August 2014 Short Reviews (Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson, Immortal Bird, Kentin Jivek & Miro Snejdr, Wolves in the Throne Room)


Alas­dair Roberts & Robin Robertson - Hirta Songs (2013, Stone Tape)

Hirta Songs

This is a real treat for lov­ers of Scot­tish folk. A cycle of ori­ginal songs with a tra­di­tional feel, all situ­ated around the aban­doned island of Hirta. The songs range from fest­ive and upbeat to calm and con­tem­plat­ive, with a couple of gor­geous solo harp pieces thrown in. Center­piece is the ten-minute suite “Leav­ing St Kilda”, a psy­cho­geo­graphic spoken word piece that should set your heart beat­ing if you enjoyed other recent Hebridean art pieces such as the game Dear Esther and its soundtrack by Jes­sica Curry.

Immor­tal Bird Akrasia (2014, Self-released)

Akrasia

Metal releases don’t often sweep me away these days, but the début EP Akrasia by Chicago’s Immor­tal Bird most cer­tainly did. Four super-intense, high-energy black/death pieces that never relent. I sup­pose lots of the kudos should go to drummer/vocalist Rae Amitay, who does a stel­lar job in both roles. Abso­lute standout track is “Akratic Sem­inar”, a super-dark piece waver­ing between slow and fast, with hor­ri­fy­ing echoes of Dolorian in its melod­ies, at least to my ears. In short, it’s heavy, it’s intense, it’s smart, and I want more.

Kentin Jivek & Miro Sne­jdrVoir Dire (2014, Self-released)

Voir Dire

I’d been fol­low­ing Kentin Jivek’s slightly psy­che­delic neo­folk on-and-off for a while now, but this col­lab­or­a­tion with Miro Sne­jdr — who does drums, accor­dion, and piano — is a bull­seye. It’s misty, dreamy, with a cent­ral place for Jivek’s warm, hon­ey­ish French drawl, and very well arranged around songs that mix neo­folk with echoes from (European) pop and rock his­tory. The album is a bal­anced mix of ballad-like chan­sons (such as the wist­ful “Si un jour”) and more power­ful, beat-driven pieces (like “Comme une comète”).

Wolves in the Throne RoomCelestite (2014, Artemisia)

Celestite

Celestite starts famil­iar enough: a warm, organic heavy ambi­ent buildup with drones, horns and strings. But the black metal out­burst you expect never comes. This album is con­tent to linger in ambi­ent ter­rit­ory, and frankly I kind of prefer it that way after a couple of metal albums from the band. Their new synth/drone approach may per­haps be a tem­por­ary side­track, but it’s actu­ally damn good. The com­pos­i­tions flow strongly, often calm, but never let­ting go of the epic moments that fea­tured in their earlier works. It’s simply a very solid set of sound­scapes that weds a retro synth sound to organic gui­tar drones.