There’s no huge audience for folk music. Not when we start talking about real, authentic folk music. Sure, we’ll love a bit of Wardruna thanks to the epic Vikings series. The Hollywood experience leaves the music in itself is largely misunderstood though. That’s a massive shame because people miss out on groups that really bring it the way the gentlemen from Byrdi do on their latest album Ansur: Urkraft.
Byrdi has been around for a bit now and this is the follow-up to their debut album Eventyr. On this record, they go deeper though, more intimate and personally they approach heathen folk of the forgotten ages. Digging deep into northern history and mysticism, the group produces an album that really fascinates and tantalizes the listener on a primal level.
Though its title may be funny, the harmonious singing on ‘Blaanane blaa’ serves as a gateway into the realm where Byrdi operates. Tempered, tribal drumming comes up in the background. While minimal, it’s effect is so heavy with the rumbling in your gut. The music doesn’t need any heaviness or density. The full, warm sound and smooth production allow for an optimal expression with just simple instruments and vocals. Sometimes that can sound a bit more boisterous and manly, like ‘Myrpesten’. At other times they sound intimate and melancholic, like on the visceral ‘Celebrata’. The bass tones and eerie atmosphere takes you away.
One thing that I find surprising is how easily the mood and emotions change with the songs of Byrdi. The directness of the songs really goes straight to something inside you, tugging the heartstrings so to say and evoking images of more archetype-like experiences. The way the gentle guitar picking on ‘Ren’ focuses the attention is just magical. When the vocals come in, you’re already in a trance-like state mentally. Byrdi has made an album that puts you in the heart of the forest, in the shadow of mountains and the cold stream of a river. The magic that inspired our forefathers to make their earliest folk art and songs. This record is pure magic.
So here we go again with a series of brief book reviews. This time we have JackKerouac, Herman Melville, Alex Honnold & DavidRoberts and Andrea Wulf on the shelves. A series of brave, bold books
Jack Kerouac – The Dharma Bums
Though Kerouac is mostly known for his ‘On The Road’. I personally felt more attracted to ‘The Dharma Bums’. Anyone with a love for rock climbing and hiking has to read it apparently. I think it would be good for anyone to read about a cleaner, greener America where there still was hope for a rucksack revolution. Replace America with a European state and the same story makes sense. The protagonist of this story is the Kerouac alter-ego, Ray Smith. Smith is a bum most of the time, traveling around with other poet friends, spreading the word of Buddha and trying to find enlightenment in a world that is rapidly changing into convenience, commodities, and capital-driven. It’s the last attempt at finding beauty in the untarnished nature and simple pleasures that life offers.
To me, most of the book revolves around the climb of a specific mountain, named the Matterhorn Peak in Yosemite. The ascent and descent of the mountain seem to form the pinnacle of the story. Here Smith finds absolute beauty and spiritual joy in the climbing and hiking. The simplicity of it all is the message and the book travels on like the descent is everything that comes after, just as everything before was part of the ascent. It’s at the peak where we find joy, where we are closest to the gods. The original intent behind this book might have passed me by. Regardless, I believe in the rucksack revolution. I believe that we all should pack our bags and travel into nature, into the wild now and then to find our true selves and the simple beauty that is life. That to me tells that this book can still bring that spirituality to readers far in the future.
Alex Honnold en David Roberts – Alone on the Wall
Alex Honnold has become something of a legend in recent years for free-soloing mountainsides. Free-soloing means going up there without a rope, just with climbing shoes and a chalk bag. That’s some hardcore stuff, so reading his first book is well worth your time regardless if you love climbing, know about climbing or are just fascinated. Though hardly a biography, the book offers a glimpse into the mind of a man who climbs with the ultimate risk and still earned the nickname Alex ‘No Big Deal’ Honnold. The book follows him through a series of expeditions and extreme climbs that were undertaken during his career.
We get a glimpse into the person that is Honnold, from his own perspective and from people around him. It’s weird that Roberts manages to pull out a lot of really personal stuff out of the climber. An example is Honnold’s relationship in the past that seems to really have been an emotional rollercoaster at times, without every bearing the man’s soul to the world. The explanation is simple. Honnold, like an artist, shows his soul when he climbs the big walls. When he speaks of climbing it’s not super exciting, it’s his action that is that of a true poet and monk at the same time. The spirituality of climbing you glance from his eyes in some of the videos and interviews, but rarely from his words and that is perfectly fine.
Herman Melville – Bartleby the Scrivener
“I prefer not to” is what Bartleby responds to his boss and benefactor when he is asked to review his work. Bartleby is a scrivener, basically a copyist in the era when duplication of documents was work by hand. The simple, though not forceful, negation holds a message for today. Melville wrote this in protest, in frustration about the lack of success of his writing, but it’s that voice of dissent that still rings true today. I read this on the airplane, coming home to a situation I was not entirely happy within the work sphere. The simple story in this book felt strangely powerful.
So Bartleby refuses to do work that doesn’t appear to him. He starts negating more and more and protests in an almost Buddhist-like non-action way. This inevitably leads to his death in the end of this strange story. The simple words keep ringing: “I prefer not to”. Melville wrote a story worth reading, even if only consisting of 50 pages. It has a power of its own, like any good short story and should be read more widely.
Andrea Wulf – The Invention of Nature
It is a strange thing, the way time obscures certain people. Andrea Wulf illuminates the figure of Alexander Von Humboldt in this biography, an explorer, scientist and thinker of the 18th and 19th century with a profound effect on the way we think and look at nature. Wulf names him in the title already the forgotten hero of science and nothing seems to fit better than this. The book follows the life of Von Humboldt in all its imperfections, creating storylines that sometimes overlap and revisit each other. It reads like one of those adventure novels I loved to read when I was a little boy and Von Humboldt soon becomes your hero when you’re reading these pages. Through it all, the figure takes shape and form and becomes real to the reader.
But Wulf does more than just telling the story. She also explores the how and why of Von Humboldt’s emission from our history books took place. After connecting his work and influence to some of the most pivotal thinkers of their time, from Charles Darwin to Símon Bolivar, she explains that part. Germany has lost a lot of popularity due to the two world wars in the 20th century and this simply lead to omitting the German from street signs, libraries and the like. Only in South-America, his name seems to be as revered as it was back in the day. This is a huge shame, but it is the way of things. Thanks to Andrea Wulf this great man of the sciences, arts and the inventor of nature as we know it now has the biography that brings him back to us.
Label: Avantgarde Music Band: Botanist Origin: United States / The Verdant Realm
Harmonious collective in the Verdant realm of Botanist
The group Botanist really functions as a group on this brand new album, which feels very different to their earlier efforts. A year after the split with Oskoreien, we step away from the numbered series of albums to create something new in the form of Collective: The Shape of He to Come.
Though Botanist is currently touring (and I’ll be seeing them play in a week in Eindhoven’s very own Dynamo), they will not be playing songs from this record, because the band is not the same as the one that made this record. Particularly the singing of Bezaelith is key to these songs, but she’s not touring with the band.
On this record, Otrebor has shared writing responsibilities with the other members. This makes the album a more layered construction, with new aspects and more of a complete vibe. When an album is created by a solo-artist, it somehow always has a little bit of that solitary vision in its execution. The album has more now, more musicality, more wanderings down untrodden garden paths… It’s an exciting, fresh new sound. If you like to read more about that process, which so clearly shapes the sound, read about it here.
The sound of that hammered dulcimer completely enthralls me. The hitting feels firm, but also mellow to the ear, taking off the sharp edge of black metal riffing. Botanist sounds unique because of that. It can create heavy, percussive black metal, but obviously also classical sounding, melancholic music. That is immediately clear on opener ‘Praise Azalea the Adversary’, with its gentle intro. The gentle, shivery vocals on the first part of ‘The Shape of He to Come’ also are so different, but filled with the fragile beauty of nature in its very own way.
The music blossoms as one could say, slowly unfolding. Tones grow together like an unkept garden, they merge together and weave green tapestries of sound with that mournful singing in harmony. A great example is ‘Upon Veltheim’s Throne Shall I Wait’, where everything gathers in a steady stream.
So there’s always a lot of subtlety to the music of Botanist, it doesn’t hit you in the face with force, but overgrows you gradually. Subtle bass loops, spun out soundscapes, this record lacks every aspect of brutality and that is in fact perfectly fine. On ‘Join the Continuum’ there’s even some straight up folk music, with ladies chanting melancholic, yearning words. Most imposing track is the epic ‘The Reconciliation of Nature and Man’. An epic, rumbling track, where the percussionist elements really are the source of the feeling in your gut. Everything about this record just oozes that different method and plan behind it. Otrebor definitely holds it close to the tradition of Botanist, but this record explores new sounds and expressions. It’s a great trip and I am really looking forward to hearing this live.
Label: Seasons of Mist Band: Der Weg Einer Freiheit Label: Seasons of Mist
Goodbye, Cruel World with Der Weg Einer Freiheit
Der Weg Einer Freiheit offers the world a new taste of their dominating black metal skills with ‘Finisterre’. Only two years after ‘Stellar’ the group from Würzburg is back with an absolute gem. The solid core of the band is still Nikita Kamprad, but with some member changes, it seems that the group is gently shifting direction.
Though the sound seems to evolve in the expected trajectory, the album art is different on this record. For the first time, we see some more traditional black metal symbols adorning the cover of ‘Finisterre’. In one interview, Kamprad proclaimed that this record is their goodbye to the world as we know it. A line in the sand, a point of saying that we have to start over instead of continuing along this line.
I’ve written about Der Weg Einer Freiheit before on this site. I have to admit that I find both listening to and writing about this band daunting. Not because I think there is anything obstructive, I just think that they’re that good. There’s something so immense to the sound of these Germans. Listen to opener ‘Aufbruch’ with is monumental drum work and eerie, out of space guitars. Launching into a ferocious machine gun drum roll at the end the song finishes in a majestic show of force.
As said, ‘Stellar’ was much more spiritual, so ‘Finisterre’ brings us back to the ground. The sound of the album is much more earthy, solid and strong. A mixture between Endstille and Wolves in the Throne room would be a fitting way to describe this band, but it lacks the nuances to fully embrace them. It is telling on a track like ‘Ein letzter Tanz’, where the mournful melody merges with the sheer inferno of a scouring verdict, of our times as the nadir of civilization. Never afraid to implement lessons from modern black metal, a calm, soothing break occurs as well after which the abyss fully opens seven minutes into the song.
As if that was not severe enough, the two part ‘Skepsis’ follows with a climactic explosion. The sound sweeps you along in all its dramatic splendor, only to be repeated one more time on the finalizing title track. There’s hints to the more melodic, blackgaze or post-black metal sound here and there, which is perfectly fine. The music needs to convey grief. The sound truly holds a sense of finiteness. Slowly the cavernous riffing fades away into nothingness.
Label: Independent Band: Laiva Origin: United States
The waves, the sea, the Balts
I came across this band from Seattle, because they use Latvian titles and themes for their shoegaze. Maybe a connection exists, but information is scarce on this group. What I can tell you is that they make great music. Music that overwhelms you with its calm cadence and free-flowing stream of the guitar.
The band appears to be part of the ‘dreamgaze’ scene in their neck of the woods. The band has been praised in announcements for their live shows, but more I can not say at t his point.
We hear the sound of the sea on ‘Pūt Vējiņi’, which has a sung intro performed by Edmunds and Valentine Rekevics in San Diego. The title means ‘Blow Wind’, which is a Latvian folk song. I’m not sure if the couple is part of the band or simply Latvian migrants that recorded their beloved songs. It offers a contemplative opening to this record with the beautiful song reverberating in my ears.
The band truly has an oceanic quality to them, completely submerging the listener in waves of tranquil guitar play. Wavery, warm sounds wash over you on ‘Come Now’, that beckons you to join in the water with its alluring, hazy sound. The flow keeps a steady pace, but never is it rushed. Vocals are used sparsely and even then they are hard to hear in the middle of the complete current of the music. On ‘Sea Legs’ we get a few changes, where the sound becomes a gentle trickling guitar for a moment before a complete haze overwhelms you again.
The EP is a beautiful record that feels like a whole that stretches on a bit much. Call it shoegaze or postrock, it has something haunting. It offers a feeling of swimming in the ocean. Completely submerging in the massive sound.
Label: Der Neue Weg Productions Origin: Belarus: Band: Dymna Lotva
Belarussian grief with Dymna Lotva
The band Dymna Lotva hails from Belarus, a country with a long history and traditions. They might have been obscured in the times of the Soviet occupation and maybe still under the rule of Lukashenko. Belarus has a rich and fertile soil for re-enactment, folk music and densely atmospheric projects like the DSBM band DymnaLotva.
The group has been around since 2015 but hasn’t taken the time to relax since their inception. The band appears to revolve around their singer EkaterinaMankevich (stage name Nokt), who writes the lyrics and is the person appearing on the press pictures. The themes the band applies to their music are nature, folklore, and sorrow, which is tangible from the artwork already.
The gentle flutes play a haunting melody. A low piping accompanies the melody, offering slow bass lines until the piano starts playing. The atmosphere grabs you immediately, with a sound filled with melancholy and darkness. The careful introduction brings us to the windswept planes of Belarus in ancient times, when the sinister voice of singer Nokt starts luring you in. Her voice can be beautiful as much as frightning in its cold beauty.
Intricate melodies are woven through the songs, that truly hold to the depressive, atmospheric black metal vibe. Slow, lingering guitar passages are like a swamp to sink away in on ‘Willothewisp’. At the same time the running piano steps are seducing you to look further. Dymna Lotva seems to use quite some synths to achieve the overwhelming, smothering sound that they produce. Sometimes the sound is a bit too polished, a little too much to handle. It’s a hard balance to find and really a personal listening experience. Next to the high pitched screams of Nokt, the growls on ‘Requim’ by Andrew Tomak from Apologeth seem unnecessary. The two singers don’t add, but just double up in a sense.
Ambient sounds fill up the voids in songs and the traditional instruments give an ethnic feel to the music of these Belarusians. A fascinating record for sure. Folky with a bit of dungeon synth, in conclusion this is a joy to listen to.
I’ve been reading some books and they were good. I read work by Duff McKagan, Peter Criss, Roddy Doyle and Robert B. Cialdini. A bit of music, a bit of thinkers work and a bit of literature, it was a good and inspirational series of titles. Check them out.
Duff McKagan – How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions)
Duff McKagan managed to grab my heart with his first bookIt’s So Easy (And Other Lies). That book deals with the glory days in Guns’n’Roses, drug- and alcohol abuse and getting on your feet again. It ends on a high note, with the little family and new projects in place. By writing a follow-up, McKagan shows himself to be a true story teller. We find the man back in the van again with the Walking Papers a new project (and brilliant music), picking up where he left. It’s interesting, because it takes you to a place you wouldn’t imagine to find the sober Duff to be at again, but he is and it immediately becomes glorious.
Where the previous book had something cathartic to it, something confessional while remaining light, this one is flat-out funny at times. Duff has a miraculous amount of self deflating jokes lined up and keeps tricking the readers. He takes you into one direction, only to baffle you by switching it all around on you. This book could actually count as an inspirational book, it gives good advice for people trying to find out what to do is right. As long as you take things with a grain of salt. A great read for music fans and allround humans.
Roddy Doyle – The Commitments
You might have seen the film. I think I have, but I’m not sure so I’ll rewatch it. This writing debut of Roddy Doyle takes Irish English to new hights in a street-talking music adventure with the rowdy youngsters from Dublin getting into soul music. Jimmy Rabbite is approached by some of his mates to help them set up a band. He agrees but only if he can manage them. This turns into an interesting journey for the young folks, who actually do what most bands do: break up before they make it. It’s a great story, written in a language that every reader can easily relate to, with a lot of cool references to music.
Doyle is Dublin through and through and you can read that in the manner of detail and local references. This could not have been written by a thorough study. There’s a raw realism to the writing, to the story as well. Nothing is overblown or overly hefty, it’s all normal stories but told in such a natural way that you’ll be captivated. I’m not even sure if that’s the language, but maybe simply the form of a continuous narrative. I’ve really enjoyed reading this, though I went through it so fast that it was over before I knew it. The story of The Commitments, bringing soul to soul-starved Dublin.
Peter Criss – Makeup to Breakup: My Life in and out of Kiss
Peter Criss succeeds in the one thing, that no other Kiss biography did. His former bandmates all managed to end it on a high note, where they were sort of the good guys (except for Gene, because he doesn’t care). Peter Criss manages to make himself look like an even bigger dick than any of the others put him down as. His book reads as that of a man, who contradicts himself every step of the way (sometimes with only a few lines between them). Everything is the fault of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and Criss goes at them with a vengeance. At the same time he never shies away from giving his piece of mind about other people surrounding the band, apart from the ones he likes. Those are all cool with him it seems (some people just escape his wrath).
At the same time, Criss constantly laments the bad luck that befell him throughout his career. It makes him sound bitter and sad about things. He reveals stuff about people, that are just not done (particularly the sexual skills of his wife were not necessary). In thaqt way he tries to legitimize the weirdest stuff, like with Lydia the fact that he couldn’t get her to do weird stuff in bed made cheating, drinking and drugging fine. That being said, Peter Criss’s biography has a rawness to it, the others lack. There’s an honesty that makes you doubt the three other books. Yet again, he seems to say conflicting things with all three other books and sometimes his theories are so far out that it makes no sense at all anymore. A great read though.
Robert B. Cialdini – Pre-Suasion
Sometimes you find these marketing books that are inspirational at the same time. This book by Robert Cialdini is a tome focussed on the act of pre-suasion, of priming your target to the persuasive message that is to come. It’s a gentle nudge in the direction that you wish to take the reader in. It makes for a fascinating read and Cialdini has a way of writing that is very engaging and accesible. Honestly, to read this book you don’t need to be a marketing genius. There’s advice that can help you in daily situations you might be struggling with.
Cialdini uses plenty of examples to clarify the point he is making, which is not too complex. The dense amount of data that the author produces to support the theory is though, which is what makes this books so singularly powerful and convincing. There’s something there for sales people, marketeer, policy pushers and project planners, but also for teachers, managers, coaches and people that simply wish to get more done. It’s really well worth your time to check out this highly enjoyable book. Revolution only needs the right nudge.
Every year Roadburn selects a curator, who gives shape to a part of the program. This has lead to excellent and wild acts, that you might never have seen before and perhaps will never see again (G.I.S.M., just to name one). In this post, I’d like to suggest my pick for a curator and explain why.
Who? You might not be familiar with Hank Williams III, but the name should ring a bell. Hank 3 is the third generation Williams who plays a huge role in country music. His grandfather was the famous Hank Williams, that had a huge impact on country (and there’s an uncanny likeness between Hank I and Hank III), a son of Hank Williams Jr. who I’m less fond of I suppose.
Hank 3, as he’s commonly known by his own accomplishments, has been dabbling in a wide range of music styles. Sure, outlaw country and cowpunk are at the core of his endeavors, but there’s so much more. He collaborated with both the Melvins and Willie Nelson, recorded with Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem and dabbled with country metal in his own project Assjack. His solo releases even contain some southern style doom. All of this comes back in his live set, where I’ve seen him do 3 hours of various styles. An artist through and through. So why should he curate Roadburn?
1. Musical Outlaw
Firstly, Hank 3 is a musical outlaw, who seems to see no real boundaries for his art and has chosen to follow his own path. That means he’s the sort of guy, who can decide on some names based on his own judgment. That’s pretty much why curatorships are so cool because someone is really laying down their unique flavor. Hank is a punk rocker at heart, a metalhead by passion and a country musician by blood. Think about it, this guy will surprise you.
Hank 3 is an outlaw in all scenes he is part of, he’s an outsider artist in a way and therefore a bridge builder between scenes, styles, and people. And Roadburn is all about that big ‘ol cocktail of great music, regardless of labels. Music that comes from the underground, which is pretty much where Hank 3 is from. Though he might be a bit busy being pissed off about that Hank Williams biopic still… (to be fair, Tom Hiddleston doesn’t sing a good ol’ Hank Williams).
2. Innovator in his own right
Most curators Roadburn had this far, are people who did something special for music. People that pushed the boundaries of their respective genres, innovators, and people with quite a big portfolio of musical endeavors. Also, these are usually people that don’t follow familiar paths and go their own way when they do something.
Though Outlaw Country has gone in various new directions in recent years and artists like Bob Wayne actually played Roadburn (and much more actually), Hank 3 definitely had been a force that shook up the whole thing and quite possibly the inspirator behind a lot of that new movement. That in itself makes him an important musician. He put the dick back in ‘Dixie’ and the cunt back in ‘country’ as is written on many places. So that matters.
3. Hank is a crate digger
Roadburn is a festival that draws a lot of record loving visitors. This is something that matters, not just for the fans, but also to Walter. Walter buys a lot of records and always manages to conjure something special out of crates, wherever he goes it seems. Anyone doing curatorship at Roadburn should, therefore, be a crate digger. Hank 3 has a bit of a collection himself.
4. A long tradition of surprising names at Roadburn
Roadburn never puts anything on the bill that you expect. The same goes for the curators. Every year people are excited for the novelty, the surprise or whatever the choice of that year does to them. Wouldn’t it be an excellent surprise to get this complete outsider dude to curate then? Every year you get something you didn’t expect in a direction you feel sort of curious about. I think it might be really interesting to see this happen. Hank 3 seems to have been largely accepted by the punk community as much as metal fans, so wouldn’t Roadburn embrace the man too?
But as you know, Roadburn works in mysterious ways and when the curator for 2018 is announced I’ll probably be jumping out of my seat and shouting praise for that choice. That’s how it works, isn’t it?
Label: Zeitgeister Music Origin: Germany Band: Klabautamann
Sail the unknown with Klabautamann
It’s a peculiar entity, this Klabautamann, who deliver some wonderful music with their fifth full length, titled ‘Smaragd’. The German group enlisted Costin Chorineau for the artwork, which looks as if it was inspired by the similar looking cover of Helms Alee’s ‘Sleepwalking Sailors’. There’s not much similarity in the music, though both albums allow you to just dream away in distinct manners.
Klabautamann blends black metal with elements of folk and quite a bit of postrock. Klabautamann refers to a specific type of goblin that causes shipwrecks. The nautical theme is not overly present in their work though, but the focus on nature is. The band is a two piece, with Florian Toyka (Valborg) and Tim Steffens (Skarab). So both are not strangers to the weird and experimental we could say. This project definitely has a progressive flavor.
Pecularly, Klabautamann can sound a bit PinkFloydish at times. For example on ‘In My Shadow’, where a passage feels like the trickling, playful tease of one of those tunes. That shortly shifts back to blast beats and growls though. Massive archs and thunderous rhythms hit the listener like waves. The music is filled with tiny details and as a result of this the band doesn’t need to be loud. Their loudness is in the gentle flow of the organ, the muffled drum hits. All ready to erupt in violent blasts at any time.
But there’s some doom and gloom in their music too. Check out the song ‘The Murderers’, withits creeping, death metal vibe, which morphs into cascading, clean sounding doom riffs. It’s remarkable how these guys never need the pure volume and distortion to be loud. Klabautamann is all about atmosphere. The songs slowly unfold, while all those details work the listeners imagination. It makes for a record that is a daunting listen, yet so worth your time to check it out.
GreenDruid is more than just some music, it’s an expression of its times and a way to deal with the world for the members involved. I like that sentiment, even more so because it produces some excellent traditional doom music by this Denver, Colorado group. The band seems to be most amazed themselves by their output.
In 2015 Green Druid releases an EP with some interesting artwork, which would not have really promised the music you’ll find on this amazing release with great artwork. Brad Smalling at Evergroove Studio did a great job in making this record sound as solid as it does now.
Three slabs of songs, clocking a good 30 minutes in total take you along for a ride with some excellent riffing and heavy hitting drums. Opener ‘Pale Blood Sky’ comes on slowly with the toiling, massive riffs. The vocals for amoment seem to not live up to the expectations, but as soon as they catch on to the harmony of the guitars it all melts together in its crestfallen, bleak unity. For almost ten minutes you ride those waves. The sound grabs you with force and does not allow you to tame it.
You can taste the stoner roots in the full, hazy sound of the band and comparisons to the mighty Trouble are therefor not so strange, though I’d add the great Cathedral to that mix. ‘Agoraphobia’ picks up on that thread, but the vocals here sound even more desolate and tormented at times. The slow progression and sheer heaviness of the sound is intoxicating. Green Druid might not be doing completely new things on their debut, but what they deliver is very, very well made.
Crushing riffs take you to the end of ‘Dead Tree’, the final track of the album. The track also had some more gentle passages, but never losing that looming threat in the sound. I think this band might be one you’ll hear about more in the future.