October Release Roundup

Three releases that can loosely, and very loosely at that, be said to have ‘a folky’ touch. But, if you expect an all-acoustic affair, or something that is veering towards sad-eyed singer/songwriters, you should probably look for something else than the three albums reviewed here. But then, you’d probably be cutting yourself short because you’d be missing some, at least interesting music, having in mind a question – what should be considered as folk music, anyway?

I’m not sure whether Dustbug, aka Karel Thant (Consouling Sounds) ever had folk music in mind when he was composing and recording his Unfield & Stray album, but it is certainly within his open-sounding drones, mainly on electric guitar with all the noises and scratches that go along with them and those conjured.

That is evident on all three elongated tracks here, particularly on “Even If Free,” somehow recalling a joint effort between Howe Gelb and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, who between themselves have done almost anything musical, but with that roots element lurking always somewhere in there. Imagine all those empty desert-like spaces somewhere in New Mexico with natural beauty that is hiding something sinister just around the bend.

Saarisselka are a duo consisting of Marielle Jakobsons (Fender Rhodes, organ, synthesizers) and Chuck Johnson (pedal steel guitar, electronic treatments) and their joint debut “The Ground Our Sky” could sound more mainstream to some ears, but is in no way so. After all, some of Johnson’s previous albums were disregarded by the general audience, despite their sheer musical beauty. And as far as that musical beauty is concerned, Saariselka don’t disappoint. 

Johnson’s pedal steel guitar is in the forefront, but forget those ‘standard’ country music chords — Johnson, really complemented by Jakobsons’ keyboards and his electronics shines again. Pedal steel ambient, you can call it. And just as you think that such an instrumental sound can outstay its welcome. Jakobsons adds some mellifluous vocals on “Into The Wind” and “Void”. File under essential late night listening.

Norwegian experimental label Hubro has always had a Scandinavian folk undertones in their releases, and “Lanzarote” the second album by the duo of Jo Berger Myhre (double bass and electronics/keyboards) and Ólafur Björn Ólafsson (piano/organ/Moog and drums/percussion) is no exception.

But with this duo (aided here on couple of tracks by some brass instruments), it seems to be an organic, subconscious thing, recalling some quite dark, moody spaces and places. Knowing that the compositions here were inspired by the unexpected death of the Icelandic modern classical composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and always darkly undertoned prose of French writer Michel Houellebecq, that should be expected. Still, it is the darkest that inspires to search for the light, not fall completely into it. Another excellent release.

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