Thursday, February 16, 2012

You guys listen to Wardruna, right?



Just checking! Lately I've been recovering from some sort of stomach virus and lying around reading A Game of Thrones, and Warduna has become my constant soundtrack. To the loremasters among you they're undoubtedly old news, but if you haven't yet listened I can't recommend this project enough. Noktorn did a post many months ago about how much he hates the folk side projects of metal people, and I generally agree, but there has to be an exception to any sweeping generalization, and this is it. An evocation of the past, rather than a clumsy attempt to recreate it. Grounded in post-industrial and ambient music, rather than New Age bullshit or goofy fantasy tropes. Steeped in nightside skaldic lore. The reason Runaljod has a 99% average among four different Metal Archives reviewers is that it's actually perfect. Enough to make me forgive Gaahl for ruining Gorgoroth!

The secret hero of Wardruna, by the way, is the guy who plays mouth-harp. Dubstep bass has got nothing on the original wobbles!

ADDENDUM: if you want to see some more substantial thoughts on Runaljod and ambient music, check the comments section below. A couple people mentioned the lack of apparent pattern in this music, and I wrote a reply that ended up being almost a full album review.

15 comments:

  1. I can't really get into it. There's no pattern to it, no thread holding altogether in my ear. Every time I try and listen to the album, I end up listening to Lord Wind at the end.

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    1. It's certainly elusive stuff, and for atmospheric music like this if it doesn't click with you it just doesn't click. For what I think about the lack of pattern, see my reply to Anon 1 below. I've heard great things about Lord Wind!

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  2. Just wondering: are you recommending this as music to play in the background (not that there's anything "wrong" with that) or is there something we should listen to closely here?/something you don't get from a first listening? agree with Heyman about the lack of pattern but that's not necessarily something to turn me off.

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    1. Good question! I was recommending it for any and all listening, but I think I've always put it on while doing other things. It certainly lacks the kind of patterns typical in metal, punk, and lots of folk music, in that each track is through-composed and nigh-impossible to hear as a series of discrete riffs or sections. That mystery, that sense of irreducibility, is one reason I like it so much! That said, it's not totally random, it's an organic flow.

      It's "background" music that creeps up on you, momentarily shifting into the foreground and then retreating, then coming back again. There are definitely not choruses, solos, or breakdowns to listen for, but there is certainly musical DRAMA going on, with some especially compelling sonic "events" that stand out. You won't come away from "Bjarkan" humming it, but you'll hopefully have enjoyed moments like the ominous male vocal break at 2:38, or the female vocal acrobatics that conclude it. Other tracks offer beautiful hypnotic melodies, really cool "drops" when the drums come in, and huge crescendos. My favorite track, "Heima Thurs," has this totally primal horn call that starts just after 0:55, and then goes into a building fiddle part that really IS memorable. You can also just lose yourself in the drone--I'm not kidding, I LOVE that fucking mouth-harp, and when it takes center stage I get seriously into it.

      Over and above all that, though, it's the ebb and flow itself that's enjoyable and fascinating, the continuous free play of these little elements. And to really appreciate that you need to listen to the whole album rather than just individual tracks. On the macro-level you WILL start to hear patterns, but the kind of patterns found in nature, not on paper. You'll hear the echoes of earlier passages in later ones, like successive family generations in the Sagas. You won't necessarily be able to put your finger on it, but you'll know you heard something like it before. In that instant of half-recognition the musical figure will stand out more clearly to your ears even as it leads you back into the totality of the work.

      Writing all that, I've convinced myself that you CAN just sit down and listen to this without doing anything else, but I do think it's more about just leaving it on, being open to it, and gradually falling under its spell. I think that's what REAL ambient music does--it doesn't just hang around in the background, it becomes present all around you, re-attuning you to your space and your activity within it.

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    2. Wow, I just reviewed the album, didn't I? Thanks for asking exactly the kind of question that makes talking about music fun.

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    3. based on this long-ass writeup, you ever heard Nurse With Wound's Spiral Insana? It's more "cup-up" oriented, but I totally get the same vibe from the way it organically develops, and you begin getting the big picture of it long after you've heard it.

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  3. Ahh, Gorgoroth ruined themselves. They're all a bunch of petty cocks. Gaahl just happens to take the blame because he's teh ghey.

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    1. Sure, the legal battle was sad all around, and rerecording Under The Sign... is the stupidest cash grab ever (that album was PERFECT! PERFECT!). I was more talking about the lame Gaahl/King songwriting axis. I actually think it's dope that Gaahl is gay, and gay on nobody's terms but his own.

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  4. Take anything you hear positive about Lord Wind with a grain of salt. It's elevator music for Eurofetishists like anus.com. This probably isn't a very PC opinion in metal circles, but I think the guys who are best at neofolk are just the plain ol' neofolk guys who don't have anything to do with black metal--DiJ, Psychic TV on 'Dreams Less Sweet', etc

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    1. Not sure I count as "metal circles," then, because I am a huge fan of DIJ, Current, Sol Invictus, etc, and I actually do vox in a pagan post-punk band. I completely agree with you about proper neofolk being far more engaging than most metal-guy folk/ambient side projects. One reason I like Wardruna is that it sounds more like legit post-industrial music than pan-pipe kitsch.

      As for Lord Wind, entirely possible that I'd get a kick out of it, but we'll see.

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    2. I like how it uses the jaw harp as an actual instrument instead of for some sort of comic effect like Taake or Nokturnal Mortum

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    3. I'm not sure it's comical in Taake! Just light-hearted. But yeah, I can't get enough of that shit. For more awesome jaw-harp, check out the early Helheim song Apenbaringens Natt!

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  5. days ago, when i really tired, i lay myself while speaker play this album, and its awesome! its like my physical body was taken away slowly to the oblivion plane while the percussion beating so damn synchronized with my tired heart.

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    1. i'm glad you dig it, Sasmito. it's definitely dream music.

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