Modern music has lost the ability to play a tone to its logical conclusion, to allow extended sounds to drive a narrative structure that can draw out feelings like dread and drama. The orchestral-neofolk solo project Deliverer rests entirely on competing tones, achieved by recentering the accordion into a drawn out baroque sound that feels equal part Hammer films soundtrack and Eyes Wide Shut house band, and we mean that as a huge compliment.
We were able to speak with Adam Matlock, the artist behind Deliverer, on what drives his sounds, the influence of Jewish cultural music and black spirituals, and how antifascism has to remain central to his work given his own identity.
How did Deliverer first come together? Did the project have an earlier incarnation?
I work a lot in the style of dungeon synth, which is often similarly in the orbit of black metal/extreme metal in the way that neofolk is. At some point I was practicing some riffs on the accordion, and the acoustic sound was very alluring, so I started recording and composing on the spot. It was something I’d wanted to do for awhile, and as I wrote it, a story came together that it felt like I needed to tell.
You can see where pagan folk traditions have such a heavy influence in how neofolk has developed, and what keeps drawing people to it. Were you drawn to folk music traditions when forming Deliverer?
I have always felt a connection to old folk traditions, although I never had a ton of personal connection through them in my upbringing – so many of them I have admired from a distance. But it is also so easy for these things to get wrapped up in nationalism that has also kept me a bit removed from them. There are many Black American folk magic and pagan traditions that I don’t have as much connection to.
I’m especially a fan of Scandinavian and similarly influenced projects like most of what Einar Selvik
is connected to, Ulver’s Kveldssanger
and the like. But I’ve also looked to bands like Deveykus
and Zeal and Ardor
who have tried to incorporate Hasidic music and Black spirituals respectively into a metal sound, insisting on making space for themselves and their sounds in the larger umbrella of the scene.
How did you develop your sound, and how do you define it? What instruments do you use?
I had always wanted to make Neo folk, but never did because I didn’t play guitar. But as I’ve gotten older I guess I’ve been able to get less attached to my specific expectations of a sound or a project, so, getting purely beyond the very limited Scandinavian or English folk influences that often show up in neofolk. Once I started writing, the story drove me more than my doubts about the sound I was developing. It was important for me to keep it mostly acoustic, so it would feel separate from my dungeon synth projects, so for the debut release I used only accordion, voice, recorder, and percussion. Limiting the sound palette helped to keep the ideas flowing. And I was thinking of this project as a sort of imaginary neofolk, compiled from various musical influences as well as a kind of chaotic collage of impressions of cultures showing their opposition to an oppressor.
There is a real feel of classical organ or chamber music in the album. Was classical or romantic era orchestral music important when you were writing it?
The accordion definitely has a chamber organ sound for sure. I listen to some organ music, but if that shows up in this release it was unconscious. I play a lot of Klezmer and so there were some conscious Jewish music influences, particularly Nign
, which is a style of wordless melody that when sung in a group feels like time is stretching. I grew up singing Black spirituals which were passed through my family, and there are elements of that music that shows up behind the surface in a lot of my projects – in this project especially having some kind of call and response relationship between the voice and the instruments. I’m definitely very moved by Scandinavian fiddle music (which only seems to slightly influence Scandi inspired neofolk), but the way the fiddlers in that style pass their tunes down and harmonize together is really inspiring to me.
What drives your commitment to antifascism? Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?
I am Black and mixed race. It’s hard to think of fascism as a benign thing for me, whether or not the attitudes are sincere or just aesthetic based. For those reasons I’ve often been removed from the metal scenes except on the internet, which is where people are the worst about that sort of thing. I’ve probably been to less than 10 black metal shows in 20 years of listening to the music for that reason, so I’ve encountered only minimal amounts of it in person. But the way we’ve seen conversations about this sort of thing become more meme-y and less about sincere connection, I’ve found that I’ve run out of patience with the jokey edgy humor, with the kind of intellectual shell-game that people play with weaponized ideology.
Why is it important to you to remain a public antifascist in a scene so known for its far-right or “apolitical” stance?? How does antifascism inform your music?
It’s important to me because to some, my presence in the scene is unacceptable. This is why it’s important to me to assert myself as an artist in neofolk, in black metal, in dungeon synth. Besides that, I think the attitudes in neofolk, of looking to the past as an explicit transgression of social norms, have their logical opposite in the assimilation of fascism
, and I am frequently astonished at how often people forget that. We are already, as modern people, given the chance to learn from history even as we look to the past and tradition for liberation, so it doesn’t serve anyone to blindly recreate that without some sifting through.
What really moves you through writing music like this, is it a sense of story or social commitment? What really drives the work?
For me a lot of what moves me is narrative, storytelling. To me all the most compelling arguments involve storytelling in some way. Through a combination of music and accompanying flavor text, I hope to convey some of what occupies a lot my thought processes: about growth, resilience, and resistance in a world that is deeply biased, somehow, against most of its inhabitants. But I feel like talking about these things through narrative is a good reminder to all of us that this kind of work is an ongoing thing, not a constant state of being that, once attained, needs no further attention or maintenance.
Also, the transportive element of music like neofolk is a nice balm for some of the harsher elements of modern society, which is sometimes necessary for anybody with an active awareness of the world.
What’s coming next for you?
I’ve been performing some pieces live from the Deliverer debut (Smother
) with a crew of people that I do some other styles of trad folk with. At this point it’s just a part of our repertoire, mixed in alongside other trad pieces at our shows. But I hope to write and record more for this project, including some material with lyrics, and get a consistent set together for live performance if the opportunity arises.
What bands would your recommend for an antifascist neofolk audience?
I’ve found it hard to vet things myself since so many on the internet seem to thrive on obfuscation, which is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the work you’re doing with this blog. I will have my answer as you keep updating!
We are putting Deliverer’s new album, Smother
, below so you can listen to it from Bandcamp. Unfortunately, they are not available yet on Spotify so you will have to wait to add them to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist
. We will be adding a couple of new bands to that list later this week, so stay tuned!