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 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.