March 2011 Short Reviews (Kentin Jivek, The Joy of Nature, Moongazing Hare, Parhelion)


Kentin Jivek - Ode to Marmæle [MySpace]

Ode to Marmæle

Kentin Jivek is an upcom­ing French neo­folk artist who has sev­eral online releases to his name. Ode to Marmæle is the most recent example, and a fine selec­tion of four­teen tracks. Imme­di­ately strik­ing about the album as a whole is the fine pro­duc­tion, the diversity of lan­guages, pre­dom­in­antly French, Eng­lish and Span­ish, and a var­ied, rich, and at times exper­i­mental instru­ment­a­tion and com­pos­i­tion. Styl­istic staples from neo­folk com­bine excel­lently with influ­ences from more tra­di­tional folk and clas­sical gui­tar music. Some standout tracks are the almost ambi­ent “Le Moine” which has a beau­ti­ful gui­tar sound and whispered vocals, the rock­ing “Et Vogue la Verve”, and the dark ori­ental instru­mental “L’Effet Pan­de­monium”. A point of cri­ti­cism might be that I’m not fond of the vocals in some places, like “Arsgang” and “Pink Clouds”. For me, the softer vocals in French and Span­ish work bet­ter. As an album, per­haps Ode to Marmæle also lacks a bit of coher­ence, but this is com­pensated for amply by a num­ber of excel­lent indi­vidual tracks. Alto­gether, we are deal­ing with an enjoy­able album by an upcom­ing tal­ent in exper­i­mental neo­folk, and one that man­ages to blend the feel of dif­fer­ent areas of European folk music in a great way.

The Joy of Nature - A Evasão das Fadas [dis­cogs] & The Dream of the Empty Circle [dis­cogs]

A Evasão das Fadas

To fill up the gap between the second and third instal­ments of The Empty Circle Tri­logy, Luís Couto col­lec­ted some unused mater­ial on these two lim­ited releases. A Evasão das Fadas was released on Lurker’s Path, and it con­tains ten tracks show­cas­ing more of the won­der­ful dreamy neo­folk I have come to expect from the pro­ject. As always, vari­ous string instru­ments provide most of the melody, com­bined with flute, soft per­cus­sions and bass, and dif­fer­ing types of vocals. The end res­ult is once more a very unique sound, that retains its links to other altern­at­ive folk, but provid­ing a very own ori­ginal voice. No tracks really stand out as par­tic­u­larly mem­or­able, but together they do form a very pleas­ant con­tinuum of relaxed song and more ambi­ent moods with exper­i­mental and noisy sec­tions. This album doesn’t really offer that much that the main and earlier albums don’t con­tain, but it is nev­er­the­less a recom­men­ded pur­chase for those who have been fol­low­ing the pro­ject act­ively.

The Dream of the Empty Circle

The same goes for The Dream of the Empty Circle, which is a col­lec­tion of out­takes from the vari­ous record­ing ses­sions that some­how didn’t fit into the albums in their final form. The first two tracks are calm­ing psy­che­delic and dreamy songs, flow­ing along as the “Lady of the Flow­ing Waters” and “Lady of the River” in their titles. “Imper­man­ence” has a more exper­i­mental sound, with back­ground chant­ing and slightly dis­tor­ted violin work, a bit remin­is­cent of Matt Howden’s style. Another nice exper­i­mental track is “Zrcadlo”, with its noisy, misty gui­tars and deep per­cus­sion. The two fol­low­ing tracks ven­ture into the more melodic and folky ter­rit­ory once more, with “Shad­ows of Our Ancest­ors” con­tain­ing some reworked ele­ments from the second The Empty Circle album. The final two tracks are more ambi­ent and exper­i­mental once more, the most prom­in­ent and enjoy­able ele­ments being some quirky cat samples in the first, and the samples of medi­aeval devo­tional music - I think I hear “Mariam Matrem” there - in the final track. The con­clu­sion here is sim­ilar to the one above, some very nice mater­ial here that might not be as inter­est­ing as one of the reg­u­lar albums, but surely worth your time if you enjoy The Joy of Nature or exper­i­mental ambi­ent and folk in gen­eral.

Moongaz­ing Hare - Mare­halm [band­camp]

Mare­halm

Mare­halm is one of the 2010 releases of Dan­ish exper­i­mental folk pro­ject Moongaz­ing Hare, led by David Folk­mann Drost. Through­out this release, there is a highly var­ied and pleas­ant mix­ture of instru­mental ambi­ent and exper­i­mental elec­tron­ica pieces, along with tra­di­tional folk songs and some own song­writ­ing as well. The first two tracks fall into the first cat­egory, build­ing up atmo­spheres with layered effects and elec­tronic melod­ies, and also leav­ing place for some slightly dis­tor­ted acous­tic instru­ments and elec­tronic rhythms. After this, we enter psy­che­delic folk ter­rit­or­ies with spacey melod­ies and female vocals cour­tesy of David’s wife Hiro on “Everything is Holy Brown”. The beau­ti­ful “Breathe Again” com­bines David’s own vocals with the rhythmic elec­tron­ica heard earlier. The fur­ther tracks fea­ture more of David’s beau­ti­ful calm­ing vocals, as well as a sim­ilar mix of ele­ments as in the first half of the album. Final high­light is a beau­ti­ful a capella rendi­tion of “The Snow it Melts the Soon­est”, seem­ingly straight from their liv­ing room. Lots to love here for those into exper­i­mental folk, and I hope Moongaz­ing Hare will have the oppor­tun­ity to release some of their mater­ial on a phys­ical format. So far the only way to get this album is through band­camp [see above], though very reas­on­ably priced. I for one will cer­tainly be keep­ing an eye on this pro­ject.

Par­he­lion - Mid­night Sun [dis­cogs]

Mid­night Sun

Cana­dian Par­he­lion (the sci­en­ti­fic term for Sun Dog) is one of the latest addi­tions to the Cyc­lic Law roster. With that info in mind, it should come as little sur­prise that the album Mid­night Sun is full of dark ambi­ences and gla­cial atmo­spheres. Par­he­lion com­bines the stand­ard use of synth pads with waves of dron­ing gui­tars, not too harsh, but just enough to add very pleas­ant levels of tex­ture here and there. In gen­eral, the aqueous and flow­ing atmo­sphere of this album is very pleas­ant, and there are a couple of tracks that really stand out as beau­ti­ful, exten­ded aural jour­neys, such as “Med­it­a­tion Over Open Waters”, “A Lament for Whales” and par­tic­u­larly the stun­ning clos­ing track “Solitude”. As a whole, though, the album can feel a bit long at times, at least to attent­ively listen to, and it doesn’t really add any­thing new to a well estab­lished style such as this. Beau­ti­ful pro­duc­tion val­ues and unob­trus­ive  com­pos­i­tions do make this a very pleas­ant listen with a couple of def­in­ite high­lights, but it is only really inter­est­ing for the true fans of the Cyc­lic Law style.