New Left/Folk, A Blaze Ansuz Neofolk Compilation “Haunting Ground” Released

We are excited to release our latest joint compilation project that was a collaboration between A Blaze Ansuz and the left/folk project. This seventeen track neofolk compilation is a fundraiser to support the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, which supports First Nations people affected by the violence of the Canadian residential school system and the after effects of colonialism.

Click Here to Purchase the Compilation

The Playlist for this new compilation, called “Haunting Ground,” is:

1.Partum Nihil – At Daggers Drawn 03:42info
2.Autumn Brigade – The Gates Of Heaven 02:03
3.BloccoNero – Ninna Nanna Del Rivoluzionario 03:14
4.Ulvesang – The Truth 03:56
5.All In Vain – Palantir 07:34
6.River – Whispering Blossoms 05:57
7.Voyvoda – Karandjule 04:27
8.Peace Through Decay – Atonement 04:32
9.Shattered Hand – Forms Of Sacrifice And Concentration (Radial) 04:51
10.Nøkken + The Grim – Nøkkens Sang Om Elven 04:28
11.Haunter Of The Woods – I 04:12
12.Weather Veins – Life Runs Undefied 03:49
13.Spectral Sister – Trail Of Dead Moths 02:04
14.A Great Hand From Heaven – I See You 02:35
15.Without History – He Comes To See Sally 05:14
16.Blood And Dust – Burn It Down 03:56
17.DEAES – Burnt Offerings (Daggers High!) 04:21

Click Here to Purchase the Compilation

Statement on Compilation from left/folk:

We meet again, somewhere between resignation and revolution, with aural gifts to pass the time. Today’s offering is a collection of songs that reflect on themes of justice and vengeance, their interwoven narratives, and the aftermath of retribution. We hope you enjoy. This compilation would not be possible without the efforts of many individuals across the planet, so we would like to give thanks.

First, we would like to thank A Blaze Ansuz for their efforts in curating this compilation, their persistent dedication to building a new musical path, and their endless support. We would like to thank the artists who contributed to this work, especially those who reached out to us of their own volition, who have taken the initiative to build and express their art and share it with this growing community. We would like to thank everyone who has donated to, purchased, and shared our material, allowing us to continue to merge creativity and service in this ongoing project to cultivate alternate cultural spaces in the present and future.

We would like to thank all political activists across occupied territories who are fighting for the dignity and sovereignty of their people, in opposition to colonial and imperialist forces who seek to blend us all into a capitalist hegemon by erasure of our indigenous cultures and histories. We thank everyone fighting against state repression, and everyone fighting to push against tyrants of all stripes.

As usual, we are living in tumultuous times, walking slowly towards inevitable ecological, social, and economic collapse. It is our imperative to forge bonds grounded in solidarity and cooperation amongst various communities across the planet. We must think locally as well, building community, preparing for the possibility/probability of very horrible things happening within our lifetime. Part of building communities is reconciling and healing the wounds of past atrocity by any means possible, which is why all donations from this compilation will be directed towards the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

The IRSSS is a provincial organization with a twenty-year history of providing services to Indian Residential School Survivors. Founded in 1994, they actively provide essential services to Residential School Survivors, their families, and those dealing with Intergenerational traumas.

It truly is up to us to defend, heal, and uplift one another. We cannot survive or evolve as a society, as a people, without cooperation and solidarity. LEFT/FOLK is here to help provide the soundtrack to this directive, music that is energetically and spiritually aligned to this desire for great liberation of all peoples.

We are all we have. Let us reap vengeance and justice together!
-L/F 161 

Click Here to Purchase the Compilation

Also make sure to add the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, which includes many of the artists that are on this compilation.

Civilization and Its Contradictions: An Interview with River

In this interview with the band River, we talk about inspiration, soundscapes, and the contradictions of civilization.

By Ryan Smith

It would be an understatement to say the past few years have been a rough ride across the board.  Between COVID, climate crisis, and creeping fascism it would be safe to say that escape and relief from the endless churn of life in 2022.  For many, including myself, music can sometimes offer such comfort and I’m always game for artists trying something very different from the usual.  When I had the band River sent over my way, I quickly found myself lost in the majestic atmosphere of haunting, melancholic melodies.  In days when time is either running too fast or grinding to a crawl, River’s music brings a sense of healing timelessness that feels mostly absent from our mad, mad world.  I got in touch with the artists behind River to find out what makes them tick and here is what they had to say.

Your music paints some very haunting, almost Pagan, soundscapes.  What do you feel you are showing with your songs?

Nate:
In 2008, I was recording an EP for my solo black metal band Mania called Endless Hunger. In the first song you can hear a long droning acoustic guitar section. River started as a way to explore this type of soundscape further without being constrained by the metal genre. Soon after, the other two current members of the band joined with a similar vision from their respective bands (Huldrekall and Alda). Mania is a musical exploration into the horrors of the modern world, so I wanted River to be the opposite – evocations of pre-civilization life. Watching the river flow across the rocks and pondering how many millions of years it has been doing just that, or the stars slowly drift atop a mountain, listening to the cold wind through the pine trees with no other sounds in the air. Ravens cawing in old growth forests. You get the idea. There is no ideology or religious belief portrayed, simply an atmosphere.

Dylan:
There isn’t a particular Pagan connection with our music however we all have had strong connections to the forests and mountains throughout our lives and that connection comes out a lot in our music. I try to use riffs to tell a story without words. Every part of every song that we write tells about a place, a sound, a time, a smell, a feeling, just something in our lives and the hope is that when other people listen to our music they can be transported to places or have experiences of their own. I believe that music itself is magic.



If there was one person, alive or dead, who you would want to hear this album who would it be?

Nate:
Sharing music is a special thing. It transcends the spoken language and can convey deep primal emotion in such a way that the listeners understand, even having their own interpretation and feelings to reflect back. That being said, I really make this sort of music for myself, creating the songs that I wish I could hear. I can’t really say I would hope any one person hears the album. It has already been 8 years since we began writing and recording it. All of the songs sat on my hard drive that whole time until we could find the time to complete the job. When it was complete, I felt a huge relief that I could listen to it without considering the technical aspects or what needs to change. That alone makes me content.

Dylan: 

Agreed, I can’t think of any particular person I would want to hear this new album, however I’m very happy to share our music with people and hope that it can resonate far beyond the spaces it was written in.


What would you say to any musician who is starting out?

Nate:

Don’t. Haha, just kidding. Go listen to AC/DC “It’s a long way to the top”. That will explain it all. Except in rare circumstances, you will lose countless sleep, money and hours that will never turn into something profitable. For me, it’s about the social connections and events. Different genres of music bring specific types of people to events and I love the aspect of curating a social environment. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything about my future in music, I would try to explain that the details of song arrangement and riffs are important, but so is physical presentation. Stage props, looking presentable, art, lights, etc. People in the audience want to be captivated and immersed in the experience and not everyone wants to hear a “musician’s band”. Make it digestable. That doesn’t mean dumb it down – it means you need to dissolve the barrier in the listener’s mind and put them in your environment so they can properly absorb the music.

Dylan:

I would say to have fun and practice. The more comfortable and natural it feels to play your instrument, the less thought you’ll have to use and the more the music will just naturally come out. I’ve never wanted to be a rockstar or be uber famous for playing in cool bands and I still feel that way.  Write music because it feels good or terrible or cathartic or whatever. Play music because it makes you feel something. Whilst i do agree with Nate that its very important to dissolve the barrier between musician and listener, ive been to way too many shows where lackluster bands did their best to have all the cool skills/techniques/riffs, candlesticks, skulls, branches, sigils etc.. and they didnt manage to inspire any feeling in me other then boredom or contempt. Atmosphere is absolutely crucial, but it’s far from everything.



What are your biggest musical influences?

Nate:
Ulver – Kveldssanger/Bergtatt. Novemthree. Vali – Forlatt. Lonndom – Fälen från norr. Tenhi – Kertomuksia. Huun Huur Tu. Garmarna – S/T. Waldteufel. Fauna, Echtra, Vines.

Dylan:
Kvelldssanger has definitely been a huge influence of ours, especially on our first album. It’s hard to not be inspired by the black metal we’ve been immersed in for so long. Folk music from all over the world, lots of dungeon synth too. I feel like our music is a melting pot of the wide variety of music that we all listen to and we’ve taken bits and pieces from all of our preceding projects and added them in as well.


What would you say are the main themes at the heart of your work?

Nate:
There are themes of nature. Seasons changing. The processes of a more simple natural world happening over long periods of time.

Dylan:
Nature for sure. I feel like escapism is a huge aspect within that. While our other music projects might focus on the struggle of the tree trunk against the chainsaw, this project would envision a time or place without the saw altogether. It’s hard to not be crushed by nihilism when looking to our future here in 2021, but it’s important to find places of solace, if even only inside ourselves.




What do you hope for in the future for River?

Nate: 

We hope to release this album on a proper format over the next year. Our plans for a vinyl release were cancelled amidst the covid pandemic so we are attempting to re-group and seek other channels. Other than that, there are no plans. We hope you enjoy the album and thanks for spending this time on us.

Dylan: 

We’ve been collaborating on this project for over 10 years now and a lot of that time has been spent fairly dormant. It’s certainly possible that more music could emerge with time but for now it’s hard to say. Many thanks to the people who have shared their homes, music and friendship with us over the years!

River’s full album “Regeneration”, released in 2020 by Eternal Warfare Records, is currently available for purchase with Bandcamp. Make sure to add the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, which we will add River to once they are on Spotify.

Announcing a New Antifascist Neofolk Compilation to Raise Money for Black Lives Matter Arrestees

We are happy to collaborate for a project from the Left/Folk collective, pulling together antiracist and radical neofolk musicians in a project to raise money for the Black Lives Matter National Bail Fund. You can buy the album directly on Bandcamp or you can send over your receipt for a donation directly to the National Bail Fund.

IN SOLIDARITY: Songs of Struggle and Liberation puts together a motley crew of Left/Folk (antifascist neofolk) artists from across the Americas and across the ocean for a great cause. This compilation of songs, curated by the Left/Folk collective in collaboration with A Blaze Ansuz, is a showcase of artists working within the post-industrial/neofolk aural tradition without compromise to apolitical and far-right influences within the neofolk scene. The music on this compilation ranges from lyrically driven folk to mythic and cinematic instrumental pieces, always bridging the gap between these forms of music and a wide range of leftist political traditions. The artists on this compilation are uncompromising in their political ideals and their creative integrity. These are folk songs for the struggles we face in 2020, a logical evolution of protest folk music merging with post-industrial music culture. With artwork featuring images of abolitionist John Brown and symbols of militant international cooperation, this compilation is a signal to those who are navigating the complicated musical landscape of this era that another world is possible… a world that is willing to face injustice and push back against the sociopolitical corruption that is coagulating into fascist movements across the planet.

The time is now, not later, as the social clock marches toward midnight… the light of liberty grows ever dimmer. Left/Folk is a call to action and an establishment of an alternative future, through contextualizing the past and identifying the present. If you are reading this, it is likely that you are aware that neofolk has a long and sordid history of far-right implication, complacency, and infiltration. Left/Folk seeks to change this paradigm, to shift both perception and intention in a direction devoid of such elements. Left/Folk is in many ways, a logical synonym to antifascist neofolk. It is a pointed identifier, that divorces the pursuit of neofolk from the baggage of neofolk, without ignoring the cultural history or purging the music of its own aural character or revolutionary potential.

The Left/Folk collective recognizes this in the context of what we are seeing as a growing chaos in the streets, and an amplified show of force by the State that feeds off this polarization. As society in the US is in freefall, as protesters and press are beaten and arrested in the streets, as the people cry out for justice, it is becoming clearer and clearer that to be inactive is to be complacent. Folk music has long been a vehicle for political ideas, for change, for affirmation, for action. In 2020, we are faced with the necessity to act, in any capacity, even if many people are relegated to distanced, quarantined measures of mutual aid. Violence in the streets, repression in our communities, and continuous acts of protest are all part of the political atmosphere. Art must reflect this brutal reality; it is no longer time for pretending it is not there. Until we exist in an equitable society, until it is truly established that Black Lives Matter, and that we refuse to live in a police state.

Proceeds of this compilation will go towards The National Bail Fund Network in support of Black Lives Matter and ongoing protests in the struggle against systemic racism and State repression. When members of the press and citizens practicing their rights are targeted by the police, beaten and arrested in droves, we cannot stand by in silence. The National Bail Fund Network is a national project that works with organizers, advocates, and legal providers across the country that are using, or contemplating using, community bail funds as part of efforts to radically change local bail systems and reduce incarceration.

 IN SOLIDARITY: Songs of Struggle and Liberation becomes available at midnight, officially, October 2nd via leftfolk.bandcamp.com for #bandcampfriday

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Talking with Autumn Brigade About Neofolk, Marxism, and Independent Producing [INTERVIEW]

How did Autumn Brigade first come together? Was this your first project?
Well, I guess Autumn Brigade came from a lot of different things. Primarily it was from the music I was listening to around that time. Stuff like Current 93 and King Dude mostly. I guess the other factor that led me to forming Autumn Brigade was a response to what was going on around me at the time, politically speaking. The world is in a state of struggle and change, and I hope Autumn Brigade can have a positive impact on that change in order to help it be for the better!
In terms of Autumn Brigade? No, It was not my first project. Before starting Autumn Brigade I had a project called “STAGGH,” which combined elements of harsh noise, black metal, and drone. STAGGH was the first official named release I had on the Self Loathing Records label. Autumn Brigade came shortly after that, but it certainly won’t be the last project I ever work on!
What is the songwriting process like? What instruments do you use?
Most of the time songs usually come to me gradually over a period of time, gradually being shaped, improved and hammered out. Other songs come more quickly than that, but usually I take my time and make sure I’ve completely mastered a song before I sit down and record them. Everything that has been recorded by me has always been DIY, although when I was recording STAGGH, I did get help from some friends of mine in order to record it. With Autumn Brigade however, it’s just me recording my guitar into a music program and going from there, cleaning up the audio, adding samples and whatnot!
Does your music have a Marxist influence? How does that inform your work?
In general terms yes, but there are certainly other influences on the aesthetic and subject matter of Autumn Brigade as well. Marxism, as well as other different “isms” on the left have certainly influenced me, although primarily the works of Leon Trotsky and Edward Said. In terms of Trotskyism, The Russian Revolution is possibly one of the most important events in human history, we live in a world shaped by what happened during 1917. However, the bureaucracy came and decades of tyranny followed. Autumn Brigade; just like Trotsky, comes from that tradition of “neither Moscow nor Washington.” Several songs that are going to appear on the upcoming album are influenced by a number of struggles. That’s where Edward Said comes in, particularly his idea of Orientalism, and how Western civilization tends to pin the Orient as a place of barbarism and savagery. Songs on the upcoming album deal with a number of struggles, including the anticolonial movements in Northern Ireland and Palestine, and the failed Hungarian Revolution in the 50’s.
Of course, I would be lying if I said my Marxism is the only influence on Autumn Brigade. There is of course, the military aesthetic, which comes from more of a fetish standpoint than anything. In my eyes, there’s something sexy and seductive about people in uniform. Going off of that there’s also influences of the LGBTQIA+ and Kink communities which have influenced some of the lyrical content of my songs. Autumn Brigade is an expression of those things, as well as a way of flaunting my sexuality in a tasteful and interesting manner in front of others. The profits from the Split EP Lodge of Research and I did recently, go towards both the Baltimore Sex Worker Outreach Project, and the Trevor Project, since those are both causes Lodge of Research and I are deeply passionate about. The last influence on Autumn Brigade would of course be nature, I mean just look at the name of it! Autumn is the prettiest season nature has given us. I grew up going on hikes and camping in the woods and in mountains. Nature’s majesty has always blessed me in the most beautiful way possible. Even now when I’m bored I tend to go for long walks out in her domain!
What is Self Loathing Records?
Self Loathing Records is my own independent label. All of my solo work is uploaded there (except for of course the song Lodge of Research contributed for the split EP). It’s mostly because I want to have the rights and profits to my own music. If I venture off and start a traditional band, maybe demos and rarities would be uploaded to SLR, but other albums I did as part of another group would be either uploaded independently or on a different label.
How do you define your sound?
That’s an interesting question. I really haven’t put much thought into how I define the Autumn Brigade sound. I guess it comes from whatever I think sounds right. Hopefully in the future I’ll have access to more instruments beyond a guitar, which could compliment my skills nicely.
Why do you think its important to stand up to fascists in the neofolk scene?
Trotsky once said it better than I ever could, “If you cannot convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.” In all seriousness though, underground music scenes of all sorts have been seen as a refuge for fascists of all stripes. You cannot negotiate with people who want to see you dead based something as arbitrary as your religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and preference. The underground offers them a place where they can market their ideas to alienated youth and apolitical people. It’s our duty as members of an open society to prevent jingoistic bigots from being able to have a platform of any kind! Especially when people like our president are empowering them.
What Artists Had the Biggest Influence On You?
Autumn Brigade has been influenced by King Dude, Chelsea Wolfe, Zola Jesus, , Current 93,, and labor songs from around the world. A lot of the symbolism and aesthetics of Autumn Brigade are sort of a parody of Douglas P’s whole getup, the logo being something I fooled with and made into something Antifascist.
What’s coming up for you?
Like I said previously, there’s an album that’s coming soon! I had to take a hiatus from working on it for a bit since I was sick for a period of time, and that was affecting the recording of vocals since I sounded like I was dying of the plague. I’ve since gotten better, and I’m hard at work on the album!
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Check out these tracks from Autumn Brigade Below, and the split they recently did with our friend at Lodge of Research. Unfortunately they are not on Spotify yet, but check out our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify for other great bands.


A Community-Centered Folk Revival: An Interview With Vael

The Spanish neofolk scene is producing some of the most engaging bands of the last decades, creating massive ensembles with an orchestral feel that is constantly looking to reinvent their sounds. This is how we found the band Vael, a collection of seven musicians who create a rich sound that alternates between ecstatic frenzy and quiet meditation, all while drawing on a range of traditional instruments and international inspirations.

We interviewed Vael about the band’s history, how they draw on folk traditions, and how they took a stand in the neofolk scene.

How did Vael come together? Were you involved in any other projects before?

We were just a group of friends that wanted to play together and have fun. The band was born that way, and over the months we recruited some more friends to complete the formation. In the beginning we just wanted to have a good time and play covers from our favourite bands. We decided to make our first song together, “The Hunt”, which we started being five people but finished as seven. That was the moment when Vael was born as it is today. Most of us had been previously involved in other bands from the folk or folk metal scene, such as Ocelon or Cuélebre. Some of us are involved in other projects from different scenes, like our guitarist José, who plays in Abÿfs and some other Spanish metal bands, and Teresa, who collaborates with the project Bear, the Storyteller.

What bands were an inspiration to you in Vael?

Each member of Vael has very different influences and inspirations, which come together in our creative process. Some bands that we have in common and we really love are, for example, Sangre de Muérdago, Percival or Faun, but we think that we are more inspired by sounds, rhythms and cadences from folk music all around the world in general than by bands in particular. We listen to a lot of world music, ethnic and neofolk, but we also like to listen to rock, metal, electronic, punk, soundtracks, classical and much more. Putting it in that way, we can say that Vael is a mix of everything we like, to honour everything we respect and value as humans. We really have some very actual references in terms of music, instead of tying us too much to the past (which is very normal with folk music), making our music also for today’s ears.

How do natural rhythms and cycles inform your music? How has Vael channeled this natural energy?

We are not very aware of those things in our daily lives, to be honest. We live mostly in the big city and so we are affected by very prosaic things like workdays or public transport and that kind of “urban” things. But we are affected by seasons, for example. We get more productive at certain seasons, sad songs born usually in autumn and winter mostly. Also we believe in natural cycles, which play an important part in human life so we talk about those movements inherent in nature, its forces and how humanity is part of it in our songs. For doing that, we use rhythms that imitate waves like in our song “Nana” or “Nimue,”  percussion that reminds us of heartbeats and things like that. 

The concept of cycles is deeply rooted in our album “Kairós” since its very conception, and we have manifested it with the first and last song in the album. Those pieces are built upon the same harmony, but phrygian dominant in “Caravanserai”, which is about beginnings and travels, and minor at the end in “Vesna,” which talks about farewells. 

So, maybe yes, we are more influenced by those rhythms than we think, hahaha.

There is a strong mythic sense in your work, what myths and folk traditions inform Vael’s creative vision?

One of the aims of the project is to find topics present in different cultures and try to bring them together. We create music inspired by myths from western and Mediterranean Europe to Nordic and Slavic culture, but we also look for inspiration in cultures from other parts of the world, such as the Middle East or East Asia. We are also starting to explore American sounds. This, all together with our own tradition as the crossroad of cultures that is the Iberian Peninsula, tries to address certain topics from a “human” point of view focusing on the beauty that lies in diversity. After all, we are all human beings with our own myths and our own cultural memory, which in many cases share much in common.

Specifically, we have explored several myths in our songs: the myth of Prometheus, the legend of the Wild Hunt and also the abstract image of those old deities from nature (which are still present but forgotten) in our song “Mil ecos” (Thousand echoes). In our future work we’d like to explore myths from other parts of the world. Regarding traditions, the essential folk tradition behind Vael is the primitive and universal act of joining all together and making music for feeling good and being connected. That’s the “folkiest” thing that you can find in our music and in music in general.

How does the songwriting and recording process work? What instruments are you using?

Actually, we don’t have a regular pattern for composing. Sometimes one of us brings a melody or a chord progression and we start adding and changing things, but we also like to songwrite when we are all together in our rehearsals. We start jamming and music flows from us. Both methods work for us.

We try to use every instrument that falls in our hands. Sometimes that’s a problem because we are seven members plus our instruments. We look like the philharmonic orchestra of an anthropological museum, so we need big stages to play (and also big cars to travel). In summary, the instruments that we use most are davul, cajón, darbuka, bodhran, some small percussion, spanish guitars, baglama, hurdy gurdy, nyckelharpa, guzheng, violin, different flutes, bagpipes… and also our voices. 

You aren’t afraid of the quiet moments, or moving slowly, how does this space of simplicity play into your vision?

Being seven people in the project, sometimes is complicated to achieve balance and things get a little bit messy, because we all want to contribute to the creative process. We like to get intense and powerful in some of our songs, but we like introspection too and some of the themes we address such as death, melancholy or loss are particularly delicate. So there are these moments when we become more careful, or conscious maybe, and we try to slow down and just make something that simply works well and is not as full of melodies and rhythms, kind of more quiet. Silence is an important part in music too and in this kind of songs we try to give more space for simple melodies and silences also. 

Why do you think it’s important to stand up against racism in the music scene?

Entering the music scene is very much like giving someone a speaker. It could be a bigger or smaller one, but is up to us choosing what we say through it. So if we have that responsibility, we should use it to try to make the world a better place.

Starting from our statement and the concept of our band, Vael stands for the defense of every cultural manifestation from every part of the world and every culture, no matter the skin colour, gender or age. We want to break the barriers that separates us and search for what brings us together. So, according to this, we don’t tolerate racism, fascism, or whatever demonstration of discrimination based on the ethnicity, nationality, religion or identity. 

Sadly, in the neofolk scene there’s a bunch of examples of overt racism and white supremacism. We believe that bands like us have to create a scene where everyone is welcomed and united by music, not for other irrelevant reasons which excludes the others.

How do you define “community” and how does that play into your creative vision

We think of community as a gathering of people that supports each other and works together. Each member has his/her own weaknesses and strengths that shape the way the community faces day-to-day challenges. We are, indeed, a little community and what we do is a reflection of how we care for each other and how we have held on together when we have been through difficult situations. This is why our music talks about caring for the others and the world we live in, and the global community we are as living beings experiencing the same things even if those experiences appear in different forms, colours or cultural concepts for each one of us.

There is also another important dimension of community, and it’s the one that we form with the other fellow artists, fans and folks who share our passion for music. The European folk scene is very rich and full of endearing people. Friendly mates willing to give everything to help, collaborative artists and a very supportive public. We had experiences in other musical scenes, and when we met the beautiful people who make up this community we felt very happy and surprised. We cannot conceive our work and our context today without thinking about all of them.

What’s coming next for Vael?

Our plans are to continue exploring the musical possibilities that can be developed, mixing new harmonies and sounds, researching other musical traditions from across the world… just let flow the way we feel and think through the music and keep open minded. We are forced to have a “gap year” due to the unfortunate events of the Covid-19 pandemic that has also changed some of our plans, but we are looking forward to playing in Portugal this fall, and maybe recording a EP with songs that we have recently composed. 

What other bands would you recommend to antifascist neofolk bands?

Here in Spain we have some bands such as Ignitia, an emerging pagan folk band with influences from Wardruna, and Aegri Somnia who mixes traditional work songs and chants from iberian villages —and spanish Civil War songs too— with some metal. Not from Spain but in Spanish we have Emerson Dracon, an Argentinian artist who creates industrial martial neofolk with an antifascist background.

In the global scene, we recommend Rome, since some of us are very fond of Jerome Reuter’s work. Matt Howden with his project Sieben is a very interesting artist too, very talented and full of great ideas and very provocative. We had the opportunity to be part of a Q&A at Castlefest with Waldkauz, Rastaban and La Horde, three bands that one shouldn’t miss, and we were talking about some of the inclusive values that folk music should carry. SeeD is another project formed by very lovely people with a great spirit of union and friendship through nature and tales. We also have Cinder Well, a dark folk band which you have already interviewed, and some other projects where Amelia Baker has been involved, such as Gembrokers and Blackbird Raum, and similar to those ones, we have Mama’s Broke, two women from Canada making “dark” americana music. Lankum is another interesting project, making their own doomy version of irish music.

Finally, we will always recommend Sangre de Muérdago, ‘cause we love their music and all the magic that they create. We had the chance of being together at La Noche de los Candiles in 2018, a really cool festival in southern Spain. They are such wonderful people and one of our most important references in the scene.

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We are putting their two albums below from their Bandcamp. We have also added several of their tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so make sure to follow that as well.

From an Imagined Past: An Interview With April of Her Prime

The quiet simplicity of April of Her Prime is what first stood out to me, a dark folk act born out of the solitary world of solo ambient music. Their distinct sound is born out of complex and conflicting philosophies, the instinct to destroy and to build up anew, and is always created from the instinct to experiment and challenge. Their four albums should be on every neofolk fan list, even if it pushes at the bounds of where dense, melodic ambient music hits the neofolk canon.

We interviewed Italian musician Michele Catapano of April of Her Prime about his musical process, where the inspiration comes from, and what drives the spirit of artistic rebellion.

 

How did April of Her Prime come together? How did you first conceive of the project.

Well, about 3 years ago some profound changes had a certain impact on my, so to speak, “self consciousness,” and this is how one day I ran into classic neofolk. I was truly captivated by the simplicity and yet the depth and intimacy that few acoustic guitar chords could express. Shortly after I realized that I couldn’t have found a more direct, genuine and at the same time “not – easy listening” way to express myself through a song. This is how April of Her Prime was born, picking the name of the project from a verse of Shakespeare’s Sonnet III, which says much more than anything else…

 

Is it an entirely solo project? How do you record it? What instruments are you using?

April of Her Prime is and always will be a solo project. In fact, it is born essentially because of my solo artistic experience, I didn’t find any musician to share the project with. Maybe it is way too personal and if someone else had come across, I would have been tyrannical, ahahah. 

There’s still place for a band, but not under the “April…” name. Plus, the project is almost no cost. I only use a handheld recorder, some (light) pc editing and just the right (or wrong, it depends on the point of view) mood. 

As April of Her Prime, I go entirely acoustic: guitar, drum, sometimes a flute and the singing of the birds, the music of the streams flowing under a dome of dancing leaves. 

My ambient works are a bit different, and though they are part of the same “Weltanschauung,” they still have a different nature, so I prefer to distinguish them from April of Her Prime, using simply the line “from April of Her Prime’s Michele Catapano.” On this, I go mostly with electric guitar (as in “Radio Hiraeth”) and heavily distorted and edited sounds and samples (as you can hear in “De Inferis”, for example), but I also made an entirely acoustic short play named “Haikustic.” Besides the instrumental and technical aspects, the real difference is “ontological”, in a way.  

 

The songs feel almost like an ambient collage. What is the inspiration behind it

The main inspiration for my music in general comes from a deeply, cosmic pessimistic view, very keen to the one expressed by poet Giacomo Leopardi, a man who has been truly significative to my life on many levels (despite the fact that he’s actually dead… or maybe exactly because of it). The entire life and work of Carmelo Bene have been really decisive, too. 

The point is: man is not the great thing he always thinks he is – or I’d better say “he had always thought,” because the COVID emergency seems, at least, to teach him a lesson. Of course this is a tragedy – lots of people are dying or even left to die in America because someone decided they’re no more useful than others or because they don’t have the money, and I myself cannot reach my beloved ones because of the quarantine, but what I say is: once for all, let man learn from his mistakes and misconceptions…

On a more personal level, I think nostalgia for a different time and a different life, one that may have never actually existed anyway, plays the most important part. And solitude surely does a lot, too… haha. 

Speaking of the style, I just love ambient music. I think Basinski, Hecker, and the whole work of David Tibet at first, just to name a few, or the more industrial Nocturnal Emissions and Coil, Cabaret Voltaire, Ulver, but also Boards of Canada and black metal acts, especially Agalloch, or the solo works of Steven Von Till and Scott Kelly, or even the Italian psychedelic and prog scene… It is a really wide wing of artists that I tend to define “ambient”, across the genres, that have an influence on me at any level. It’s hard to give you a more precise answer, haha. 

 

Why do you choose to mostly not do vocals?

First, I don’t like my voice very much, and second, I usually don’t have anything to say that’s not already been said by others before me – in movies, documentaries, poems and so on – or that you can’t reach just by listening to the music, in which case if you can’t, well, it’s just how the things go and it’s exactly what my music is about, after all.

 

 

Why is it important to be an antifascist artist?

The answer here is very simple (yet the implications are not): art can be too personal to be explicitly political, but it’s never entirely apolitical. 

But this doesn’t mean, as much as I can say, that a right wing person is also a right wing artist, I mean someone that produces right wing art or propaganda: it all depends on the social and cultural context in which the work of art is born. Art is made by the artist, but it always expresses the nuances of the “system” or “the actual state of things”, that can be left or right. 

In times like these, I think it’s better to avoid a great number of wannabe-rebels dressed in military code, fucking around with drumsticks and trumpets…

Anyway, generally speaking, as philosopher Antonio Gramsci understood and Carmelo Bene expressed, all art is always the art of the bourgeoisie, so it’s good to “fly away” from it, in a certain sense. 

That’s why, along with other reasons, I don’t see myself as an artist and, for what concerns me, that’s exactly where my antifascism takes place: a refusal of the state of things (or the State, with capital S), of violence even in its “soft” and “intellectual” form, from social life to political philosophy or theory (and so a refusal of, let’s say, the Anthropocene). I’m an anarchist. The triumph of weakness, that’s it. 

 

Why do you think it’s important to stand up to fascism in the music scene?

Fascism grows where ignorance lies, and pop culture is just the fertile soil for ignorance to put its seeds. Think about the right wing meme culture on the Internet… And the effect it had on elections, even here in Italy, where fake news ruled the country for a couple of years, recently. It’s important to fight fascism because it spreads so easily, and art is always the strongest (and… sneaky!) way to do so. But, speaking in the terms of antifascist philosopher Benedetto Croce, there’s no ideology in art and, if so, there’s no art at all, it’s just propaganda. And this is even more true in the case of fascist “art”. In my personal experience, I noticed that, luckly, fascist “art” often boycotts itself: it’s so kitch and ridiculous (like some modern “futurists” i saw around) that no one takes it seriously – not even right wing voters, most of the times…

Anyway, it is a good thing to express clearly one’s distance and repulsion from fascism or racism in art, especially in the neofolk scene (which we all know is problematic) like Einar Selvik from Wardruna, a very successful band, did.  Music in general, that is so easily and largely fruited by anyone, has the weakest skill of defense against fascism and yet grants it the strongest spread – all who have something to do with music, on any level, should defend it.

 

How do folk traditions play into your project?
I’m not a traditionalist, it’s a bunch of bullshit. Most of the so called “traditions” shouted out loud by the right are usually totally made up and fake: from the magical meaning of the runes in nazism, to the supposed “oratores – bellatores -laboratores” historical social system according to Dumézil. And anyway, that’s not true that what once was shall ever be or it is right for it to be (I mean… slavery or antisemitism should be pretty explicative). 

But folk culture, in particular the magic culture of the countryside in Lucania (my homeland), are, I would say, essential to my project. Speaking of which, the work of anthropologists like Ernesto De Martino or the film maker documentarist Luigi Di Gianni are almost vital, in that sense (if you’re interested in such pictures, I recommend you my YouTube channel Oktober Equus Industries where I put some of my songs’ music videos).

A long, forgotten story of deep respect for Mother Nature, that can evolve almost in a Lovecraftian sense of sublime reverence to Her in some cases, and of absence. Yes, I would summarize the whole Lucanian existence as an aesthetic of Absence. My work as a tribute to Absence. 

 

What’s Coming Next for You?

Something’s coming. I’m collecting some ideas and things I already recorded but that need something additional to them, I’m waiting for the right time to come… Anyway, stay tuned!

 

What other artists/bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk bands?

Well, let’s start from a great classic, first of all: ROME, of course. Then I’d suggest DEAES, great band, and Nathan Gray for sure (“Nthn Gry” in particular, in my opinion, is pure gold, everybody should have it). A great post-punk band of the past, sadly almost unknown for what I can see, is And Also The Trees, which I think can fit pretty well the taste of neofolk fans in general. 

Last but not least, especially for the Italian readers, I strongly recommend the whole “Folk” series edited by the label Fonit Cetra in the 70s, a collection of traditional and rural Italian folk tunes (re)discovered and re-arranged by Italian folk musicians like Canzoniere Internazionale, Rosa Balistreri and expecially the singer and ethnomusicologist Caterina Bueno, a real heroine. 

The work of Matteo Salvatore is also a real treasure anyone interested in pure, sensitive music should discover, especially the fans of acoustic strums. His music was our own “blues”, in a certain way. Beautiful. 



Invoking Your True Self: An Interview With Poppet

Abe Goren is one of the most prolific artists we have ever covered. In just a few years they have released a couple of dozen albums and EPs under a number of different projects and genres. We first came into contact when writing about their masonic Dungeon Synth project Lodge of Research, our first endeavor into the growing world of Dungeon Synth that borders on the edges of much of the post-industrial that is our bread and butter. Now their syncretic style is back here with Poppet, a project that shifts between neofolk, Dungeon Synth, metal, and just strange eclectic weirdness, and so we wanted to jump back into it and talk with Abe about some of the concepts behind this project, which ranges from nordic mythology to the personal search for gender identity. Abe’s own journey is especially informative for us since it talks about the process many people have gone through in the edge genres where political consciousness clashes right up against the presence of far-right bands in the scene, and maybe even our playlists.
How did this project Poppet form?  What was the thinking behind it?
I started getting heavily into black metal around late 2015. Interest in projects such as Mütiilation, Aniroe, Summoning, I Shalt Become, Bal-Sagoth and sadly, some sketchier bands like Inquisition and Burzum were primary influences for making ambient black metal. I was using GarageBand at the time, and I had no access to drums or guitar sounds, so I used a monosynth VST called “festival lead” to create black metal noises, and then did vocals and synth pads over it. A Poppet is a doll used in British folk magic, essentially the Western equivalent to a so-called “voodoo doll,” I was very into occultism in high school, and as I started college, I got heavily back into occultism. I wanted a venue of music to discuss religions such as Tibetan Buddhism, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, Santeria, Rastafari, Sufism and Left-Hand Path Satanism, and started the product as such. I had released several songs from this project on Soundcloud before, but 2017 was the real watershed moment. I was friends at the time with a fairly right-wing friend, and I was in a black metal band themed around the civil war with him, called Quantrill. I was the resident keyboardist, but it was a full band, suprisingly multi-ethnic for such a sketch band too. It was probably the sketchiest project I was in, and it wasn’t that good either, essentially sounding like a worse produced Peste Noire. This project was posted on Atmospheric Black Metal albums and got terrible reviews. This inspired me to seek feedback for my music as Poppet, and in early 2018, I posted my Enter the Numinous Realm album on Bandcamp. A couple of weeks later, I got feedback from the dungeon synth community, saying that they really enjoyed my project and how weird it was. This inspired me to hang out with the dungeon synth crowd, and release more dungeon synth inspired music on a regular basis, I continued to use it as a basis for discussing Sufism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, Kabbalah and Tibetan Buddhism, and made several friends I am still in correspondence with these days. I keep Poppet as a form of discipline, where I will constantly try to better myself and write more engaging and challenging works.
What challenged you to stand up against the right wing bands? What motivated you to stop supporting far-right musicians?
Back in 2015 and 2016, my politics could be understood as provocative. I had a very neoliberal attitude, thinking that whatever riled people up was the way to go. That said, I never dipped fully into reactionary territory due to me being Jewish, and having a close friend in high school who transitioned her gender. I had my first romantic partner in 2017, and being around that person allowed me to see how reactionary and provocatory politics were exactly that, and that in order to understand people you have to listen to them. In 2018, being around dungeon synth people actually exposed me to a wide gamut of more left wing ideas, and since I had such a plethora of amazing and non-sketchy bands in black metal, neofolk and dungeon synth to check out from that community I didn’t need to support sketchy bands. Whenever I listened to a far-right band and enjoy the music, it’s always tainted by the fact they’d kill me if they got the chance. Listening to non-sketchy bands I get the same pleasure with none of the guilt. This is why it’s important to build spaces with innovative music inspired by those bands but with none of those messages.
How did your own politics evolve in this time?
In 2015 I lived on my own for the first time, as I started college. Living in an independent space without my parents, I was exposed ot a lot of ideas on the left and on the right, and I was annoyed by a lot of the “radical ideologies” on the left. I had close friends with right wing beliefs, and the friends I had who were left-wing I grew distant from at this time from seeing them post on Facebook about bad shit all the time. My shift to the right was also motivated by me being a frequent user of the KiwiFarms from 2014 until mid-2017, a trolling website, which I maintain when it started wasn’t a hotbed of transphobia, islamobhobia, racism and ableism but rather an outgrowth of the same people who obsess over Chris-Chan. The site while intially funny, wore off quick and became a heavy obsession of mine. I posted bad deviantart pictures there constantly as a sort of discipline. Whenever I tried to correctly gender someone there, I was bombarded by many transphobes saying “don’t feed into their delusions.” I am glad I left that shithole. Even if it wasn’t as bad when it started, it was still really bad, and it just got worse as it continued. Around this time I started picking up on more and more esoteric far-right ideologies, which I liked because they were mystical and magical, and as a religion major, I didn’t like how communism as I knew it was “atheistic.” Around 2017, my politics matured after finding a partner, I read less about traditionalism and the esoteric far-right and cared more about being a good person than wanting to pick an ideology to shock. In 2018, when I was exposed to the dungeon synth community, I began reading about various kinds of leftism, and at the same time I was exposed to Marxist theories in my criminology class (despite the teacher having a lot of criticisms of Marx), which made me more motivated to read about Marxism. From there I’ve moved more to the left, which I find is a funny coincidence because it had to do with me becoming part of the DS scene at the same time.
Why do you think its important for other artists to do the same and speak out against sketchy bands?
I believe that everyone who isn’t a nazi (which is most people) into extreme music should be able to have their voices heard. If we support “free speech” the widest variety of opinions will be heard if nazis don’t get a platform. This is why I support bands that carve out a unique space in music, leftist or not, as long as they’re not nazis. We need to create a space where nazis aren’t the only people making creative and innovative music. I love this blog for this very reason, neofolk is an amazingly beautiful genre, ruined by some of the most backwards simpletons and yahoos into extreme music. If we want all ideas to be heard, we must remove people who will censor all other opinions if they got a chance to.
Why did you turn towards neofolk? How do you define this project?

Neofolk was something I was always aware of, even before I was aware of DS. I was a fan of Agalloch’s neofolk output, as well as Wolves in the Throne Room. Neofolk to me occupies a similar role to dungeon synth in how interludes of both sorts are often used in black metal songs. My album Infernally, I Wander, which we will discuss in more depth eventually, was created not out of a love for neofolk (that came more in 2019 when I dug deep into the works of David Tibet and Ulver) but out of me playing around with guitar sounds on Garageband, to create a sort of medieval vibe. My album Chapter I was a more conscious effort to recreate the sounds of neofolk at large, to capture a more singer/songwriter vibe of my music, rather than simple improvisation.

What relationship does dungeon synth have to neofolk?
Neofolk is unique as a genre in that it started out of the industrial scene, but got revived thanks to black metal fans listening to old neofolk records. Dungeon Synth grew out of black metal fans (sometimes the same ones) listening to industrial and ambient records and creating fantasy soundscapes out of it. Both genres attempt to paint classical and artistic music in the context of extreme music. There’s a reason why Wongraven’s Fjelltronen is both dungeon synth and neofolk, the dark folk scene grew out of Norway at the same time DS artists like Mortiis were making some rounds. I think both genres excel at capturing a haunting ambience, but both generes are flexible enough to also become agressive, intense and extreme in an occult context. They certainly both love their forests. Both genres are also similar because Dungeon Synth is largely distinct from the rest of synth and electronic music, you don’t hear as many drops, acid bass or drum patterns. Likewise, neofolk is distinct from folk music because it’s less “homey” and “rugged” and more decidedly “ethereal” and “ominous” in its sound. To compare Sangre de Muerdago to The Lumineers is like comparing Aphex Twin to Fogweaver.
How does the Norse tradition inform Þrymskviða? 
Þrymskviða was created when I was in Ireland, and getting heavily into the Norse Tradition. At around the same time, I was begining to question my gender and transition, which lead me to reading about certain kinds of runes such as Peord, Berkano and Gebo which weren’t as commonly touched by Heathens due to their feminine nature. I was especially drawn to the story of Odin living his (her?) last years as a woman, because of their Seidr practice, and as such was considered “unmanly” by Loki. I had always been drawn to Odin, and this more feminine aspect of Odin, was far more engaging than anything NSBM cultivated. I sought to tell a story of Norse and Germanic people defying roles of toxic masculinity rather than falling within those traps. Gender divergence has always existed, and I’d like to think that I captured an aspect of the mythos most metal bands either ignore or don’t know about.
How did your own personal journey inform Þrymskviða?
As mentioned before, when I was living in Ireland, I began to heavily question my gender, and identify less as a man and more as what I believe to be myself, to live authentically. The choral parts of this album were informed by a sketchy (and shitty) DS tape, that I thought I could improve on heavily. In one track, I started with male voices chanting but eventually changed them to female voices through my DAW. This is a not-so-subtle hint at the early stages of my transition at the time. These interests and new found interest in shifting my identity led me to learning about aspects of the Norse traditions that appeal more towards LGBTQ peoples than your average Brodinist.
What speaks to you from the Norse traditions?

I’m not too sure where to define my religion today, but its a fluid part of my identity. Like with most mythologies, I appreciate the nature of gender divergence within the Norse deities. They’re not fixed in one aspect. Many people hate Loki, but I find how he lived his life as a mare and got pregnant to bare Slepnir a fascinating case of how even in ancient tales, gender isn’t fixed. The runes are also endlessly fascinating, being very similar to my native Hebrew, in how each character serves a spritiual meaning and signifcance. Reading about them when first coming to a realization of my gender identity made me resonate with the far more obscure runes Nazis didn’t use. I did a split with a project called Peord, and Peord is inherently connected to women’s issues.

Your music really developed with Infernally, I wander? Why did you go in this direction? What was the thinking behind it?
That album was started while I was writing another album called Future Tense. I was messing around with guitar presets and ended up creating a beautiful medieval piece. That piece is the last on that album. For Infernally, I Wander I limited myself to two sounds on Garageband, a guitar and a flute. This limitation ended up making some bizarre music, and for this album, I leaned into my project’s outsider nature, of which I skirted around before. This embrace of weirdness, coupled with free flowing and creative song structures made an album I’m truly proud of. Afterwards I started to listen to more neofolk in order to bolster more creativity out of myself.
Walk me thorough how you are producing the music? What does the production process entail? Is it purely a solo project?
I initially started producing music through Garageband, using a midi controller, although often I use the Musical Typing setting. I will typically record an improvisation and then record another improvisation over that improvisation, but as I have learned more skills of how to edit sounds, I’ve been pushing myself to make more challenging and competent works of synthery. I will often include my vocals, and increasingly include drums. It is a solo project, but I actually have some group projects and remixes in store, not just with Poppet but with other projects. Now, I use Logic, which has multi-tracking, a stronger editing system and more VSTs, most of which are easily editable. This has greatly expanded my array of sounds.
How does your antifascist politics inform May the Braying of the Horn Smite Those of Hatred Great?
This album was created for three reasons, the first being how I felt there was a deficit in my music that wasn’t tackling political issues, around this time Dungeon Synth: No Fash Edition was created as a group, which I appreciate, but was also controversial as the group was mostly drama. Created on a bus ride to Belfast, I thought I wanted to make a tough and industrial album from my project. There was a micro scene called “tuff synth” embodied by bands like Xuthal of the Dusk, that revolve around distorted horns. The third reason I created the album was the most important. I was sick and tired of seeing antisemitic memes and sentiment across the internet. I am Jewish ethnically, and it should come as no surprise that I stand against Nazism and white supremacy as a result. As such, this album acted as a “diss track” towards people thinking dungeon synth needs to have more Pro-European themes, whatever that means. May the Braying of the Horn Smite Those of Hatred Great is a call to destroy those who destroy marginalized peoples and communities, using Biblical themes as an epic, sword-and-sandal backdrop from which to juxtapose conflicts against trans people, people of color, queer people, Jews, Muslims and politcal radicals against hegemonic powers-that-be.
What’s coming next for you?
Under one of my many other projects, Wagemage, I have a remix album of gabber versions of black metal tracks coming out soon. Under Poppet, I’m working on drum heavy dungeon synth, inspired by an irl friend’s Witch House project, wwithout. As long as I’m here, I’m gonna be pumping out more albums, and who knows what might greet you in the future!

We are embedding the albums that were mentioned here and we encourage you to check out all of Poppet’s library. We have also added Poppet tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so remember to add that as well.




Asking the Cards: An Interview With Awen

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The Belgian neofolk project Awen is the perfect culmination of their history mixing the traditional with popular folk into one of the most challenging ensembles of the decade. Their latest album Chosen Cards is built around the Tarot, each song representing a card in the deck and a guided path of possibilities. The word “Awen” itself means inspiration in Welsh and Breton, what inspires the bards and those who string words and sounds. There couldn’t be a more perfect word for what they are building.

Bart Deruyter from Awen actually reached out to us directly to share the dismal experience he had recently seeing neofolk being associated with fascism. “I explicitly want to ‘out’ we’re anti-fascist,” he said, mentioning that his vision of the new album ran completely at odds with these kind of ideologies. “I have played in a regular folk band in the past (+/- 15 years ago) and yes, then too some folk communities were associated with extremism. I always hated the implicit association and I see it is the case again!”

We interviewed Bart Deruyter about Awen, how it came together, what the concepts behind the new album are, and how traditionalism and paganism inform their development.

How did Awen come together? Were you all in bands before this?

It was in a time when I had changed jobs, when me and my girlfriend had moved away and when I just had quit previous bands, ‘Pia Fraus’ (electro/noise/industrial/experimental), ‘Onder Invloed’ (‘roughly translated as ‘under the influence, playing folk’) and ‘Tana’(piano/vocals). Lieselot, as one of my best friends and of my girlfriend, had been visiting the rehearsals and shows of Pia Fraus and also the shows of Onder Invloed. We already had been discussing the possibility of having her joining Pia Fraus with her accordion, but when I quit and the band subsequently split, it didn’t happen of course. 

But we kept in touch. After some talking about how hard it was to start something new, getting to know people and keeping friendships alive over longer distances, we then asked ourselves why we wouldn’t make music together. We decided we better would. Awen was born.

How do you describe your sound? Have you ever avoided using the neofolk label because of the right-wing connotations?

It is pretty hard to describe our sound. Given my past in music it has become a mix of a lot of influences. I’ve got a partly classical education, so there’s a lot of classical, even orchestral sound. But then again I have played bass and guitar in a folk band, so the sound became influenced by it too, and in the use of electronics and samples you can hear Pia Fraus reaching out. Some say the end result is much like film music.

A colleague of mine described it wonderfully. Awen is a house with many, many rooms.

When we finished our album ‘Chosen Cards’ we started thinking ‘What genre of music do we actually make?’ We had no clue. Then a friend of mine pointed us in the directon of Neofolk/Dark Folk/New Folk. We actually googled it and discovered there’s indeed this genre. We also discovered it can sound completely different across the globe. Even today I have no real idea on what it is that keeps it together as a genre. But when you hear it, you kind of know it is Neofolk. 

So imagine my surprise when I read about the association between neofolk and fascism. No, I don’t want us to be associated with fascism in any way. It is against the very nature of the music. The music itself is multicultural so how can it ever be fascist? Since we didn’t know about the ‘right-wing connotation’ in the first place, there was no reason to avoid the label. Even knowing it I don’t see why I should avoid it, it’s about describing a type of music, not politics.

What does it mean to be an antifascist band for you?

It is very simple: not being a fascist band. I’ll go even further, we are not an antifascist band because we should not be. We are not an activist band, we’re making music, not politics. To be clear, we don’t consider ourselves to be ‘anti’ anything in the first place. All we do is make music. We simply don’t want to be associated with fascism in any way.

Let’s be honest, there should not even be a channel like this to show one is ‘not fascist’ in the first place.

How do folk traditions play into your music? How about myths, legends, and pagan spirituality? What traditions do you pull from?

There are quite some folk elements. It is undeniable that the accordion is associated with the sound of folk music. But this is not by choice. Lieselot wanted to have a different way of playing her instrument, not the ‘traditional’ way in which it is being used. I think we succeeded at that, but the sound itself is enough for many, to make the link with folk. 

I use a lot of unusual rhythms and sometimes even mix musical meters within the same song, which is used a lot in traditional folk music. I’ve used samples of a friend playing the djembe, which brings us to folk music yet again. I think most of the folk traditions have slipped in unconsciously because I have been playing in a traditional folk band for about five years. It’s simply in the way I play.

An important tradition we have used, are the Tarot Cards. The topic of our album, are ‘chosen cards’. We’ve chosen twelve cards from the Tarot deck and interpreted them in our own way. We have lined up these cards so they could form a story. It’s up to the listener to make their own interpretation of it, to invent their own story. To start with, we used a story I have been writing for a long time, but writing it is on a pause for a few years because I’m too busy with music. That story is influenced by Wiccan and Pagan spirituality in several ways, ranging from the five elements , the elements of nature to symbolism and numerology. Again, it is not our intention to direct the listener to this story, but to their own. It was only a means for us to find an order.

How can using traditions from the past help liberate us now?

For me there are in essence two ways to deal with traditions. One is to follow them and the other is to rebel against them. But of course there is the gray zone, where you can mix and match between rebelling and following elements of a tradition. You follow what you like and rebel against what you dislike. 

But basically we all are someone’s children and we’ve been growing up with certain traditions, we can only build upon what we know and enrich it with what we learn from others. Knowing and understanding other traditions helps us to know and understand our own traditions better and it helps us criticize our own traditions too. In short, only by knowing other traditions you can evaluate your own traditions and try to get to the best possible result for yourself. 

You could then say it is not the original tradition anymore. That is true of course, but I’ve always been told, and I agree with it: when something does not evolve anymore, it is dead. 

I think with our music and lyrics we have accomplished an evolution for our own. We have used and mixed classical, folk, current techniques and traditions and created something which ‘liberates’ us from them by using them. Fascism locks in a fundamental set of traditions and doesn’t allow change. There is ‘neo’ in neofolk, which more then hints to ‘new’, or ‘renew’ which is a strong indication of ‘evolving’, ‘changing’, the opposite of fascist thinking.

How does songwriting work? Is it collaborative?

Yes, it is collaborative. It is true that I do most of the technical stuff, the technical ‘music-writing’ and ‘theory-thinking’ to make it fit, this certainly was my task when expanding from only ‘guitar and accordion’ to the use of samples and virtual instruments, but the basic songwriting is collaborative, because we write the lyrics together by discussing the topics very intensively and by listening and commenting on what we play. I can suggest a chord, then she agrees or disagrees to use it, or to abandon the idea. Then follows the way it is played, the voicing, the rhythm etc. it is all done collaboratively. 

What can bands do to push back on fascists in the scene?

Well, when I played in ‘Onder Invloed’ we once performed in the region near Brussels, where the discussion about using ‘Dutch’ or ‘French’ often becomes explosive. The village is officially Flemish, so all official documentation, schools, streets are Dutch, but the majority speaks French. Being from Flanders we were associated with the Dutch speaking side, while we were not taking any side. We played music from Flanders, Wallonia, France, Sweden, Iran, England, Ireland, Scotland, etc… in an empty hall. Sure, we were not a ‘famous’ band, but nobody showed up, afraid of possible conflict. Which is a shame of course, sharing cultures is the best way to learn from each other.

So, what we can do as bands? We can only play music. 

What’s coming next for you?

Our album is ready, we have done a few performances, now we would like to do more, many more. We have grown as a duo, in our music, we now need to grow as a live band. The only way to do that is by doing shows. We want to play! We want to lay our cards for our public and let them tell what’s coming next 🙂 .

What bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

As I described earlier we were not aware we were making neofolk in the first place, so we don’t really know much about other ‘neofolk’ bands apart from what we researched to figure out what we do. We would love to find our way in the scene, so I’ll return you the same question, what bands would fit with us? Maybe us ‘matching’ bands could help each other by being each others ‘supporting acts’ on shows or Neofolk festivals etc. 

Secondly we were not aware there actually is something as ‘fascist neofolk’, it only showed up while researching the term ‘neofolk’, so we cannot (yet) recommend ‘antifascist’ bands. Fascist or antifascist never showed up on our radar since we even didn’t ever expect it to exist in the first place. 

We are adding Awen’s new album Chosen Cards below from their Bandcamp. They are not on Spotify yet, but we have added a number of new tracks to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify so make sure to follow it!

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From Galicia With Love: An Interview With Sangre de Muérdago

The soul of antifascist neofolk came from bands who already were connected to the genre, but had a different starting point. For the people of the country, who were resisting encroaching empire or, later, fascist dictatorship, folk music was a type of cultural struggle that helped to remember who they were in the face of total erasure. In Galicia, the regional language and cultural practices, the strength of women and the diversity they respected, was crushed as Francisco Franco’s nationalist regime banned the language and expressions of tradition.

This is what has driven Galician neofolk giants Sangre de Muérdago to focus these folk traditions, handed down by families in their homes and pubs, alive in modern concert halls. A mix of romantic folk revival, traditionalist instrumentation, and a musical drive from the punk and metal world, Sangre de Muérdago has become one of the most defining crossover bands of the neofolk scene and have bucked the perception of the genre as solely owned by the far-right. Instead their anarchist inspired music has pushed back on bigotry and oppression, that was the role of the music from the start.

We interviewed Pablo C. Ursusso, who plays classical guitar and writes much of the music, about how they came together, what role Galician music has in fighting fascist oppression, and why they are taking a stand.

How did Sangre de Muérdago first come together?

Hard to describe, the winds brought us together, and then they separated us again, and then the long journey began… Sangre de Muérdago is an attempt to capture the essence of the wild spirits and translate them into our language through music, and I think this idea is what in first place brought us together.

The sound is firmly based in the Galician folk tradition, why do you focus on reviving Galician music?  Did this come from your own family traditions?

The sound is based in Galician tradition but also in many other fields. I think we are more focused on reviving the spirit I mentioned before, but we definitely have a compromise with Galician music and folklore.

I’ve grown up in a relatively undeveloped area and I still absorbed many old ways that were, and in some areas still are, alive.

What role did Galician music and culture play in resisting Franco?

The role it played during the war and the dictatorship was mostly to be in exile, hidden in the villages and the taverns, where people sang and played percussion with spoons and gardening tools.
Franco prohibited Galician language, and he was a Galician himself (only geographically speaking), so it is not only that it was forbidden to sing in Galician, but even to speak it.

Galician teachers were sent to the south of Spain, while southern teachers were sent to Galicia, in order to prevent the children to even learn the proper grammer, because at home, the Galician language was alive, but the blow that the language and culture suffered back then still has effects today.

Where do you find lyrical inspiration, and how does the writing process happen in the band?

I try to dig it up from my own most of the time, but of course I get a lot of collateral inspiration by countless sources. I don’t think I can name a specific tangible something from where I find most of my inspiration.

The writing process is on me, and often we do arrangements together. The process happens usually by surprise, but you know as Picasso said, “inspiration always catches me at work.” With this I mean that I play my instruments a lot, and when not, I sing to myself and my dog very much too, so I think that sentence applies very much to the creative process, and inspiration catches you often with the brush or the instrument or whatever is your tool, in hand.

You play in a huge range of venues, from opera hall to metal venues, why have you chosen to have such a diverse community?

That is something not chosen at all, it just happened and it is something I’m very glad about. A beautiful diversity of people in front of the stage feels very good.

I don’t really know, but after all, we are people that come from many little corners of the musical and cultural world, and some of us have been active for a long time.

I myself grew up with a lot of folk around me and at the same time deep into the anarcho/punk/diy community of music and counterculture, which in the 90s offered some of the most eclectic and interesting music that a scene had to offer, from metal to rock to experimental music. Georg comes from a more metal background, and Erik from a lot of rock and psychedelia, for example, just to mention some of us… and after all, we play folk music!

How do you see the band relating to the struggle for liberation and autonomy?  

I sing with all my heart for liberation and autonomy. And at a personal level, the band exists as a product of the struggle for liberation and autonomy.

Do you think it is important for bands to create an inclusive space and stand against bigotry?

Yes. Very much. Bands and everyone in general.

What’s coming next?  What tours, albums, collaborations or anything should people be looking out for?

Next is a good winter solstice ritual of magic and music.

We are as well working on our songs for our next album, which will be recorded in February 2020, then on tour through Europe in March, and hopefully for that time we will have in our hands our next release which is a Split Lp with Monarch. We have also some single shows popping up here and there… stay tuned.

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We feature Sangre de Muerdago heavily on the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, and will continue to add more tracks as they are released. Below are several albums from their Bandcamp, and stay tuned as we spotlight upcoming releases, tours, and collaborations!



Into the Sky: An Interview With Aerial Ruin

There is a sonic simplicity to Aerial Ruin, the solo neofolk project by Erik Moggridge, also known for his work in metal bands like Epidemic and Bell Witch. Like with a lot of layered neofolk, it starts with a singular acoustic guitar and then paints tracks with an overwhelming cascade. It is uniquely of the Cascadian neofolk scene that it comes out of, where you almost expect the mountains and forests will inspire this kind of quiet introspection (or blood curdling black metal, but that’s the other side).

We interviewed Moggridge about how Aerial Ruin came together, how Cascadian neofolk is growing in the Pacific Northwest, and why there should be no question when it comes to racism in the scene.

How did you first start playing music?

I started playing guitar quite young and had a band in junior high playing Sabbath and Priest covers and then started my first proper band Epidemic with friends in high school. We were thrash/death metal band that had some underground demo success and eventually did two albums on Metal Blade in the early-mid nineties.

What led into Aerial Ruin?

After Epidemic I formed another metal/rock band (which has recently reunited) called Old Grandad in San Francisco. We were much more experimental than Epidemic and had melodic and harsh vocals performed by all three members. We had a lot of different styles including more melodic psychedelic Pink Floyd influenced stuff that I would sing. You can see a thread from that material to Aerial Ruin although the two projects are very different overall.

This feels like an intensely personal, and solitary endeavor.  What is the core inspiration for your music?

In some ways it could be said that Aerial Ruin grew out of becoming a more spiritual person. And yes it is a solitary and personal project but in a sense it is sub-personal, as it could be said to be about the loss of the self, or the fine line between the intensely personal and vaporizing the ego .

I have always been a very detached and dreamy individual and as a result have gravitated towards altered states of consciousness and extreme psychedelic experiences coupled with a fascination with death and mortality. My agnostic spiritual perspective gave way to a series of intense spiritual experiences. Not religious mind you, more of an impossible to define but very strong connection to something that eclipses our conscious human experience that it perhaps stems from. After that experience metaphor and symbolism took on new strength and meaning to me and I started writing and recording the earliest Aerial Ruin material as an attempt to express all this.

Of course experiences of transcendence and spirituality have always inspired art and music. What is magical to me is how unique and individual a perspective can feel on something that is perhaps so universal. Every individual can see or perceive something from a perspective that only they hold.

Dynamically it also made sense to do something quiet, minimalistic and personal where my voice does not have to compete with a hugely loud drummer and ever expanding amplification that Old Grandad had.

How do you define the sound of Aerial Ruin?

I usually quote other people by saying “some people describe it as dark folk” or “it’s acoustic guitar and melodic vocals but it’s dreary with residual metal qualities”. I don’t really have a definition for it myself outside of “my mostly-acoustic solo project”.

The term folk music to me implies the continuing-of or inspiration-from tradition. So in a sense that does not describe Aerial Ruin as my inspirations are so detached and personal. But I like folk music and there is enough sonic similarities that I don’t feel it is a bad description when people describe me as folk, dark-folk, neofolk, freak-folk etc. People who enjoy these genres often like my music so it is helpful to talk about it this way.

Is there a growing neofolk scene in the Pacific Northwest?

There are a number of talented musical projects oriented around acoustic instruments like Novemthree, Disemballerina, Solace, Vradiazei,  Serpentent, Cinder Well, Weather Veins, Crooked Mouth, Ekstasis, Weoh to name a few. I’m not sure how many of them would consider themselves neofolk though.

What bands have inspired this work?

Syd Barrett and Mark Lanegan are definitely influences. I think the musical influences were much more obvious in my louder bands though. I am an absolute Elliott Smith fanatic but I became a fan after Aerial Ruin started so his music is not really an influence but definitely and inspiration. The same could be said for certain Cat Power albums – the 1998-2003 era. Radiohead too. In more recent years I have discovered lots of more underground music that may not be a musical influence per se influence but is definitely inspiring, I’ve listed many of these bands elsewhere in this interview.

Why do you think it is important to stand up against racism and fascism in the music scene?

It is always important to stand up to facism and racism. I am thankful that the people I have met in the underground community, both here at home and on tour are consistently anti-fascist, anti-racist and embracing of all kinds of diversity. Of course sensitivities differ but musicians I know seem to be, as a whole very left wing, distrusting of authority and completely intolerant of any form of discrimination or prejudice.

These days I tend to discover new music through touring and playing shows with bands and don’t always pay attention to what’s going on in the larger scene. Obviously I am aware that facism and racism do exist in the music scene but they are not in my record collection. It is alarming to me that white supremacy and racism are emboldened here in the US by the absurdity of the Trump era but thankfully I do not see this manifested in the underground circles I move in.

What’s coming next for you?

The next release is a fully acoustic split full-length with Panopticon coming out on vinyl courtesy of Bindrune Recordings. It has just been mastered so hopefully it will be out in a few months. Panopticon is such a brilliant and unique one-man band and  I am honored to be able to share wax with him. The way he and I approach acoustic music is also very different so the two sides are an interesting contrast.

In September I begin recording a collaboration album with Seattle doom-duo Bell Witch. I have been an auxiliary vocalist/collaborator on all their albums and select live shows and tours but thus-far have only contributed to certain songs or parts. On this album I am singing, co-writing and also playing guitar on the whole thing. This  is why it is being presented as a collaboration by Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin as opposed to me just being listed as a guest vocalist like before.

On September 28 I begin a European tour centering around a show hosted by BE Metal at Amuz, a beautiful church turned concert hall in Antwerp, Belgium. It is a great line-up featuring Austin Lunn playing solo acoustic Panopticon songs, Don Anderson playing Agalloch songs also solo on acoustic guitar, plus Andrew Marshall of Saor, Kathrine Shepard of Sylvaine and Marisa Kaye Janke of Isenordal all doing acoustic performances. After that show Aerial Ruin will be doing touring through France and Switzerland with Iffernet, a new two-piece black metal band featuring David, the drummer from Monarch and Sordide. The vinyl version of my “Nameless Sun” album came out recently as a split release by Caustic records and Musica Maxica so this tour will allow to get my copies of this which I look forward to. in 2020 I plan on touring heavily as Aerial Ruin and hopefully in collaboration with Bell Witch as well.

What bands would you recommend to an antifascist neofolk fan?

Well certainly Panopticon and the Northwest acts I mentioned earlier in this interview. Sangre de Muerdago, Nebelung, Nest, Aelter, Divine Circles, Worm Ouroboros, Musk Ox, Destroying Angel, Foret Endormie, Isenordal, Witch Bottle come to mind too.

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We are going to share several albums from the Aerial Ruin Bandcamp below, and have added to tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.