesmeric official video that finds the numerical and the natural artfully intersecting with one another. Directed by Andy Alston (Del Amitri) and co-edited with Addie Brik, the live footage was captured outside Addie’s home in  Scotland, with additional film clips provided by Glenn Lewis (Mick Harvey, Cambodian Space Project).

Featuring a stellar cast of guest players, “The First Odd Prime”’s thunderous rhythms come courtesy of Simple Minds’ Jim McDermott on Drums, with Glenn Lewis (guitars) and Nick Blythe (bass) adding to its swirling maelstrom of sounds. US star N’dea Davenport (Brand New Heavies, Malcolm McClaren) also contributes her vocals to its hypnotic chorus hooks.

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Following recent singles including, the slow-burning ‘Retromingent’ and folk-tinted ‘Gearless’, ‘The First Odd Prime’ is the latest excerpt to be taken from Addie Brik’s upcoming studio album That Dog Don’t Hunt (out 25 November, via Itza Records).

The Georgia-born, Scottish-based artist’s first release since 2018’s acclaimed ‘I Have A Doctor On Board’, Addie’s new album documents the decline of Western society and culture, tells of the vilification of truth-sayers and whistleblowers, and derides the corrosion of free thought and the tide of dissolution our human liberties face in the 21st Century. Speaking about the album, Addie says: “I think Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato… the ancient Greeks blazed a very wise trail with the Golden Mean that influenced the best of what the West has achieved. The Golden Mean can right matters, which have gone too much in one direction, like betrayal or corruption; it’s about symmetry as opposed to chaos. The US Constitution, an inspired 4-page document, is still completely revolutionary. It states that man has unalienable rights, these rights are from Divine Authority and not from the State. It was written for ‘The one dissenting voice’. Whether it be society, music, architecture or education, the overarching thought should be: is it true, is it good, is it beautiful?”.

With its initial sessions arranged by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, the album was recorded between Fernando Vacas’ private studio in Córdoba and her current base in Scotland during lockdown. Featuring appearances from Scottish talents including Deacon Blue’s Jim Prime (who also happens to be Addie’s neighbour), Alex Rex of Trembling Bells, Robbie MacIntosh (Paul McCartney / The Pretenders), Jim McDermott (Simple Minds / The Silencers) and The Scottish National Youth Choir; it also features contributions from further afield musicians including Glenn Lewis (who added guitars from Melbourne), plus engineering from Bob Coke and bassist Stephen Harrison from Bob’s studio in Paris. Writing retreats on the Isle of Skye with resident artist Doc Livingston (Kings of Kaakon / Uncle Rocket) would also feed into the record’s inherent sense of spaciousness and quiet contemplation.

Produced by Addie Brik, it was mixed jointly by Tufty, Paul Stacey and Pierre Marchand, with additional mixing and Mastering by Mark Beazley (Itza Records).

Purposeful and powerful, ‘That Dog Don’t Hunt’ is a record that burns with a luminescent ambition and a calescent political intent delivered by an artist at the top of her game.

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gk. rec. – 13th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Since taking control of his own release schedule – in addition to various releases via various labels – Gintas K’s output has shifted from rivulets to cascades, with this nature-themed album being just one among countless releases, live performances, exhibitions. soundtrack and compilation appearances so far this year, and, not least of all, Lėti in May, released on venerable experimental label Crónica.

There’s little explanation behind Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades, beyond a selection of quotes from HP Lovecraft and the detail that the album’s six pieces were ‘played, recorded live, at once without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller’ in 2020, and one suspects Gintas has a hard drive bursting with such recordings just waiting to be edited and mastered to form unified documents of his tireless output.

The first five pieces form the larger work that sits under the album’s overarching title, numbered one to five. They’re sparse, minimal, echo-heavy, like wandering around in a vast cavern while droplets fall into the subterranean lake that occupies the bottom, and who knows how deep it may be, how many tunnels are filled with millions of gallons of water that have run down through the ground and into this naturally-carved warren of rock-lined corridors beneath the ground.

In places, barely perceptible glimmers of sound, like bat sonar, jangle in the upper reaches of the audio spectrum. I’m reminded of the cat repellent device in my back yard, and I wonder if to some, these passages would actually appear as silence – or if for others, like my ten-year-old daughter, they would find the pitch unbearable and have to run from the room covering their ears. Quiet gurgles and trickles are the primary sounds on ‘Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades #3’ and I find myself feeling altogether calmer, picturing myself in a pine woodland with steep banks. I picture in my mind’s eye local scenery like Aysgarth Falls and Ingleton Falls and find myself at ease – but this being Gintas K, there’s disruption afoot, and blips and squelches zap in seemingly at random to remind us that this is digital art, and the fourteen-minute ‘#4’ marks the full transition into digital froth and sluices of laptop-generated foam.

And so it trickles into ‘#5’ which brings more bleeps and blips and jangling and some high-pitched rattling that for some reason makes me think of seeing footage of milk bottling plants in the 80s – back when milk came in glass bottles, and I trip on this trajectory of nostalgic reverie until the arrival oof the unsettling final track, the eight-minute ‘eastern bells’ that’s a slowed-down yawn of sound, metallic reverberations ringing out into the silence, echoing in the dark emptiness in ebbs and flows, like a conglomeration of sounds, drifting in a breeze.

Mountains, runlets, caves & cascades is a supremely abstract work, and while it’s not a huge departure for Gintas K, it does represent one of his softer, gentler, sparser and less frenetic works. It’s by no means an album to mediate to. But it is overall fairly sedate, and it not only allows, but encourages a certain quiet reflection.

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Arriving as a third and final glimpse into their upcoming sophomore album,  Wylderness have unleashed a scintillating new shoegaze cut, ‘Chet Chat’. 

Boasting their knack for creating sprawling soundscapes and deeply textured instrumentals, Wylderness’ latest offering arrives as the band gear up to release their long-awaited second album Big Plans For A Blue World (out 15th July, via Succulent Recordings).

Written when Marz of Wylderness experienced the full, frightening force of an earthquake while on a trip to Greece some years ago, the new track finds the singer and guitarist reflecting on what was a life-changing event and seeking to emulate the force of nature that reverberated through him that day. As Marz remembers:

“I was on the balcony of an apartment in Athens writing lyrics for this song when all of a sudden there was this enormous roar and the building started shaking. The earthquake lasted about 15 seconds but seemed like it went on forever. Everyone was fine thankfully and I wanted to write something about what had happened, but not make it too obvious and clunky, so it ended up being a bit cryptic.”

Echoing the raw sonic energy of a tectonic shift, ‘Chet Chat’ ripples like an agitated seismic wave impacting the earth’s surface. From its sparse and seemingly tranquil beginnings, the track builds towards an immense crescendo as towering electric guitars, warped organ grindings and distorted rhythmic pulses stretch-out into a six-minute shoegaze epic that evokes the likes of DIIV, Spacemen 3 or Sonic Youth at their climactic heights.

Recorded at Giant Wafer Studios on a farm in rural Wales, and with wonky organ sounds added in by producer Rory Atwell, the enigmatic new track sees Wylderness further find themselves in their sound as they deftly forge their own cataclysmic and confident path on their second studio outing.

Check the slow-burning ‘Chet Chat’ here:

 

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In the magical volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, Jana Irmert found images for the ideas, moods and feelings that fueled the work on the tracks of What Happens At Night: For me this release is a window through which I could express my thoughts and feelings about our planet in turmoil. Starting out from a point of hopelessness, my fascination with travelling into Deep Time and learning about geologic ages grew. After all, what will be left of us will only be a delicate layer in the rock.“

‘Stratum’, named after the word used in geology for a single layer of sediment, attempts to dissolve time and space, merging the abstract and the concrete. The volcanic landscapes, which are very young from a geological perspective, thereby become a place where human existence plays only a marginal role.

Watch the video here:

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DROTT have released hypnotic new single and video ‘Arch of Gloom’. The song can now be streamed/downloaded on all platforms . The video was directed and edited by Jens Kristian Rimau.

The band comments on ‘Arch of Gloom’: “At the end of a dark and bouncy road lies the Arch of Gloom. Through persistent bass and drums, Arch of Gloom is driven to the point of desperate collapse by a haunting guitar solo. Mesmerizing in its mystical attraction, it hypnotizes desperate souls into a surrealistic dance before they are lured down the abyss to face the verdict of Orcus.”

DROTT is comprised of Arve Isdal (Enslaved), Ivar Thormodsæter (Ulver) and Matias Monsen and hails from Bergen in the west coast of Norway. With their varied musical background ranging from metal and jazz to classical music, they create the genre which can only be described as DROTT. Inspired by forces of nature, superstition and spirituality the trio explores light within darkness through their music. 

The group, recently established (2020), released their self-titled EP in March 2021 and received great reviews. It established the Drott’s instrumental Progressive Rock sound as a breath of fresh air in the genre! Their first full-length Orcus album takes Drott in a new creative and artistic direction. With 10 tracks they dive deeper into sonic, experimental landscapes!

Check the video here:

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Pic: Jens Kristian Rimau

Fabrique Records – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Berlin-based composer and sound artist Jana Irmert has approached her third album for Fabrique with a view to exploring the way in which sounds have a certain sensory aspect. There’s a way in which music touches us, not just aurally, nor emotionally: some music you really do feel. Beyond music at the louder, harsher end of the spectrum – be it electronic or more conventional in its instrumentation, this is something that is perhaps more common to experimental forms, where contrasting sounds and the shapes and textures of those sounds are more the focus than the unity of a collection of instruments for create ‘songs’.

Articulating how music makes you feel is one challenge, but articulating how music itself feels – or moreover, how the sounds themselves feel – is an immense challenge. Because writing, like any other art, can often reveal its authors limitations, however well they’re working. Every artist has their own personal limitation. Francis Bacon was unable to paint feet, for example. The greatest limitation is invariably the disparity between concept and execution, and often, for musicians, it’s articulating the sound in their head using actual instruments – or, if not articulating the sound, conveying complex emotions through the medium of sound.

Jana Irmert’s challenge here was to render one sensation through another. “I felt I wanted to get closer to the sounds, feel their structure and surface and how they contrast each other,” she says. And, during the process, her recordings yielded some quite unexpected results: “It turned out the processed sounds resulting from hard materials would often have soft and tonal qualities whereas those made from ‘soft’ materials like water or air would ultimately be of percussive or harsh and noisy character.”

The opening bars of the first piece, ‘Lament’, are unexpectedly dense and heavy, a rugged, grainy tone that grinds from the speakers before slowly tapering down to something rather more tranquil, yet draped with the weight of melancholy. Moving into ‘Against Light’, Irmert creates a much more upbeat ambience, a shimmering, shuffling stuttering of sound, and it’s gentle, but not entirely calming or comforting, like being stuck in a tractor beam, a glitching loop that affords no forward trajectory.

With the sounds of the sea, the title track initially seems like it will fulfil the description, offering something soft, soothing, immersive. But as layers build, darker sounds clunk and rumble and loom and lurk in thickening shadows.

There is a certain sense of progression over the course of the eight compositions, with more percussive sounds coming increasingly to the fore. In doing so, the album gradually moves from intangible to something altogether more substantial, its physicality developing an almost corporeal tangibility.

Listening to The Soft Bit, one feel as though one is somehow in nature, and surrounded by nature, from the clouds, and the air – invisible, yet capable of substantial force when moving as a wind – to solid objects – stones, trees, the ground beneath the feet. Listen, inhale it all in, and feel it flow.

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10th September 2018

James Wells

Sweden’s Noemie Nours promises ‘All-ages slo-fi lullabies, supporting a non ideological, vegan and drug-free lifestyle,’ and all of the proceeds from digital sales this, her third LP, will be donated to the charity Orphaned Wildlife. Such selfless acts are increasingly rare in a (rapidly changing) climate dominated by Brexit and right-wing, hardline capitalist ideology, while we still feel the repercussions of the last economic downturn which followed the sub-prime housing crisis of 2008-2009. For an artist to make art for the greater good rather than for gain is admirable, and Noemie Nours has made it her mission to do whatever she can to save the bears. Bears are her thing. As is slightly off-kilter folk music. And I’m not going to mock.

Following on from debut single ‘The Life of Bears’ and album Bear Meditations, her love of bears remains undiminished with As a Beare Doth Her Whelps.

The album’s seven songs are primarily constructed around picked acoustic guitar and vocals, and if the titles betray the thematic leanings of the lyrics or musical intent (‘Bearsplaining’, ‘Den’, ‘Brought into a Wilderness’, ‘Ursa Minor Forest’), there’s also something of a sparse primitivism about the songs, too. There’s an innocence and openness about Noemie Nours’ music that’s refreshing and utterly charming, while occasional passages of jagged fretwork and melodies which wander off the path of conventional key and notation are very much part of the appeal.

With its sparse arrangements, slow tempos, and overt lack of complication, you might say that it’s an album that’s very much about the ‘bear’ necessities.

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Noemie Nours – As a Bear Doth Her Whelps