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 for #bandcampfriday



Sieben Has Created the Anthem of Antifascist Neofolk

In the entrenched world of neofolk, it takes a unique commitment to an individual vision for the solo-project Sieben to have stood against the far-right for this long.  Sieben is the work of musician Matt Howden, who is also behind the independent record label Redroom Records.  Howden has always described Sieben as “one-man rawchestra” with a heavy focus on layering samples into a collage that builds on itself over a songspace.  This is how we can best describe Sieben, as a musical painting that builds on its presence in a cycle of invention that you rarely find in an ensemble built on live performances.

In his new album, the rage-tinged crumbs, gets into his anger over the current state of Britain, primarily racist fake news, massively growing inequality, and the toxic xenophobia of Brexit.  

“Do you want crumbs from the rich man’s table?”

“A hundred men with half the world’s wealth is a sickness.”

The title of the album comes from “Crumbs from the rich man’s table,” and it is this rage about the xenophobia employed by the rich to exploit Britain’s working class that creates both the moral and passionate center of the album.  crumbs develops a looping tension that builds up steam, a feature that is common to Sieben’s entire catalogue, and with the shorter tracks it avoids the potential emotional burnout.  This makes sense for an album on a mission, one that forgoes the fluff so it can get to the heart of the matter.

The lyrics for the track “Liberal Snowflake, “a reference to the common insult of leftists by the Alt Right, make it clear what Howden sees as important.

Thought I’d just lay down some basic ground rules, being that all I’ve done is moan so far…Treat all people fairly. Men and women respected the same. Be kind, decent. No poor. None with less than enough. No shareholder, but all. Let there be rich, that do not flourish on the backs of others, nor nature, nor resource. None with more than one hundred times another. Beyond that, fund a sustainable world; water, food and power for all. Nature respected. The Earth, our home. Breed less, consume less, work less, play more. No war. A million tribes and no tribe, but all. No religion but our better nature. Defunct practice dropped, the true root embraced: Good thoughts, words, actions. Laws that enshrine these, minds that do not seek to circumvent these. Break the destructive pattern of humanity’s history. Harness our collective drive and will, our life force, our creativity. Sustain and build a world that truly works. Develop ourselves. Explore the stars. As one tribe, our limits are endless.

Brexit plays its own character in crumbs, which Howden clearly sees as a rightist disaster.  In “Sell Your Future” he lays out what the working class has been asked to do with Brexit, to sell out their dreams for petty nationalism

Leave guns and morals by the door. Here’s a heart, a spleen, a Brexit-ear in which to scream ‘sell your future’. Roll up, roll up, for cut-price stock. Govern-less, and out to hock.

Sieben’s motivation strays as far as possible from that of the obsessive and destructive nationalism of bands like Allerseelen and Spiritual Front, and instead rallies on a sort of left populism against racism and the ruling class, making it a universally left alternative to much of the scene.  He avoids a lot of the neofolk cliches (anyone want a Nordic sigil on the cover of a dark gray album?), which has allowed him to constantly reinvent his sound, moving from something more in line with the diffuse melodies of Fire + Ice (a Nazi band if there ever was one) to a sound that interweaves everything from shoegaze to darkwave.

The entire breadth of Sieben’s work is impressive, with more than a dozen albums going back almost twenty years.  We are particularly fans of The Old Magic (2016), which draws on 90s shoegaze and alt rock and mixes it with a true-to-form neofolk, a synthesis that feels sometimes like Smashing Pumpkins trying to play Rome songs.  

Howden has been been quite open about his own politics, particularly in reviling the fetishism of “European culture” so prevalent in the scene.

What Sieben is best known for (at least in our scene) is their public declaration against the far-right in their folk drone anthem “Rite Against the Right” off of their 2007 album Desire Rites.  This song was an intentional provocation to bands like Death in June, who are obsessed with their own pretentious Third Positionism and Strasserite Nazi symbolism.

You sad bands,

you poor Nazi boys,

I hope you get a history book

or lessons in consequences

Licking the dregs of evil-

it’s feeble

You sad bands,

you poor Nazi boys Using symbols to shock

because your music is cock

Using symbols to shock because your music is piss-poor

Desire Rites may be the perfect neofolk classic album, baked deeply in the symbolic melody of ritual, magic performed for headphones and the kind of silent contemplation that is better when shared.

Sieben’s work requires a commitment and journey, and we encourage you to really dive in to what is an underappreciated grandmaster in the world of neofolk.  It could be his perfect commitment to his own vision, both personally and politically, that has kept him out of the mainline neofolk scene dominated by brownshirts.  We are putting several choice selections here, and have include “Rite Against the Right” above, and we have added several additional Sieben tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk playlist on Spotify.