No, this post isn’t about the new Mithras album, though it has been on my mind lately. It’s about a listening experience I had late last night (after possibly drinking too much), when the music fell into place as if it had been ordained by some ingenious higher power. I feel compelled to share it, not only because of how good each piece in the chain is, standing alone, but also because of the interesting ways in which each piece flows into the next and eventually comes back around to join together, the end resonating with the beginning in an unexpected way.
I’ll tell the story of how I came to move from each of these four recordings to the next precisely in the order set out below, because at least to me it makes this playlist even more strange and wondrous. And to be clear, the connections between the recordings aren’t predictable — it’s more like an evolution, progression, and transformation that’s occurring instead of a collection of like-sounding songs — with things becoming increasingly heavy and extreme. By the end, I had bought all four of the releases on Bandcamp.
This experience began last night when I happened upon a Facebook post by metal writer and musician JR (I haven’t told the people involved in this story that I’m writing about them, so I’ll be using initials instead of full names). In it, he linked to a just-released new album by Kinit Her, calling it “magic”.
Kinit Her is composed of two Wisconsin musicians, Nathaniel Allen Ritter and Troy Allen Schafer. Both are also behind another project called Wreathes, which has also just released a new EP (here). The name of their new Kinit Her album is The Blooming World. It includes vocal, instrumental, and electronic contributions by Jessica Way, Clay Ruby, Dani Schafer, Kevin Gan Yuen, and Andy Way.
Someone more capable than me will write the kind of review of this album that it deserves. I will say only that I found it spellbinding — a collection of mystical, richly textured folk songs with a neo-classical and medieval flavor to which certain harsh elements have been added, enhancing the contrast between shades of light and dark already present in the music (though the shadows prevail).
The Blooming World is available for download on Bandcamp; a vinyl edition will be released by Pesanta Urfolk/Vale of Tears and can be pre-ordered here.
The next step in this musical progression began just as I was finishing The Blooming World, when I spotted another Facebook post, this time from metal writer DP acclaiming the band Mount Eerie and linking to one specific song. As was also true of Kinit Her, I had never listened to Mount Eerie’s music, but this next song struck me as a natural complement to the Kinit Her album.
I’ve discovered since last night that Mount Eerie is the musical project of songwriter and producer Phil Elverum (formerly of The Microphones) who lives in Anacortes in my home state of Washington. The song below, “Stone’s Ode”, comes from a 2005 double-album named Wind’s Poem that’s described by The Font of All Human Knowledge as “black metal-influenced”.
When I heard “Stone’s Ode”, I had just finished the eerie, haunting final track on The Blooming World, and “Stone’s Ode” is also haunting and slow… and also spellbinding. It’s also more of a folk song rather than a metal song, but it’s chilling and beautiful, and the vocal harmonies put me in mind of the earliest albums of Crosby, Stills & Nash.
P.S. I’ve also learned that four months after giving birth to their daughter, Phil Elverum’s partner Geneviève (who has herself recorded music and performed as Woelv and Ô Paon) was diagnosed last year with inoperable stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and she has passed away. I am so sorry to learn this. Before Geneviève died, Phil had set up a GoFundMe account to help with the crushing financial burdens of her treatment and care — and those burdens remain. If you would like to help, go here.
The discovery of the next song came about in a truly strange way. Last night I felt I was already on a special kind of roll with everything I had heard up to this point, and another song popped into my head that I thought would be a nice next stopping point — but I couldn’t remember the name of the artist. I had a vague recollection that I had originally found out about it in a text from visionary musician AL months ago.
I went to my phone and started scrolling back through messages from AL. I never found the song I was looking for… but in the course of my search I did see a text from him 9 months ago recommending this next song, and I realized I had never followed up and listened to it. So I did, right then and there.
The song is “Arpitanian Lands” and it comes from a 2015 album of the same name by an Italian band named Enisum. I had no idea what to expect from it, but the beginning of the song is sublime. I’d go so far as to say it’s magnificent, and it seemed to flow so beautifully from the Mount Eerie song. I’d go so far as to say the whole song is magnificent.
After the track’s sublime introduction, the music begins to transform — and that transformation also marked the movement of this play list from folk music into more extreme metal territory. “Arpitanian Lands” steadily builds and builds, becoming a powerfully surging piece of melodic/atmospheric black metal. The melodies are gripping all the way through; the vocals, both the crystalline ones and the abrasive, are very fine; and by the end I thought my heart was about to burst from my chest.
If the rest of this album is even close to the character and quality of this song, it will be a true gem.
I was high as a kite with excitement by this point, but it was getting late and I thought I should probably call it a night and get to sleep. Almost as an afterthought, I decided to take a quick look at the NCS e-mail in-box. It didn’t take long before I spotted an alert from Bandcamp for a new release by the band Yith. The name rang a faint bell, though I couldn’t place it (I later dug up the fact that I wrote about some of Yith’s music three years ago in a MISCELLANY post). I decided, what the hell, I’ll just listen to the first song and then go to bed.
I was amazed by what I heard. It seemed to flow so well from the Enisum song, and I stayed with the album until the end. It seemed to connect unexpectedly to where I had begun with Kinit Her. The name of the album is dread.
After a somber acoustic start, the first track “time and loss” begins to burn. As a piece of sweeping atmospheric black metal with acid vocals and a melancholy air, it made a fitting complement to the Enisum track. But the song also begins another transformation, slowing and becoming even heavier and more depressive, with a lead guitar motif that began to make me think of the medieval strains of Kinit Her.
I may have still been under the influence of Kinit Her, but it seemed to me — and it still does this morning — that there is an ancient-music quality to some of the songs on dread. The atmosphere is often dismal and desolate, the pacing often as slow and stately as a funeral procession, with chilling doom chords bringing the weight and frightfulness of death to the doorstep. But the high, trilling guitar melodies and haunting acoustic and symphonic passages are also often beautiful, and the black metal sections are explosive.
dread is spellbinding in a different way from the music that preceded it in this listening session, but I still find it spellbinding, coherent despite its dynamic variations in style, and wholly immersive. In very short order, it has become one of the year’s highlights for me.
And now to close this strange loop, after you have listened to “immurement”, the closing keyboard track on dread, return again to the first song on Kinit Her’s album, “Open Shadow”. Sometimes the workings of blind fate can seem as masterful as those of the most ingenious architect.
As was true three years ago when I first discovered Yith, there’s almost no information about the band, though it seems to be the work of one man who lives somewhere in the U.S. dread has been self-released on tape and digitally; based on a status I saw on Facebook, Yith is hoping that a label will become interested in a vinyl and CD release. I hope that happens.