Sparrowhawk’s Brief Life Is a Milestone in Antifascist Neofolk

In this intersecting world of hidden genres, projects come and go, sometimes in only a brief instant.  We are trying to unearth some hidden gems in the world of antifascist neofolk and to bring something original, not just major bands that stand against the far-right, but also from a DIY neofolk scene that is under documented.  Sparrowhawk fits this definition perfectly, an ensemble that came together for just two legendary tracks.

We first discovered Sparrowhawk on the Red and Anarchist Black Metal blog, dissidents from the rest of the music featured.  Their two-song EP Harvest acts both as a demo and a coming out party, but the musicians involved moved on quickly after this 2013 debut and we have yet to hear anything new.  Started by members of Nuwisha and Plantrae, it is a three person collaboration that they say began “in the majestic Siskiyou Wilderness in the autumn of 2013. Rowan WalkingWolf ( Walks-With-the-Wind of Nuwisha), Zacharias AElfston (of Plantrae), and Ursula are pleased to bring you this symphonic soundscape of Cascadian folk.”  The influential (but microscopic) “cascadian” scene brought in other bands we have profiled, like Ionncaish.  vocals entirely, instead treating their instruments

The music starts with the sound of rain and sets its own pace, never rushing, relying on plucking acoustic guitar for its texture, while the violin really drives it forward.  Both tracks, “Siskyou Malaise” and “Starlit Fires, Surrender the Equinox” are both long and slow, but even though the sound is stripped down to acoustic instruments playing off of each other it stays incredibly emotive and completely blots out whatever is around you.

In Sparrowhawk’s brief moment of life they also did a split cassette with Skalunda, which you can still pick up on Bandcamp.  It is this world of small issue splits that still helps neofolk to build up a cult following, something the band planned for from the start.  The passionate complexity of Sparrowhawk’s brief collaboration makes these songs instantly classics in our canon, and they deserve to be pulled from out from the past to give it the recognition it deserves.

We are embedding the EP here, and because it was such a brief project, we were not able to add any Sparrowhawk songs to the Antifascist Neofolk playlist on Spotify.

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Nuwisha, Portland’s Eco-Neofolk Band Bringing DIY Back to the Scene

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The wooded strip of land that runs along the coast West of the Cascade Mountains seems to draw its own sound, meted out of the deep woods and the terror of deforestation and ecological collapse.  Nuwisha makes perfect sense as it is part and parcel of this environmental inspiration that comes from “cascadia,” the western region of Oregon and Washington that stands out as a unique bioregion.  Like other cascadian bands, particularly black metal projects like Wolves in the Throne Room, there is a “cascadia scene” of bands coming out of the woods, with their music tied deeply to what the natural world inspires and the fierce rage that is sparked in its defense.

We first came across Nuwisha on Red and Anarchist Black Metal (RABM), which noted that it really is a blackened neofolk project because of the black metal elements like a grinding guitar that appears as a layer under some songs or the screeching vocals.  These are really intermittent, and it feels more like Current 93 in the vocal style than Empyrium. You get the sense when listening to their debut demo and their 2013 album Solitary are the Winter Woods that this is a DIY project, driven people getting together and performing and recording it themselves.  

While it is a diverse and eclectic sound, there is a conscious effort to appeal to the neofolk scene, even including a musical interlude halfway through called “Winter Interlude (A Song of Ice and Fire).”  The lyrics are classic neofolk fare, focusing on the cycles of natures, the celebrations of the equinox and Ostara, and calling back to an earth-centered view of what creates vibrance in a community. The stifled cold of winter plays its own character in the album, which is the kind of mournful cry that often gives neofolk that bitter call, the kind of thing that is perfect for your Yule sunset playlist.

The band launched its first demo, Laughter on the Wind, 2012 in Portland, Oregon by Rowan WalkingWolf, who is noted by RABM to be one of their readers and how they were keyed into the band even though it may be a little past their scope.  The eco-anarchist perspective was highlighted there, saying that it was the “profound experiences in and deep ecological connections with the Cascadian landbase and by dreams of the inevitable annihilation of civilization and the aftermath thereof.”  This is reminiscent of many of the hardcore projects that lingered around Earth First! In the 1990s, like Earth Crisis. Rowan has a second neofolk project, Sparrowhawk, which we will profile in the future, which also has members of the Portland synth-folk ensemble Plantrae (we will probably get to them too).

Nuwisha seems to be on hold right now since they have not had a major release since 2013, which likely owes to the fact that Rowan is running around starting up new projects around cascadia.  This is common in this sort of scene, constantly reinventing the sound, starting new bands and solo projects, and finding any way of making something unique in a flurry of Bandcamp releases.

Nuwisha is not on Spotify, so we will just put the Bandcamp embedding here to check out.  We may start doing an alternative playlist function so we can keep bringing in bands not found on Spotify.