US neofolk band Kinit Her’s new Storm of Radiance LP contains a note explaining that many of the LP’s lyrics are based on the writing of German philosopher Ludwig Klages. Looking to understand Kinit Her’s lyrical approach, I read some Klages and came upon this quote:
“The mankind of heathen temples and festivals, of Gothic cathedrals and shining twilights, of pomp and circumstance and organ-tones, is finished, yielding place to a generation that reveals itself in the Stock Exchange, radio, airplane, telephone, movies, factories, poison gas, precision instruments, and newspapers. The pilgrim’s path has its stations, but all of them end up at Golgotha.”
This striking quote is a pretty good explanation of the sense of loss and existential, cultural tragedy that underprins a lot of music you will find in the neofolk and martial genres. Douglas P. of Death in June used the French word tristess – a word indicating profound sorrow that his band always felt was represented in the era and imagery of World War II. And there is a similarly profound sense of sorrow that is stitched through Kinit Her’s new release, a sweepingly elegiac LP that is at turns melancholic, menacing, and beautiful.
In my mind, I’ve divided neofolk groups into two camps: There are bands that take the approach of songs like Of the Wand and the Moon’s “Lost in Emptiness” or Death in June’s “Little Black Angel,” bands whose songs are mostly stripped down and back-to-basics pieces that feature constantly-strummed acoustic guitars and spartan instrumentation otherwise (maybe kettle drums, an accordion, or a few other complementary instruments). Then there are other “apocalyptic folk” bands (and this descriptive tag is actually used at Kinit Her’s Bandcamp page by the band itself) that have a more Current 93-esque, chamber ensemble approach. The bands in the latter category feature more diverse instrumentation — usually a variety of string and wind instruments, sometimes medieval European folk instruments. Granted, there are areas of overlap and bands do not usually fit neatly into either camp, and it’s a taxonomy of neofolk that is idiosyncratic to me and my own mental ordering of the genre, and not generally accepted at large. But it’s a useful way to sketch out the overall neofolk/post-industrial canon. Kinit Her’s Storm of Radiance belongs in the latter, “chamber ensemble” category. Which is to say, the LP overall is more on the expansive-sounding Current 93 side of the dark folk spectrum, utilizing a variety of string and percussive instruments along with chorus-y vocalizations, and not so much like, say, Death in June’s The Rule of Thirds.
Although Kinit Her are from Wisconsin, like their related project, Wreathes, there is a more Euro-folk sensibility in their music than with current US bands like King Dude or Cult of Youth, who both seem comparatively American. The opening track on the LP, “Storm of Hyacinths I,” is actually a fairly menacing number featuring vintage picked instruments and mournful strings, punctuated by the incantatory-like vocal chants of the brotherly duo that head the band. Spectral howling can be heard in the distance and stern, martial drumming is used tastefully once the song gets rolling. Some ambient sampling is used to create an otherworldly atmosphere of dread.
The second track and title song starts off with rapidly strummed/picked minor notes on string instruments and fast clanking, ritual-sounding bells. There is something of the atmosphere of grim heathen winter festivals that hangs in the shadowy corners of the LP’s overall sound. Although some sampling and manipulated effects are used, the LP overall feels very analog and “warm” — not cold or effects-laden or synthetic. The arrangements of acoustic, analog instruments and sonorous, ritual-like vocalizations put one in the mind of ancient European pagan rites or celebrations — and I am sure that is the intended point. Track 7, “Sky’s Not Dead,” has an extremely appealing bucolic, rustic pagan folk sound to it. Very Wicker Man. The 90s material of The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud is a good point of reference. A little odd, perhaps, that the lyrical inspiration is a 20th century philosopher (the aforementioned Klages); you could swear the vocals were quoting old heretical odes from a medieval era of witch trials and the Inquisition. But if it works, it works — and it does. Wonderfully.
The grim, pagan atmosphere rarely abates. Track 5, “Sanctity Without Fortune,” is a haunting post-industrial number that — save for eerie strings — sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on Current 93’s dark ambient masterpiece Dogs Blood Rising. Howling and tearful wailings swirl about in a hellish vortex, accompanied by tragic violins.
It’s tempting to compare the Wreathes self-titled LP from earlier this year with Kinit Her’s Storm of Radiance, but it’s really apples to oranges. Wreathes definitely had a heathen/pagan angle to it, but that LP felt more traditionally neofolk than Storm of Radiance, which has an overall more experimental, post-industrial, Current 93 or Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud feel — more occult ritual-esque, as if it would be great ambient music for some frightening elder ceremony in honor of strange solstices. If it’s music to stir ancient spirits in the blood that you need, Kinit Her have delivered. The LP resonates with a sad and haunting beauty that mourns the loss of the majesty of how things once were.
Kinit Her has a Bandcamp page here: http://kinither.bandcamp.com/album/storm-of-radiance
Check out the Pesant Urfolk webstore: http://pesanta.bigcartel.com/