Strange In Stereo #6 – Weird Folk part 2

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This time on Strange in Stereo we’re going to continue the thread from last mix, where we looked at dark and unconventional folk music from the late ’60s and early ’70s. Now, however, the focus will be on recent releases that continue in the same spirit. Go check out Weird Folk part 1 from Tuesday if you haven’t already.

There are certainly some parallels to be drawn between the time period we looked at in part 1 and the present. Since folk music came back into fashion the early 2000s, many of its notable artists have been racing to become as beautiful and delicate as possible. Which is good, to an extent. Unfortunately, it’s resulted in a lot of music that’s neutered and inoffensive, or a bit dull, at the very least.

But here are six artists using folk music and acoustic instruments to create six distinct and compelling takes on age-old standards. Far from being empty throwbacks, these songs take specific moments of our collective musical past and put them in new context.

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Sabbath Assembly – “Bless Our Lord And Master” from Ye Are Gods (Ajna Offensive , 2012)
Sabbath Assembly’s concept of reworking hymns from The Process Church of The Final Judgment shouldn’t work the second time around, but the band upped the ante musically on Ye Are Gods, creating a more varied and ambitious album overall.

Mount Eerie – “Through The Trees pt. 2” from Clear Moon (P.W. Elverum & Suns, 2012)
I’m not sure where Phil Everum stands with the metal community, with his expressly black metal-influenced Wind’s Poem introducing the genre to much of the bespectacled masses. Regardless, he’s putting out some the best music of his career these days, finally reaching a balance between his lo-fi tendencies and epic ambitions.

King Dude – “Holy Land” from Burning Daylight (Dais Records, 2012)
Dripping with putrid Americana and Morricone’s backwash (Waits had a few sips too, to be fair), King Dude gleefully perverts the mythos of the West into something far more frightening.

Chelsea Wolfe – “Boyfriend” from Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs (Sargent House, 2012)
Chelsea Wolfe didn’t click with me until I listened to the stripped-down Unknown Rooms. On “Boyfriend,” she builds the frame of a frail love ballad and fills it with understated menace.

Hexvessel – “His Portal Tomb” from No Holier Temple (Svart Records, 2012)
More than anyone else here, Hexvessel is directly related to bands like Comus and Jan Dukes De Grey highlighted in Weird Folk pt 1. Metal-influenced sections, like the one in “His Portal Tomb,” help the album feel like a further exploration of that English psych folk tradition, rather than a retread of it.

Dark Dark Dark – “Hear Me” from Who Needs Who (Supply & Demand Music, 2012)
Although their recent output features less of the New Orleans-specific folk style that defined earlier albums, Dark Dark Dark creates a distinct atmosphere that still feels tied to that sound, even if it never embraces it directly.

— Michael Cacciatore

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