There’s something both charming and entrancing about folk music. As long as I can remember, listening to soundtracks and classical music, I always loved the folkish elements of the music the most. I felt like there was a tangible connection between me and the music through those elements. I can’t really explain it in any greater capacity though, it’s not something that can be described with words. Anyone who loves and listens to folk music can likely tell you the same thing, maybe more articulate than I can. When I listen to folk music, or neo folk nowadays, I don’t just listen to it. I feel the music as well, I smell it, I see it. When I listen to folk music it’s a complete sensory experience. I think because of that, I can judge a lot of folk music harshly. I have standards for folk music that far outstrip the expectations I have for black metal, dungeon synth, or dark ambient. When I listen to folk music, I want more and I don’t always get it. There’s a lot of neo folk music out there, it might not seem like it at first when you first discover Wardruna but once you start digging there are thousands of rivulets of gold. Some of that gold turns out to be pyrite though, fool’s gold. I was given Murmurations, a neo folkish album by Wapentake. Would this prove to be another false hope or is this genuine folk music? Let’s find out.
At first glance, the album and its cover look rather simple. It neither stands out nor looks uninteresting. The cover is simple yet effective. The blue felt harsh the first time I saw it but the more I looked at it the more I liked it and how it related to the music within. I won’t go too deeply into the color because, well I’m colorblind and the last person to be taking about color to be honest. I will say that the cover itself, while not bad and somewhat fitting for the music, could have had a tiny bit more pop. A minor note that didn’t change my enjoyment of the music.
The acoustic guitars are simple as well, not weaving too many melodies together. That’s good though, that’s folkish music. When I listened to folkish music I never needed a dozen melodies with a dozen instruments to carry me away; I just needed a few well played melodies that connect me to the story its telling, to the land it’s trying to represent. In Wapentake’s case (Wapentake being a word for a division of a shire in the UK for those of you who didn’t know that already) the music is meant to connect the listener to the countryside of England, a rustic England that can get lost in the bright glory of the city of London. Wapentake is a one man neofolkish project “with black metal influences.” While it’s not uncommon to see such a pairing, I’m always skeptical of how those two blend. Wapentake, to his credit, doesn’t do a bad job of it, leaving a lot of “black metal influences” off Murmurations unless the mood called for it. I applaud him for that. Restraint when combine black metal and neofolk is the better part of virtue here. By doing this, I think the many elements of the folk music are able to take root and blossom over the course of the album. They are obviously the more important part of the album and they are treated as such.
At times the guitars get an indie folk feeling, something I’m very familiar with growing up listening to my father’s music collection. It’s not a bad thing, in fact I think if I were listening to “The Harrowing” under different circumstances I would love it. Individually, I do enjoy the song, very much so, but it feels a little forced amongst all the others. It tries to bring a more electric sound to the album when it doesn’t need it. As I said, it’s a good song, a well-executed, well written, and well produced song but here it doesn’t quite fit. Thankfully the rest of the album is acoustic. The album needs that sort of rich earthy tone and songs like “Saxon Pastoral” and “Murmurations” really deliver that feeling. Another small note, I think, I was disappointed when I didn’t hear any bird songs on “Murmurations” being that a murmuration is the collection noun for starlings. Maybe I was interpreting the album different so I can’t hold the lack of birds against Wapentake here. He adds both crackling fires and rushing water to his soundscape so I can’t complain.
Overall the album is very good. I enjoyed it. However, it’s too damn short at only twenty-four minutes long. I felt as though I was just settling in to find the album nearly over. I was disappointed but still pleased with the twenty-four minutes that I was given. The one thing I think the album really lacked as a good atmosphere, focusing more on the actual music than on the feelings and sounds that came off said music. Still, I enjoyed. I think anyone who enjoys folk or neofolk music will enjoy this as well. The acoustic beauty of the album and the proficiency of the playing will overcome any minor flaws the album has.
Highlights: Murmurations, Firewood, Saxon Pastoral
For Fans Of: Nahadoth, Falgar
Support the artist!
Listen, Like, Share, Comment, Recommend, Spread the Word!
- The Harrowing
- Saxon Pastoral
- The Hermit
Murmurations was released independently through Bandcamp on May 1st, 2017 and on limited edition cassette through Lighten Up Sounds on June 21st, 2017.