A Brief Neofolk Guide, Part II: Warm Nature Folk
In day, the sun transpires the delicate rays through the pine’s foliage. The vibrant colors of the leaves are a faithful testament of the nature life. In the light, the plants and the animals bathe with grace, vibrating the joy of a new day. We are going to delve into the sounds of that warmth featuring Sangre de Muérdago, Musk Ox and Váli.
On our first installment, we declared Ulver’s Kveldssanger as one of the pillars of nature folk and discussed what Neofolk means in its ethos, history from a metal perspective.
To close our druidic circle on nature folk, we are going to praise the Sun with these bands that I have selected for having some bright touches in the composition of their dark music. Channel your magic; we are entering the Green Dream.
Sangre de Muérdago
Sangre de Muérdago is an interesting project made by musicians of the Galicia region (northwestern Spain) and Germany with a much more traditional outtake on their construct. A few months ago, my friend Dagon put me in touch with their last record, O Camiño das Mans Valeiras (The Path of Empty Hands) and I have been amazed of how they can produce their magic in such a simple way. This last record is probably their best, and I recommend to you to check it out because it is their most varied in the style they develop.
In my humble opinion, they do not go into the medieval route so easily or as a trait to lure potential listeners; this is not a band to be criticized by gimmicks or publicity twists to get easy recognition because they just walk their own rustic path singing to the wind. Even the ties with disparate band names like Antlers or Machetazo are not part of the appeal of the band.
The band singer, Pablo C., recites poems of life, death and nature with his full soul, accompanied by strings of minimalistic and droning sounds, sublime melodic vibes and a mesmerizing accent that suits in a great way the Sangre de Muérdago vision of the world. With their lyrics, written in Galician or Portuguese, these bards are rescuing the woods, the scent of the dew on a land crushed by the human mindless activity. The duality between the threatened magic and the predatory humankind are integral part of their stance.
Few bands accomplish the difficult task of unveiling the impossible: the sentiments, the values, the magical creatures that are hidden to the naked eye; but the minstrels of Sangre de Muérdago really do. Their music is melancholic, but sometimes, through the catalysts of the nature worshipping and the old tales surpassing the imagination threshold, they offer some hope with the bright sounds they employ.
We have talked about Musk Ox in the past; specifically, my criminal comrade Blackbeard interviewed the great Nathanaël Larochette and we had the pleasure to read the review of The Visit by our guest Stanley. Since then, I had to name drop this project once again in this ‘warm’ nature folk article, mostly because the music of Musk Ox was one of the inspirations to feel the genre with that state of mind.
Born in 2007, this trio is one of the heavy-weights of the current nature folk scene and is regarded as one of the best folk projects because their great musicianship and vast creativity input in their compositions. Also, they have been linked with the metal scene due the Larochette performs with Agalloch and Wood of Ypres, along the dark contributions of cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne in The Visit.
The music of Musk Ox is hard to describe due the richness textures of the cello, guitar and violin combo. Their suites are intricate and drag diverse inspirations from nature, chamber music and progressive bits. Sometimes mournful, sometimes full of life, to get consumed by their sounds is a blessing.
Their last record, Woodfall, was an ode to musical construction and de-construction. Without the percussion, the cello and the guitar served with multiple techniques to supply the rhythmic need and in the process of crafting this monolith of 5 artful songs they showed to the world a beautiful sculpture that transforms itself with unexpected changes of pace, moods and textures. To me, Woodfall is a Grimoire that documents the forces of nature, unleashing the unknown magic of the Earth through a precise and sophisticated song crafting that shows the shades of the day, not neglecting the Sun above.
In 2013, the one-person project Váli released Skogslandskap (Wooded Landscape), a short tale of a forest-inspired chronology that quickly became one of my favorite albums of all time.
The follow-up of Forlatt was direct hit to my melancholic heart and it is still rotated and plug into my ears when I need to be inspired by that perfect walk. The album is structured in a narrative way, showing through the plucked guitar lines, the harmonic sections and the few segments with violin and flute the never-ending cycle of rebirth in the course of the river of life, wandering from dusk until dawn in an autumn day.
The whole album develops with easy pace the various mood swings; displaying the horrors on the dark and the hope that brings the first glimpses of light through the trees. There are a few percussion elements scarred in the track list that enhance the variety on their simple setting. It has a distinct romantic flavor that can be tasted in the very first notes of the record.
The guitars are very melodic and employ harmonies, the usual finger pick rhythmic structures and extensive bending notes that set apart the phrasing of their songs if you compare them with the other nature folk projects. The darker pieces induce madness and despair of the upcoming shadows with flutes and minor key descending riffing, while subtle keyboards can pave the way to the night.
Like life itself, Skogslandskap recites and resumes what is the spirit of the nature, with all the scary, sad, hopeful and peaceful sides of all the shades that can be encountered on all ages. A incredible colorful record that inspires multiple sentiments at once.
Did you like some of those releases? Which other nature folk ‘warm’ album do you recommend? Let’s bring the discussion to the comments.