First Look: Nøkken + The Grim Release New Album: Bestiengesang

Alternating between haunting atonal soundscapes and quiet orchestral rhythm, Nøkken + The Grim has been one of primary bands since we started the website. Horse worship, pagan animism, ecofraternalism, screeching strings, all wound together in a lyricless mess that is unlike anything else you will fine in the antifascist neofolk circuit.

Their new album, Bestiengesang, is half invocations of spiritual animals and half live performance, always underskirted with a quiet and slow intensity. These eight tracks feel much more like painting or performance art than one-off songs, and its best to just jump in and hope for immersion. It’s dark and frightening, just what we expected.

Check out the new album below, the whole thing is available on the Nøkken + The Grim Bandcamp. They have yet to put the new tracks on Spotify so we have not added them to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, but we have added tracks from the album Treason to Our Nature and will add the new songs when they are available.

Depressive Creativity: An Interview With Realm and Ritual Records

The antifascist neofolk and genre community is not just a matter of the incredible bands building the sound, but also the labels, producers, and promoters getting this moving. We want to start raising the voices of some of these independent labels talking about the work they are doing to bring in left bands in this scene.

So here is our early release of an interview with the folks behind Realm and Ritual records, a cassette label that specialized in black metal, dungeon synth, and a whole range of stuff. This includes a number of antifascist bands, which we will be excited to profile (and one we will release an interview with shortly).

How did your label come together? What bands are on it and what is the mission?

Realm and Ritual started a little over a year ago in my bedroom in Boston, MA. I had wanted to run a label since unsuccessfully doing so forever ago when I was in high school. It wasn’t until recently that I felt that I had enough time, patience, and disposable income to actually make RAR a reality. My mission statement was to release black metal and dungeon synth that I felt an emotional connection to on my favorite format, cassette. I knew I wanted to release red and anarchist black metal–I am both anti-capitalist and anti-fascist–but I actually wan’t intending the label to be overtly political. However, after seeing NSBM out in the open–bands using nazi imagery, espousing racist, misogynistic, and fascist ideologies–and seeing much of the black metal community support, sympathize, or remain ambivalent on this, I wanted to be clear where I stood.

I’ve released music by some outspoken anti-fascist projects: Gudsforladt, Awenden, and Howling Waste. Though most of my releases haven’t been by overtly political projects, I do vet everyone I work with to ensure they don’t support NSBM or right-wing extremism. I am cool providing a platform for a variety of topics and themes; I’ve put out tapes based on His Dark Materials Trilogy, Shining Force (the RPG for Sega Genesis), and space exploration. My only rule of thumb is that I have to like it and it can’t be ideologically shitty.

Why is it so central to have anarchism and antifascism in the music scene?

It’s important to have anarchism and antifascism represented in music as a counter to right-wing extremism. While I think this is important across the board, I think it’s especially important to have anti-fascist views present in music for younger people first discovering these communities. I want kids getting into black metal to know that it’s not Burzum or bust, that extreme music is not synonymous with white supremacy or edgelord bullshit. The alt-right is a propaganda machine and it’s so easy for disillusioned folks to point their anger in the wrong direction. It’s our job to educate and provide a counter-narrative.

What kind of music do you focus on for the label?

I try to keep a balance between black metal in its various forms–atmo-black, DSBM, RABM, Cascadian etc.–with dungeon synth and dark ambient. I try not to get too distracted by genre labels but at the same time use them as a basic guideline. There are a few other labels with a similar focus that have been successful with maintaining a balance between interconnected but often musically disparate styles. I’m trying to do the same.

Have you dealt with white nationalist attitudes in the black metal and neofolk scene?

In short, yes. With black metal it’s so prevalent that I ended up joining a Facebook group devoted to identifying which projects have fascist ties. It’s astounding to me that the black metal community by in large accepts shit like Peste Noire, Satanic Warmaster, and Hate Forest. I don’t think that most folks who listen to this identify as white-nationalists, but there is a willingness to overlook harmful belief systems in service of “black metal should be dangerous” or “I just listen for the riffs”. These statements come from a place of  privilege and ignorance.

In terms of neofolk, I’ve only just recently started to dip my toes into it. It can be difficult to navigate a new genre of music that has been identified as having a problem with NS views. I’m really enjoying your site though and have found a couple of artists I like: Hindarfjäll and Deafest come to mind immediately.

How do you think people can deal with the fascist presence in neofolk?

I think there are many ways to fight fascism in music. For a starting point, support outspoken anti-fascist artists. Post their music, buy their physical media, recommend them to friends, see their shows. It’s ok to start small, a social media post is fine. To confront fascism, I think one place to start is to call out bad behavior, shitty ideals, and bad practice. Often online arguments feel like they don’t result in any actionable change but having these conversations out loud lets people know that there are multiple sides to this. If you’re involved in your local music scene, stop booking right wing extremists (or sympathizers). Don’t support venues that put on these shows. Let the organizers know you’re uncomfortable with a band being on a bill. Confront people wearing Goatmoon patches.

How does green anarchism play into projects on the label?

While I’m not sure where each artist I work with stands on this, I’d be happy to share my own base understanding of the concept. In any situation where we’re looking for sustainable models for the future, protection of the environment and ceasing our reliance on fossil fuels must be at the core. I’m reminded of a Marx quote, “Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the laborer.” If we are looking to stop exploitative processes inevitable in capitalist society, we must build something that protects workers and the environment.

What is next for the label?

The plan is to continue releasing tapes, with releases from Wounds of Recollection, Orb of the Moons, and Feralia coming up in September. I’m planning on trying to vend more in person and have a trip planned to Seattle for the upcoming Dungeon Siege West.

Check out some of their bands:

Gudsforladt–“1525”

Anti-fascist black metal with an interest in indigenous people that initially occupied New England

Howling Waste–“Bitter Tears, Dreams of Dawn”

Monastic & Marxist project from Glasgow, Scotland. My favorite track off this record is adapted from Tecumseh’s “Speech to the Osages”

Awenden–“Awenden”
Anti-fascist Cascadian project. Anarcho-primitive belief system and natural reverence are major themes on the EP.

Wooded Memory

A great ambient/dungeon synth project.

 

We are adding tracks from Wooded Memory and Awenden to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

The Antifascist Neofolk Manifesto

This is a write up on some points that came together in discussion with other people in the antifascist neofolk music community and intended to help build an intentional vision of what this emerging music trend can be. It is by no means owned by me or a static document, but ideas about what can be in this new terrain.

  1. Fascism has no claim on neofolk, or any other art form, and its history in the development of the genre gives it no natural right to it. Fascism is a manipulation of the impulses towards romanticism, utopian idealism, and the revolutionary spirit to build a new world. It destroys these impulses rather than preserves them, and so antifascist neofolk is the effort to reclaim this spirit.
  2. Neofolk is a romantic artform built on reconsidering the past in its complexity. Fascist ideologies embedded themselves in this music to fetishize a palingenetic ultranationalism vision of a mythic past, one that is used to create a spiritual and emotional motivation for insurgent nationalism. Antifascist neofolk takes a critical examination of the history of art and culture, reconsidering paganism, ecological sustainability, and resistance to colonial oppression as an inspiration. It looks to the past to inform the struggle against hierarchy and white supremacy, returning these ideas as a memory that can inform our vision of the future. We hope to preserve the beautiful aspects and look realistically at the problematic histories, refusing to ignore the histories of oppression and instead create a historical memory that can aid in our vision for a just and equitable future.
  3. The left deserves a self-conscious romantic art form of its own, one that visions the possibility of a new world founded on justice, equality, and freedom. As such we believe that scientific and legalistic thinking alone cannot feed a revolutionary movement, and instead we need the space to dream. Antifascist and revolutionary neofolk, like other art movements, is intentionally building that space, feeding passion, fantasy, and spirit into the movement to change the world and unite against white supremacy.
  4. Neofolk draws on the aesthetics of past generations recast into a modern form, and in that way we can build a uniquely modern sensibility from the myriad of folk art forms. The continuation of folk traditions is a form of cultural struggle against colonialism, from the heathen spiritual and musical traditions fighting Christianization to the battle to maintain indigenous languages against forced colonial assimilation to the reclamation of African history in communities robbed of their ancestral memory. Neofolk draws on this struggle, not as a reactionary form of identitarian nationalism, but as the organic culture that resists domination and persists in its beautiful diversity.
  5. Antifascist neofolk is simultaneously international and cosmopolitan, refusing the idea that nationalism is necessary to maintain the richness of cultural diversity. While neofolk is often seen as the revival of folk music traditions in Europe, antifascist neofolk necessarily needs to shed this Eurocentric point of view and bring connections with artists from around the world that draw on a range of traditions. We oppose tribalism and offer diversity, solidarity, and mutual aid as the alternative.
  6. Antifascist neofolk is not simply a subgenre of politically motivated neofolk bands, but a new standard being established. Neofolk has a history of fascist artists developing this scene as a place to build metapolitics that lead to political organization, and so even among non-political bands there has been a culture of complicity. Antifascist neofolk artists and fans are establishing new metric for what is acceptable, one that disallows this sort of passive stance and is enforcing an ethical framework that refuses white supremacy any form of platform.
  7. Antifascist neofolk is an organizing strategy, one that sees neofolk as a “contested space” where fascists are trying to build an intentional subculture. We believe that white supremacists and fascists have no legitimate claim to any social or cultural space, and that includes neofolk. Left to its own, neofolk becomes the perfect avenue for fascist recruitment because they have captive access to fans of the music who are yearning for a new world. Instead, we see this as a place of struggle, where antifascist musicians and fans will use this musical framework to push back on fascists from inside the music scene and disallow their presence. Music venues, record labels, publications, and all areas where neofolk is present then becomes this contested ground where antifascist neofolk fans, who are legitimate parts of the musical community, will push back on any complicity with fascist artists or movements. Just as in Oi!, street punk, black metal, and other musical movements that the far-right tried to stake a claim on, we believe that neofolk is worth fighting for and will push them out at every opportunity.
  8. Antifascist neofolk should create a confederation of musicians and labels that will help build a scene that runs counter to the far-right trend. By intentionally creating an antifascist neofolk community it will create a positive option for musicians and break the ideological hegemony that the far-right has tried to impose on neofolk. Before a counter-culture was available, the far-right had the ability to set the terms in the scene, forcing bands to conform or die. Now there is a counter-narrative that highlights the reality of the fascist presence in neofolk and shows that an alternative is possible and available.
  9. We believe in prefiguring the antifascist neofolk community. While antifascist neofolk bands existed all across the world, we are building the scene intentionally before it had formed organically. By determining what kind of musical scene we want as fans and musicians, we are projecting that vision into the world. We wanted there to be an antifascist and revolutionary neofolk scene, and so we gave it a name and started building it rather than waiting for it to appear on its own.
  10. Antifascist neofolk is only a stop over on our way to the real goal: to eliminate the fascist presence in neofolk and shift the values to egalitarianism and anti-racism. In the vision of future neofolk, there is no reason for the distinction, and so we are not satisfied to be an eternal subculture. We intend to take the entire thing over.

Metal Raises Money for Abortion Access with ‘Riffs for Reproductive Justice’

After the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights in several red states, and the potential for a full-scale SCOTUS assault on Roe vs. Wade, fundraising for abortion access has become a key priority and bands across the country are standing up in support. On a recent tour with Dawn Ray’d and Dead to a Dying World, they gave free t-shirts to people who gave monthly donations to reproductive access.

Now a new compilation has come together, organized by former Noisey resident metal-head Kim Kelly, and is intent on raising money for the National Network of Abortion Funds and the Yellow Fund, which fund abortions and do organizing in Alabama. The “Riffs for Reproductive Justice” compilation is for sale at Bandcamp and brings together a massive list of metal and hardcore bands who are putting themselves out there to raise money to ensure that low-income people in the most affected states still have access to healthcare.

Abortion clinics across the country are being forced to close, robbing people of the ability to access crucial healthcare services. A theocratic fascist regime is working overtime to control the bodies of those who have uteruses, to force us into unwanted pregnancies, to wrest away our human rights. We cannot stand by and let this happen. All of us—people of every gender, with every kind of body—need to fight back against this horrifying attack on bodily autonomy, by any means necessary. This compilation is just one small effort made by a few dozen people who care, who are intimately affected by this, and who love other people who are afraid of what the future will bring.

The compilation has thirty-three tracks, including songs by Ancst, Axebreaker, Dawn Ray’d, Deafest, Tbou, Jucifer, Twilight Fauna, and others.

“So it’s our honor to be part of this effort in the pivotal fight we again face to defend reproductive freedoms which politicians and religious extremists in our home country seek to demolish,” said Gazelle Amber, of Jucifer. “If legislators won’t do their job and represent the overwhelming public demand to keep abortion and birth control legal and accessible, we have to take care of each other. Never forget that we are more numerous than those who aim to control us. The object of power is power.”

You can get your compilation here, and they are asking for at least $5 to purchase the album, but you are welcome to donate more since 100% of the proceeds will go to the organizations supporting safe abortion access.

Against the Witch Hunts: An Interview With A Stick and A Stone

 

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A defining feature of the neofolk scene and the genres surrounding it is the revolving door of musicians, based in the shifting sands of collaboration. This has been the power of the scene of experimental neofolk, dark folk, ambient, and otherwise bands we have been covering recently, working out new musical terrain together. A Stick and A Stone has been one of these projects that we have been watching for a long time, and with their upcoming release we thought it was a perfect moment to sit down with them and talk about how this incredible project came together, how folk music draws inspiration, and how they are existing in the new antifascist world.

 

How did this project come together, and how did the relationship form with your collaborators?

Elliott: I formed A Stick And A Stone in 2007 as a solo project, though frequently collaborating with a wide range of guest musicians. When I started playing with drummers in 2013, and first with Dani in Philly, I got a taste of what it was like to have more participatory collaborators, because writing rhythmically was foreign to me, and I couldn’t play those songs solo.  

I met Myles in Portland through playing shows together, and in 2015, I started working with him on recording viola for The Long Lost Art of Getting Lost. (Oddly enough, after a year of playing together, we found out that both of our estranged dads also coincidentally play in a jazz band together back in Philly!)

Soon after, I met violist/vocalist Maria through working on the Black Lives Matter-inspired recording project of our mutual friend Sina. Then, we met violinist/cellist Stelleaux through a queer classifieds post that Myles made. Suddenly this magical string trio was formed, and when we all started practicing and performing together, something clicked. Four years later, they’re all somehow still putting up with me (mostly, hahah).

I also still love playing with guest musicians, and hope to find more drummers to work with soon.  

 

How does your music and lyrical writing process work?  Does it come together in collaboration, or is it very solitary?

Elliott: Mostly pretty solitary, though I always welcome input in fleshing things out. I write best when I am alone and in motion, with very little distraction. These days, this often looks like walking in the woods and belting at the top of my lungs when I think no one is around, then hiding behind a tree when I see other humans approaching, hahah. Back in Philly, I didn’t have any nearby woods to walk in, so I wrote by singing while I rode my bike through the streets late at night.

Unless I’m playing piano or bass when lyrics come through, I usually start with the vocals. The lyrics unfold simultaneously with the vocal melodies, the same way that the cadence of speech comes through naturally when you’re in a conversation. Most of my songs are some sort of conversation, even if just a conversation I’m having with myself.  

The instrumental arrangements I write often start off as vocal harmonies, then later get transferred to whichever instruments fit the part. I used to notate my ideas on sheet music, but I’ve been spoiled with collaborators who can mostly learn everything by ear.  

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What folk traditions do you draw on for inspiration?  

Elliott: Melodically, I’m definitely influenced by the Jewish traditional music I grew up immersed in, and still listen to. Some of my first experiences on stage as a child involved singing Hebrew songs at religious gatherings. (My religious upbringing is really complicated, though, so I’m not going to unpack that can-of-worms here!)  

I’m also largely inspired by the droning harmonies of traditional Balkan choral music, which I was first introduced to while singing in a protest choir, then got to know more deeply when I later formed an acapella Balkan trio. I was fascinated by the ways the lower harmonies seem to move up and down throughout the scale, but when you look at the sheet music, it’s all just one note.   

Myles: Interesting — I’m part Lithuanian, and something that struck me recently was learning about the Lithuanian dainos vocal tradition of Sutartinės, which are these very layered old cannon melodies chanted on top of each other in groups. The vocal intervals are alternately dissonant and harmonic, depending on where they intersect. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of recording my viola parts knows how much I love creating a similar wall of sound.

I also crawled out of a major depression once by impulsively joining a Georgian polyphonic choir that rehearsed in a friend’s house who had been singing the music since she was a child. In Baltimore, I  played in a Gamelan group that raised money for tsunami relief performing inside the embassy of Indonesia in Washington DC. 

A current bandmate of mine who’s involved in radical Jewish music preservation in Philly was nice enough to teach me some Klezmer music this year. I’m really grateful for all these experiences.

 

Paganism, particularly heathenry, immediately jumps out in the music, largely from the art and the instrumentation.  How present is that in the music for you?

Elliott: This depends on how you define Paganism. I don’t worship any gods or goddesses, and I actually don’t know much about Heathenry. I do know that the word pagan originally came from the Latin word ‘paganus’ which meant rural, rustic, or ‘of the countryside.’ To me, this speaks to the relationship of pagans with plant and animal spirits, the animist nature of paganism. I’m an animist in the sense that I experience everything as alive in some way. Not just plants and animals, but all material existence,  everything.

I used to do rituals with some activist pagan communities (of the Reclaiming tradition, mostly). I was originally drawn to paganism because it is a Mystery tradition. After leaving the fundamentalist religion I was raised in, I became a devoted agnostic, as a path of striving to embrace the unknown and let go of the urge to explain or define everything. Over time, though, I have started to feel weird about the religious conviction and Eurocentrism I’ve encountered in many pagan spaces.

These days, I feel most at home in “Jewitch” circles, and still practice what some might refer to as witchcraft, though the increasing commodification of  “witchy-ness” has left me seeking other language for my practices.

Myles: I am not a pagan, or religious at all for that matter. I feel no void of faith there, personally. I do have distant relatives on the Lithuanian side who practiced elements of Romuva. I’m wary of a lot of elements of paganism and heathenry for the same reasons Elliott described. 

 

There is a mention of witch hunting in your tracks, is that a theme that plays in the music?

Elliott: I wrote Witch Hunter when I was thinking about the commonalities between witch burnings and modern-day police repression. Though that’s the only song that directly alludes to what we think of as witch hunting, a lot of the issues confronted in my music have roots in the same imperialist ideologies that fueled witch hunting. (Silvia Federici’s work, particularly Caliban and the Witch, probably makes these connections better than I can explain here.)

 

How does antifascism inform the project? How does the climate crisis play into your work?

Elliott:  Well, we currently live under a fascist regime. There is a very small oligarchy of the mega-rich who own and control everything, including armies of cops and military forces to keep it that way. We live in a post-apocalyptic era; the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples and cultures was, and is, an apocalypse. Climate crisis, already underway, is inextricably linked to fascist colonization, and so much knowledge on how to live with the land has been burned and destroyed.

These are crushingly devastating times to be alive in.  

I write music as a means to get through these dark times. Not just to survive them, but to grieve them, to heal through them, to keep building the strength to protect what is left of land and culture. Grieving all that has been lost to fascist colonization is necessary to move forward and keep fighting it, and there is very little room for grief in a capitalist system that profits off of every form of distraction possible.

One of the radical potentials I see of dark, emotionally heavy music is that it can make space for such mourning. It can de-stigmatize openness around death, or the emotions we’re supposed to hide in order to uphold the status quo. It can be a rebellion against the pressure to put on a happy face and pretend this is all ok, just business as usual.

That said, I’m not trying to get stuck being bogged down by this shit, either. I also write music to honor and uplift what I hold sacred, what I love fiercely, what I am fighting to hold together and defend. This is especially apparent in our upcoming album, Versatile, which we’re releasing this summer.

Click here to pre-order on the Kickstarter

 

Why is it important to be publicly an antifascist band?

Elliott: In this white supremacist culture, it’s important for all white people, whether in a band or not, to be publicly and outspokenly anti-racist. Put simply, silence is compliance.

In the context of the music scene, this is particularly important because there are unfortunately a lot of crypto-fascist bands who are very discreet and covert about it, and we want to do everything we can to separate ourselves from them. Our violist Maria’s other band, Aradia, whose art and merch is now adorned with anti-fascist symbols, were inspired to make their values more explicitly identifiable after cancelling a performance when they discovered that another band on the bill were crypto-fascists.   

Aside from visibly representing ourselves as anti-fascists, it is also important for us to actively engage in anti-racist organizing and resistance. Many of us who play in A Stick And A Stone also work with various grassroots activist groups, such as Critical Resistance, an organization working to dismantle the prison industrial complex, which is one of the main tools that the current fascist regime uses to control us.  

I’m going to include viola collaborator Myles for the rest of these questions because he’s had more encounters with the neofolk scene than I have.

Myles: We’re culturally nearing a boiling point where being apathetic and not having some solid position against fascism is becoming less and less of an option for anyone sharing this planet, given the extremity of some people’s increasingly “proud” negative racist misogynist politics.

 

Have you experienced any far-right or racist attitudes in the neofolk scene?

Elliott: This is an interesting question because we actually have never referred to our music as neofolk or considered ourselves to be a part of the neofolk scene. To me, ‘neo-folk’ has always been primarily  associated with neo-nazism. That said, some people have classified our music as neofolk because bands in that genre tend to use somewhat similar instrumentation and minor-key tonalities as us, though often hold vastly different values.

I do want to note that we are a band of mostly white people, usually performing to audiences of mostly white people, and wherever you have a group of white people, you’re inevitably going to confront racist attitudes. Whether they’re outright bigots or well-meaning liberals, no white person is completely immune to racial ignorance. We all have ongoing work to do to unlearn colonialist mentalities, and it’s our responsibility as white people to educate and challenge each other.  

Myles: While trying to find a home for the previous A Stick And A Stone release, Elliott and I dropped an offer from a European record label when we found out they were also pressing Death in June recordings. More specifically, although I don’t consider any bands I’ve played in to be neofolk, I have had the misfortune of problematic people from the neofolk subculture lampreying onto some my bands, mainly my old chamber group Disemballerina.

Like A Stick And A Stone, we were made up of all queer people, but at one point magnetized this fringe population of embarassing Nordic-pagan folk-music enthusiasts with closeted racist politics.

On more than one occasion, a band I was in got asked to play private events, only to later learn, with great disgust, that we had inadvertently shared the room with random attendees who wrote for alt-right publications and hosted holocaust-denier author events. We got the fuck out of that whole scene pretty fast, burned some bridges with sketchy people and eventually, after some friends reported alt-right book tabling at the neofolk festival Stella Natura, reached a point where we wouldn’t play with any band under the “neo folk” banner whatsoever, just to be safe.  

As a disclaimer, I have plenty of friends who are involved in that subculture who aren’t alt-right racist garbage bags, I know they exist. We just weren’t taking our chances. The patriarchy and homophobia we encountered being a part of metal scene is bad enough.  

 

What is next for you?  

Elliott: After we finish releasing our next album Versatile, I have enough songs written for two new E.P.’s that I’m looking forward to record. One will be an acapella album akin to Björk’s Medulla. The other will be louder, with doom-inspired bass riffs, drum collaborations, and of course, more string arrangements.]

Myles: I’m about to move to New York for my boyfriend. I’m excited for A Stick And A Stone’s new record! I built a glass harp for this one and really love the lyrics on this new album.

Elliott: Thanks, Myles!

 

Are there any bands, or antifascist neofolk bands, we should be checking out?

Elliott: I don’t know of any neofolk, but I can recommend some anti-fascist folk music.

(Of course, since it is Euro-centeric to use the term ‘folk’ only in reference to European folk music, I’m using ‘Folk’ in its true definition here, to mean any traditional cultural music that is played by the common people, that is accessible and speaks from the people’s experience.)

Some folk-inspired musicians at the top of my list include the Turkish revolutionary psych-folk-rock of Selda Bağcan (especially Selda 1976), who was imprisoned three times due to the radical political nature of her music. Or Miriam Makeba, who used her music to raise awareness about apartheid and, after being exiled from South Africa, became active in the US civil rights and Black Power movements. Both of these singers have really powerful vocals. As a vocalist primarily, I’m always seeking out vocal inspirations of any genre.

Other examples include Syrian protest singer Samih Choukeir, or the anti-colonial music collective  Tinariwen, whose cassette tapes were used to pass tactical communications between scattered Tuareg independence fighters. The list goes on…  Our cellist on the new record, Sei Harris, runs a show of non-European music on Freeform Radio under the moniker DJ Mock Duck, which could be another resource for finding other anti-fascist folk musicians from across the globe.

I also want to highlight the music of a couple of our fellow anti-fascist transgender musician friends who died this year: Nia of Displaced who was sent frequent death threats from alt-right bigots, and Dani SummersI actually met Dani on the street at a counter-demonstration to a march organized by an alt-right group. We were both walking with canes that day, and he came up to me, saying, “Hey! Us anti-fascist cripples gotta stick together!”

Myles:  I play viola now in a two piece band called Forgotten Bottom. We’re named after a Philadelphia neighborhood and are inspired by working in the city shelter system here, the extremely depressing level of gentrification happening in my home city, and the opiod crisis that has killed many people I  love. We have a tape coming out this summer

I’m also in an A/V improv project called Ominous Cloud Ensemble, which has a rotating lineup of musicians, currently and perhaps most proudly including members of Sun Ra Arkestra.

Apart from that, some current bands I like a lot: Jupiter Blue, Leya, Ala Muerte, Ooloi, Spires That In The Sunset Rise, Persephone (dc), Show me the body, Las Sucias, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Eartheater, Du.0, Darsombra, Lurch and Holler, Rectrix, Moodie Black, The Dreebs, Like A Villain, Ariadne, Solarized, Blew Velvet, Dolphin Midwives, Madam Data, Human Beast, Irreversible Entanglements, Dream Crusher, Burning Axis, Møllehøj, Mal Devisa, Caspar Sonnett, Daes, B.L.A.C.K.I.E, Hermit High Priestess… I’ll stop.

 

Falls of Rauros Fuses Neofolk and Black Metal into a Apocalyptic Cry for a New World

It might not seem obvious, but the world of neofolk flows perfectly into the harsh noise of black metal. This largely comes from the deep well of inspiration they find in the power of nature, in the use of environmental sounds and traditional folk music, and some of the lyrical content. Both genres have been plagued by the far right, which is why a band like Falls of Rauros, who fuses both genres, can be such a beacon of hope.

We did an interview with Falls of Rauros about their music style, why they are antifascist in murky musical waters, and how climate collapse fuels their rage.

How did the band come together, and what was the concept when it first started?

Falls of Rauros began in late 2005 when the bands that Ray and I were previously in dissolved. We were still in high school at the time. The two of us wanted a creative outlet and decided to start recording raw demos, thrown together quickly with little thought or strict adherence to traditional song composition. It was a mixture of improvised, off-the-cuff decision making, and loosely composed ideas. Generally, each song would come together extremely fluidly, often within one afternoon. There were no plans to play shows or take it any further, but eventually we sought out the help of some close friends and became a proper “band” by the time we recorded our first full-length record, Hail Wind and Hewn Oak. Stylistically, the concept behind the early demos was to combine raw black metal in the vein of Judas Iscariot, Ildjarn, etc. with neofolk and experimental and psychedelic folk/rock. The result was something incredibly raw but much less aggressive or “evil” than anything released by the aforementioned artists. We were simply trying to exercise our creativity and get some wild and disparate ideas down on tape. We’ve since refined our sound greatly, but the building blocks remain intact since day one.

 

What is your own history?  Was this the first metal band for its members?

There is no history worth digging up before this group, as we were still in high school when we formed. We were in bands before Falls of Rauros, but absolutely nothing notable. Everybody has high school bands; it’s how you figure out how to work as a collective, write songs, perform, record, etc. Ray was in a metal band before Falls of Rauros, and the other three of us were in a metal-influenced post-hardcore/rock type of band. These are nothing worth hearing but the experience we gained was invaluable.

 

Your music really straddles lines of genre.  How do you think of it?  Still black metal, or something else entirely?

I’m comfortable describing Falls of Rauros as a black metal band, but only because it simplifies things and dodges the necessity for an overly convoluted description. In recent years the definition of black metal has been stretched so far that I think we fit the bill without too much worry. I would never try to pass us off as a pure black metal band, as that would be an abject falsehood; there are undeniable influences from rock, folk, classical, and other styles injected into our music. Adam at Gilead Media described us as “melodic metal” and I think that’s a fair description; our compositions hinge overwhelmingly on melody. Melody really drives this band and our records. So perhaps “melodic black metal” or “black metal influenced melodic metal” could work. You see how quickly this becomes ridiculous so I’m in favor of simply calling us black metal.

 

How do you think Falls of Rauros relates to the rest of the neofolk scene?  Much of your music seems to fall into the genre.

None of us in the band listen to much neofolk despite it being an initial influence when we formed the band. We certainly enjoy some but, truthfully, just a few of the bigger names. Tenhi is wonderful. As the years go by I would say that there is less and less neofolk to be heard in our music, and something more akin to folk rock / classic rock has replaced it. We still use acoustic guitars frequently, but the mood and style of those acoustic parts aren’t necessarily neofolk inspired. But perhaps I’m not the one to say what it sounds like, and I’ll leave that up to the listener to decide. A lot of people say they hear post-rock in our music but I can say definitively that we are not substantially influenced by post-rock, nor do any of us listen to much post-rock whatsoever. Anyhow, to answer your question; I don’t think we really relate to the neofolk scene in any meaningful way, but we certainly run in adjacent circles and cross paths on occasion.

 

There is a definite critique of the existing culture, capitalism, and broader society in your music.  Where does that come from?  What kind of vision for a society do you have?

As the lyric writer for the band, most of those topics you mention are filtered through my personal worldview and outlook. However, all of us in the band are more-or-less on the same page when it comes to such matters. None of us are materialistic; we try to remain humble, take nothing for granted, and live our lives with less-than-typical excess. It would be hard to say that anybody living in a modern civilized society can avoid producing and consuming in excess, but trying to remain cognizant of these issues, and curtailing as much excess as possible, is something of a noble exercise. The major critiques found in my lyrics fall close to the side of environmentalism; most present-day cultures are entirely anthropocentric, and capitalism is potentially the most egregious example of anthropocentric tendencies. My lyrics are often personal, but when they broach political topics they unflaggingly push back against capitalist ideation. But they also venture well beyond that safe and simplistic “CAPITALISM BAD” punk rock approach into exploring the shortcomings of human civilization as a whole, the dismantling of hierarchies among humans and non-human animals, distrusting and disarming mythologies both secular and religious, etc. I don’t really want to go in depth regarding what sort of vision for society I have because it’s not comprehensive or even realistic necessarily, but here’s a start: healthy, egalitarian, honest, communicative, and artful.

 

Why is it so important to combat fascism and racism in the black metal and neofolk scene?

I’ll be the first to admit that I have listened to a handful of politically questionable bands both past and present. It was something I paid little attention to as a teenager; in my youthful ignorance it didn’t seem all that important and my vision of black metal was as something inaccessible and threatening to humankind, so without much thought it just sort of made sense to me that fascism and racism existed in black metal (and neo-folk). As the years have gone by things have changed; I have become much less complacent and tolerant of these ideas in music as they truly represent the antithesis of counter-culture and rebellion. There is absolutely nothing brave or heroic about adhering to state-mandated dogmas and championing police and military might. It’s pure cowardice. It’s the easy way out. It’s an embarrassing and basic ethos for misogynistic knuckle draggers who fetishize efficiency, conformity, and history. So, ultimately, these ideas don’t belong in black metal, or neo-folk, or any other counter-cultural music or art. I can hang with misanthropy, cultural subversion, religious blasphemy, and whatever else in black metal. But fascism and racism simply have no seat at the table.   

 

Why are you public about being an antifascist band?

Well, for the reasons mentioned above primarily. I also think we are public about being an antifascist band because so many bands try to ride the political line in order to maximize their potential fanbase. They don’t want to alienate people on the left or right, so they attempt to play neutral. Or they take the crypto-fascist angle and thinly veil their fascist sympathies with obscure aesthetics. We don’t want to be one of those bands.

Furthermore, perhaps being vocally and overtly antifascist helps in some way absolve me for listening to some sketchy artists in the past (though I don’t support them financially). There are just some really classic, canonical black metal and neofolk artists with frankly repulsive ideologies. When it comes to black metal I just try to remain fully aware of what I’m listening to and why. The same goes for other styles of music, as well as writers. And there are countless other examples. I just love music too much and I want to hear it all. So by writing and playing music that takes an active stance against being a piece of shit, maybe we’re doing our part and making a small positive contribution to the world?

 

What’s next for you?

We don’t have a lot of plans at the moment. Our new record, Patterns in Mythology, will be out on July 19th, and we’re going on a brief 7 date tour of Canada and the East Coast with Denver’s Wayfarer immediately after its release. After that nothing is in the works. We’ll book and play more shows over the next year or so, but likely not a lot of them. We’ll start slowly working on a new record eventually, but it’s hard to say when. We tend not to book ourselves up too heavily; everybody has jobs, other bands, and whatnot.

 

What other bands should people be checking out?

For like-minded bands comprised of good people, everyone should be listening to Panopticon of course (though most are probably familiar already). Anything on the Bindrune / Nordvis / Gilead Media rosters such as Alda, Obsidian Tongue, Eneferens, False, Yellow Eyes, Mizmor, Thou, Saiva, Waldgeflüster, Stilla, Bhleg, and Murg. Woman is the Earth is an amazing band worth checking out. For new music that I’ve been enjoying personally (whether or not they have any relation to Falls of Rauros) I’d say it’s worth listening to the Gaahls WYRD album, Nusquama’s Horizon ontheemt, and Autumn Heart’s The Deaths of Summer. Everything by Heiinghund is really enjoyable for those with a tolerance for ultra-rawness. Anything Ildjarn-adjacent fascinates me so loving Heiinghund was an inevitability for me. For non-metal stuff, it’s 2019 so everybody should be well acquainted with the alt-folk of Songs: Ohia (and all Jason Molina releases), Palace Brothers (and most Will Oldham releases), Smog / Bill Callahan, as well as the guitar cult of John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Sandy Bull, and those who went on to bear their lonesome burden such as Jack Rose, William Tyler, and Daniel Bachman. I’ll give it a rest, but I could talk about music nearly forever.

We are putting Bandcamp links to their albums here and then will be adding them to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

Kageraw is Redefining NeoClassical Music

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One of incredible things about the world of neofolk, just like black metal, is that it can draw in so many influences and histories that two bands within the genre can be lightyears apart. Many draw on Nordic folk music, Basque ballads, Brazilian traditional music, and, increasingly, classical, chamber, or orchestral music. The goal of this neo-classical subgenre is to take the conventions of classical music and rediscover them in the contemporary world of music performance, sometimes bringing them into neofolk ensembles or as solo projects with an electronic production focus.

This is the direction that Russian neo-classical artist Kageraw went in, focusing primarily on classical and romantic piano work that would appeal heavily to fans of ambient music like Outer Gods. This is a particularly singular vision, often centered on the piano, but reshaped after the fact to create an audible painting that can wash over you in the same emotionally provocative way that neofolk does.

At other times, such in her first album, this is actually a tactile and low-res guitar sound mixed with the wind and rain, a sensation that brings you right into a sense of physical geography. Even as a solo project, there is so much here, a testament to the power of layering, both instruments and sounds of life, which often are intermixed in the world of neofolk. Her voice is an iconic part of this tapestry, the sound of which is often just as important as the words she chooses to sing (or not sing).

Kageraw has four albums, In the hands of Esse, I Fision, слезы шамана. глава вторая, and слезы шамана, each building on the cold wilderness of the Russian Federation, the winter isolation and frigid deep Siberian woods. The music is really only part of her entire artistic vision, she is an incredible visual artist and painter as well, and her Flickr is incredibly active with her wood-cut inspired work and photography.

We first became aware of Kageraw after she was included on the Red and Anarchist Black Metal blog, she is also a member of AxidanceRepression Attack, and The Toverheks. She has also appeared as a musician in the illustrious warona project.

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We are embedding three of her albums from Bandcamp below, but she unfortunately not on Spotify yet so we can not add her to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

Aradia’s Dark Folk Is the Spirit of Resistance [INTERVIEW]

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“We live in capitalism. It’s power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

-Ursula Le Guin

It is quote from anarchist sci-fi writer (and Portland resident) Ursula Le Guin that the neofolk/dark folk/genre bending band Aradia starts their epic album Omid.  Carried by a driving tension built by strings and backed by prominent drums, Aradia drops you right into a sound that feels much more lyrically and conceptually present than a lot of the neofolk bands that do their best to stay in the background.  The cello plays its own character in Aradia, one of the defining features of neofolk’s drive to bring back orchestral instruments into a rock formation (maybe this is what post-rock was always about).

The intensity of the strings almost lends itself to metal, but the acoustics of its draw more on contemporary strings with a meloncholy edge that has to be seen live.  We were able to interview Brenna from Aradia’s current line-up and talk about the band’s history, where its influences come from, and its commitment to militant anti-fascism.

How did your band come together?

Wretched of the Earth and Strangeweather played a show together to benefit the Law and Disorder conference…I believe. At the last Red and Black cafe on SE Oak (A former anarchist co-op coffee shop that is no longer around). At least from Strangeweather’s perspective, we were really pumped to meet WOTE and hear what they were up to. I remember telling Sean, the bassist, they sounded like Warscroll, a band I love. Shortly thereafter Angel and Sina got in touch with me about trying out some cello on their new “ambient metal” project. We’ve played in lots of different configurations over the years. Right now there’s only two of us, there’s been a total of seven people involved through the life of the band.

Does spirituality play into your project?

For me music is spiritual, it engages a part of our beings that is really ancient and complex. It’s an old way of being with other people in a spiritual way, singing together and making sounds together. A lot of the political content of what we write is definitely spiritual. We sampled Audre Lorde talking about her death and about what we leave behind, who we have been in the world as artifacts. To me this is all tied into a spiritual way of looking at struggle.

What bands inspired you in doing the work?

Submission Hold, Warscroll, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion, Esmerine, Emel Mathlouthi, Correspondences, New Bloods, Des Ark, Buried Inside, and Fall of Efrafa,

How did you develop your sound, and how do you define it?

It’s always been really collaborative. We’ve sounded pretty different depending on who has been playing with us. At this point I think it’s basically experimental arrangements for guitar and cello. Our last album had some dark folk moments, some anarcho-punk moments, some minimalist metal moments…our first album was a little more d-beat leaning I feel. I think that had to do with our line up at that time. We’ve always been influenced by various traditions of music such as Balkan, Persian, Middle-Eastern, Armenian, Celtic, etc.There was a time I thought our string arrangements could be classified as “romantic” in the musical sense, but our very musically educated viola player Maria informed me that they were more accurately described as “contemporary.”

How did the region you were in (the Pacific Northwest) play into your music?

There’s a long history of grunge, riot grrl, punk, and other DIY music in this region, and that’s a big part of why many of live here or what brought us here years ago. One thing about being in the NW nowadays is we get paired with with metal, “apolitical” neofolk, and/or post rock bands. This has been challenging as our political grounding is more in the punk community, and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that when we play these kinds of shows they don’t feel accessible to everyone.

Anticapitalism is right up front in your tracks, including in the samples used, why is that so present?

Well, it’s a force of crushing oppression in our lives, in the struggle of the planet and the human soul,  and art arguable should shine a light on what’s keeping us down. There’s a lot of apologism for capitalism in our culture and I like normalizing the open acknowledgment of it as a major problem. That being said, we know it can come off as a trope. I think most of us who have been in the band came from an anarcho-activist background of some kind so it comes naturally to frame things from a place of anti-capitalism.

There seems to be a strong spirit of resistance in the music, not just lyrically but in the way that folk music is made so vibrant.  Do you see this project as inherently tied to politics, or collective liberation?

We hope so. I recognize the tendency to conflate being in a political band with actual activism, and I think it’s important to see that they are different. BUT the way you move through communities, the types of shows and benefits you play, the kind of spaces your music creates, the projects you lend your sounds to, that all factors into being part of a musical and political community. For me, at the end of the day, Aradia is a music project and we hope to inspire folks who are in struggle. Knowing the role music has played for me personally in developing political consciousness makes me believe that it can have an impact.

There is a huge variety, it moves from frenetic synth inspired tracks to very slow and plotting melancholy sound, do you feel like you are constantly reinventing your sound?

We write really slowly so it follows that over time, as our line up changes and what we are listening to at the time, our sound changes.

What drives your commitment to antifascism?  Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?

I think realizing how flirtatious the white metal-centric music scene in the PNW can be with fascism made us want to be more out about our politics, especially when we were put on bills with people who we felt were sketchy. We don’t really roll in the neo-folk/pagan scenes, but because of the cross over with my other band Strangeweather that was more present in that scene, we have ended up playing some shows with bands who are more in this scene. Sometimes it just seems like heavy music with strings in the PNW gets put into the neo-folk category, even when that’s really just not what we’re doing.

Our commitment to anti-fascism comes from our values and the historical significance of anti-fascist movements.

Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist band?  How does antifascism inform your music?

In today’s world I’m not sure how anyone could justify not being antifascist. To me it seems like lots of people thought antifascists were self-important hyperbolic social justice warriors, and then events such as August 2017 Charlottesville, VA started happening and suddenly folks knew what the fuss was about. And it is connected to a long history of struggle against real threats that still exist…in terms of music I guess I hope we inspire the parts of people that defy that authoritarian, coercive, xenophobic current that leads to fascism….

 

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What other social issues play into your music?  There is a strong sense that rebuilding community, something more bonded, in your music.

It’s cool to hear how much meaning you’ve gathered from our music. As political as we are as people I think a lot of what we do is very aesthetic too, not in a shallow way but in a nerdy, emo-artsy way. We have written material about the micro/macro cycles of despair and hope, as well as solidarity with displaced peoples.

What’s coming next for you?

We are doing a short tour in UK, Netherlands, and Belgium in June. We are hoping to release a recording as a two-piece in the next couple months.

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

All the bands I listed above. Disclaimer that I was never that into neo-folk: A Stick and A Stone, especially their album The Long Lost Art of Getting Lost. Cinder Well‘s latest album The Unconscious Echo had some heavier moments. Byssus, a new project out of Santa Cruz, CA.  Anna Vo. Also Crone, a short-lived crust-metal band from Minneapolis circa 2015.

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Aradia currently has two albums on Bandcamp, 2018’s Omid and their 2015 4-track demo.  Unfortunately, Aradia is not yet on Spotify so we can’t add them to our Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist.  We are putting both Aradia albums below and are looking forward to the new release coming this year!

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Kimi Kärki Is Creating Acoustic Simplicity in the Face of Authoritarianism [INTERVIEW]

Kimi Kärki is a giant in the shifting world of post-industrial music, but his real name is coming forward now with the new solo project.  His influence inside the world of doom music extends internationally from its Finnish roots, and though he has been in so many different projects (many of which you will see in later features here), Lord Vicar is what comes to most people’s mind.

Now he is looking inward with his solo project, breaking away from the layered sounds he is regularly known for and sides with minimalism.  The depth of lyrics make sense given his academic background, but his focus on confronting rising authoritarianism is what really put him on our radar to begin with.  He sets his sites on religious fundamentalism, political totalitarianism, the collapsing climate, and the far-right shift that has happened across the West.

In our interview with Kimi Kärki we dive directly into his new album, how he developed his solo sound, and what it means to be an antifascist in this contentious music world.

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You have been incredibly prolific over the years, and your music has been equally diverse.  How did you first encounter music?

When I was a kid I would like the more epic intro tunes of television programmes, and record them for myself with a tape machine… kind of taking them out of their audiovisual context. I simply loved the epic quality that combines layers and melodies. I would listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons when I went to sleep, every night. I guess my interest in narratives and cinematic feel in music, even conceptual thinking, started already there and then, around the age of seven. A classmate played me rock music, and there was no turning back. Now these things, and I should also mention a certain melancholy, runs through all music I have made, with bands like Reverend Bizarre, Lord Vicar, Orne, Uhrijuhla, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, and the acoustic solo albums. Diverse genres from doom metal to prog and pop psychedelia, but with similar heart.

 

How did this most recent solo album come together?

I have now done two, The Bone of My Bones (2013) and Eye for an Eye (2017), both with the Finnish independent label Svart Records. I recorded both in my hometown Turku, in Finland, with producer Joona Lukala at Noise for Fiction studio. I used to incorporate a lot of acoustic passages in my earlier more band driven music, and Svart suggested I should do something more with that. At the same time, I had already written some original songs. I was playing some of that stuff in studio while making the second Orne album Tree of Life (Black Widow Records, 2011), and the drummer offered me a solo gig at the local info shop/activist book café. Then a promoter in Dublin heard about that, and I played my second solo gig there at a basement of a record store. Good start. In 2012 I was invited to do a few shows in Italy, and closed a doom metal festival in Parma with an acoustic gig around 4 am. Doing this kind of singer-songwriter material felt natural for me, I had always written music with an acoustic guitar, and loved the acoustic albums of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Nick Drake, to mention three. Music driven by strong and simple melodies, but as much the quality lyrics. Lyrics have always been an important part of music for me.

 

These last two albums feel much more stripped down than your projects before, why did you decide to go so minimalist with these albums?  How do you define your music now?

That was the idea, to strip it down and explore that side of the music where you cannot hide behind a wall of sound. I loved what Rick Rubin was doing with the production of Johnny Cash for the American Recordings, going to the very core of the songs, pure minimalism with the arrangements. I felt a strong need to do this kind of ”naked” encounter also live, to put myself in a test — could I touch the feeling of the listeners in this very primitive way of musical storytelling? My music is still the same, but the songs get directed to different bands and genres very naturally, their context change. I have sometimes also ”covered” some of my more mellow band driven material in my solo gigs.

 

There is a strong sense of narrative in your music, a kind of songwriting storytelling.  How do you consider your lyrics, where do they come from and what themes draw you?

I am really interested in myths as a form of intuitive form of transmission. Symbols, words and stories have power that open us to the world, and this was especially true in prehistorical world, but also now. This power can be used for good and bad purposes. My writing is based partly on dreams, subconscious flow, my own experiences that I felt had a more universal resonance, and the history. I am interested in the things that shape us as people: love, hate, longing, the pursuit of happiness, loss, violence, cruelty, kindness, spiritual growth, the nocturnal world.

 

What bands inspired you in doing the work?

The already mentioned storytellers mostly. Also the more subtle moments of bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, early Genesis with Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd… Musically my acoustic  material floats also within the long tail of storytelling, between American folk and outlaw country, but also Celtic folk heritage, and perhaps a touch of Finnish melancholy. I do listen to a great variety of genres, and it’s sometimes difficult to pin down where an idea comes from.

 

There is a strong spiritual center to your work, but feels like a walk along a path rather than driving from a spiritual home.  Do you identify with paganism, like a lot of people in the genre?  What has that meant to you?

 

I would define myself as an agnostic who has an endless interest in religions from the research perspective. I am a pagan only in two senses: I am not a Christian, and I tend to get spiritual experiences in the nature. But I also consider my martial arts training in Aikido to be a form of strong mind-body spirituality. Some claim it’s a form of meditation, moving Zen. To be historically accurate, it comes from Omoto-kyo neo-Shinto.

 

Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist band?  How does antifascism inform your music?

I have two children, and the future looks bleak… In this era of rising populism it’s extremely important to remember what happened in the 1930s and 1940s. The last thing we need now is egomaniacs, dictators, walls and violence. We should be thinking globally, as we would have means to solve the problems with education, more equal distribution of wealth and rapid advancement of green technologies. But I don’t see it happening fast enough… Melting polar permafrost will release more methane and speed up the global warming. Next there will be lack of food and drinkable water in many areas inhabited by millions of people. Rising sea levels, mass migration…

 

What other social issues play into your music?  There is a strong sense of countering extremist religious oppression.

Well, it all comes back to the future of this planet. We either find ways to fix our problems, coexist, or leave everything to cockroaches. The right to exist, right for education, obligation to learn empathy. Otherwise it’ll be a slow decline into the night. I really don’t see religious extremism as an answer yo anything at all…

 

What’s coming next for you?

Just finishing a tour with Lord Vicar, typing this between the cities. We just released our fourth album and will be playing more live shows for it… slowly writing new material for my different musical outfits. I work as a researcher at University of Turku. My current professional project is funded by the Kone Foundation, and I am studying the cultural history of Artificial Intelligence, how it has been portrayed in popular culture, and how speech works as an interface. Talking Machines…

 

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

In Gowan Ring/Birch Book… if there ever was a loving hippie in that scene, it must be Bobin ”B’ee” Eirth!!!

We are putting a few tracks below from his Bandcamp, and will be adding several tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist, so make sure to follow it!

Sangre de Muerdago’s Galician Neofolk is Resistance to Spain’s Fascist History

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Neofolk branches out in such a multitude of sub-genres that there is no singular “scene,” but the bands are bound together by rootedness in folk tradition and its revival from the modern stage.  English speaking and Western European acts, defined by bands like Death in June, are often used as the best example of neofolk, but there is a wider musical world focused more concretely on traditional sounds and the use of folk traditions for far more than just nationalist romanticism.

Since we started A Blaze Ansuz, Sangre de Muerdago has been out most requested ban, and their reputation is so large it almost feels insulting to describe them so briefly.  A Galician Folk band from Galincia region of Spain, which borders Portugal on the northwest side, Sangre de Muerdago has become a giant of independent neofolk, touring worldwide with their soft brand of regional music that is haunting in its lyrics and acoustic persistence. As a way to counter modern technological society, Sangre de Muerdago revives traditional instruments like classical guitars, nyckelharpa, flute, celtic harp, occasional percussions, into something new and patient,  calling back a distant memory of culture based on family bonds and the centrality of the home. Anarcho-punk is where the band finds its roots, they play with those bands often and share members with that scene, and so while they resurrect a very different sound, that anarchistic spirit is on stage with them.

Sangre de Muerdago revolves around front-person Pablo Ursusson, and the band has had shifting line-ups over the years.  Each song has such a crafted feel, such quiet love and shifting instrumentation, that it has to be the collective voice of the entire band  Sangre de Muerdago, which translates to “Blood of Mistletoe,” is also known for its international appeal, traveling worldwide and collaborating with other artists.  This creates a range of venues, from black metal festivals to seated opera halls, and their appeal has gone so far that they are internationally recognized as champions of folk music.  Many of their collaborations have become legendary, such as with Tacoma, Washington neofolk band Novemthree, and their genre defining sound has made them the most dependable features of the neofolk scene since their 2007 debut demo.

Their most recent album Noite, released on April 26th of this year, is in full form, calling to a dream of your “true self.” Singing is sparse when there(so is any percussion), and they choose to avoid English in most cases to buck the trend of European neofolk bands appealing to English speaking audiences.  Part of this focus on Galician language is a form of cultural resistance to the Franco fascist dictatorship, which limited the language and narrowed its availability.

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A painting that the band posted online with a message of support for women fighting oppression.

My reason to speak and sing in Galician is that to sing this music that I write from the depths of my heart, this is the deepest way I can find to feel it is singing Galician. I don’t think I would feel the same way about the songs if I were to sing them in English, or Spanish, for example…The language was very damaged during the dictatorship. Brutally damaged. All the teachers from Galicia were sent to other parts of Spain to teach in Spanish and Castellano. And then they would bring teachers from the south and other parts of the country to teach the Galician kids in Castellano. And all the smaller languages spoken in other areas like Basque, Catalan, or Galician, suffered a lot.

These Galincia poems on love, death, and history draw on that almost lost tradition, and the DIY approach of Sangre de Muerdago is meant to recapture something organic from the community.

The lyrics of Sangre are very melancholic, and they long for something, but they always intend to empower people. It’s not like a desperate cry. We all have sorrow, we all have sadness, but we have to somehow process it, and then make it our fuel. It’s something that keeps my head busy

With this Pablo Urusson acknowledges that Galician music has always been political, a way of using regional autonomy to fight off the forces of the far-right and imperialism.  This is similar to the left-wing elements in Catalonia that have resisted both nationalism and the overarching militarism of the Franco dictatorship.  They are amazingly open in their support of left-wing revolutionary movements, particularly the struggle against patriarchy, 

[F]olk music in Galicia has always been political. Galician folk music became the music of people against the empire and against oppression. For centuries—against the Roman Empire, against the Spanish State, against so many things. So somehow the punks in Galicia are very into folk music.

Galincia’s music didn’t survive without an open revolt, and Sangre de Muerdago is continuing the revival of a tradition that is usually passed between the hands of family members and is alive in the moments when the community finds itself in the relationships it builds;

Lyrically, Sangre de Muerdago is committed to liberation from the mountains of Spain, something they have found in common with other anti-fascist bands like Panopticon and Dawn Ray’d, who they have shared the stage with at places like the Roadburn Festival.  When they take the stage the audience drops to silent attention, and a dark oasis is formed where they can finally be vulnerable.

From Sangre de Muerdago’s Instagram

We are putting a few albums by Sangre de Muerdago below and we have added several tracks to our Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist and check out the other Bandcamp tracks here.