Don’t Call it Neofolk: New Releases by Ulvesang & Die Geister Beschwören

Ulvesang

As we enter the final month of the year, a call towards simpler, more natural sounds seems like a welcome break from the chaos that much of our modern capitalist society creates. With this in mind, we’re going to examine two compelling and unique new folk albums. Metal fans (and many folks in the underground as a whole) have this odd tendency to call everything neofolk, so I thought it’d be fun to share a couple albums with roots in folk that don’t touch on the broader neofolk of artists like Death in June, Sol Invictus, and their ilk nearly as much as they do the more traditional structures in which these artists work.  While the actual term does apply loosely to each of these, I feel as though it sells them both short when trying to capture the scope of the artistry. These releases bare little in common other than the overarching genre in which they craft their music, but each is worthy of our time and attention and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

With their self-titled debut, Ulvesang channel the beauty of Canadian winter through acoustic passages that call to mind haunting dark folk and neoclassical atmospheres. Distant, chanted (if not hummed at times) vocals serve as an additional instrument rather than a dominant line with lyrical influence, essentially layering the cold, crisp environment that the rest of the music conjures. A heavy helping of reverb on most of the instruments allow for this to feel like a massive emptiness without cluttering up the relatively sparse and subtly arranged songs. I often find myself imagining hours have passed while listening to songs like “Taakeferd” and “Litherpoan,” as their melodies and structures are crafted in a fashion that takes the listener away from all present experiences. Ulvesang is primarily a softly played, gentle experience, but it only makes the few bursts of greater energy more invigorating when they appear. This is the perfect soundtrack for getting lost outside on a cold winter’s eve, exploring in the twilight.

While the sounds on Die Geister Beschwören‘s Music Feeds Stars fall within the realm of folk music, elements of blissful psychedelia, droning experimentation, and even pop-friendly melodies all sit beautifully beside each other to make an experience that is equally welcoming and challenging in its beauty. Worming through many points of culture and time, Music Feeds Stars sounds like a group of cosmic musical voyagers discovering earth’s history as a collection of its more soothing and strange sounds. Field recordings serve as the occasional segue between gaps of whimsical and sometimes jarring electroacoustic folk, which feels equally composed and improvised. The inclusion of dreamy effects and a member of the band performing on a saw serves as a nice balance to the classical guitar and softly sung vocals that drive the majority of the album. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Die Geister Beschwören perform twice now, (they’re a Portland band) and each performance was quite unique. It’s the spontaneity and clear joy of creativity that make this album a welcome burst of strangely oscillating light in these darker months. This cassette was just issued on German label Tarkosvky Green and is worth the small investment.