Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hamnskifte - Födzlepijnan


Working early morning shifts the past few days has been ideal to invest time in Sweden-based Hamnskifte's Födzlepijnan. It's been particularly cold here the past several mornings and so this instrumental album has echoed those chill mornings with it's tranquil pace and crisp production. Of note to me outside the music available is the really excellent artwork of a tribunal in secret courtyards and hidden cloisters. Originally recorded in 2010, the album is a welcome retreat from all the more traditional variants I've been pouring over the past few weeks. All six songs are folky representations of slow moving and subtle arrangements. I would label the arrangements strictly as repetitive but, while often times this is looked at negatively, this is an album which calls for that method of composition, even if it isn't executed perfectly. Thrash shouldn't be repetitive, neither should Death Metal and, in many cases, Black Metal but when we are looking at none of those, and aside from one or two glimmers of distorted guitar, possibly not even really Heavy Metal in any way, it's important to look at what the music wants to be and is intended to stir within the cauldron of the psyche.

The album is primarily structured around melancholic chord progressions, strummed gently and accompanied with folky instruments including organs, bodhran drum, bells and according to the promotional flyer for the release, "self-invented percussion instruments." This works well for Hamnskifte and the pacing on the release, which is slow undoubtedly, is well done. Songs range from four minutes up to a Skepticismic twelve minutes long. The breakup of the tracks is done nicely as well. Both the opening track following the intro and the second track afterwards are shorter songs with the former, "Ther Skall Wara Grat Och Tandagnisslan," droning through a melody that is reminiscent of anything Katatonia has done recently while the second song is more folky with more of an emphasis on guitars and less droning hum. The album starts of nicely with these tracks and after the immediate thirteen minutes of slow patient music, a kick me up is needed.

"Foglarna Warda Fanga Medh Snaror," the third track and second longest on Födzlepijnan, is really the only track where distorted guitars are noticeable and yet, they play little part in pushing this track above the shoulders of the others on the album. The distorted guitars fascinate me for the period they exist on the album. They sound clear and natural though I can hear the guitarist strumming them which makes me believe they were recorded very quietly. It's a strange combination of sounds. On the one hand the guitars sound very natural and on the other hand, there are indications that they've been doctored due to the low recording volume. In "Foglarna..." the guitars disappear after three minutes of repetition in progressions and the last five minutes are purely ambient resonance which provides as much of that well needed kick as half a plate of tasteless food with tap water. I desperately clung to hope for a stronger final two tracks.

"Dageligh Beredelse Emoot Dodenl," and "Uthi Thet Ytterste Morckret" are better than the previous tracks by an amount equal to half of the difference in quality between poor Chinese food and poor Italian food. Dageligh rides too hard on a simple progression interspersed with a bridge riff of no contrast though the repetitive nature of the song highlights what the band should focus on more often: the subtle addition of instruments to the arrangements. While "Dageligh..." is preoccupied with allowing new instruments to attempt to push the song forward, final track "Uthi..." - a twelve minute long monster - is keen to allow the hidden details of the song reveal themselves slowly during it's span. I almost feel as if the main guitar track drops in volume slightly to allow the listener a window into the undulating and swampy sounding background drone of what sounds like a Shruti Box. The drums here are prevalent and it lends the song a very folky and tribal undertone.

Hamnskifte's Födzlepijnanis a slow moving mass for sure with all the songs being slow, patient and soothing. I enjoyed the trance-summoning power of the structure (or non-structure) and for early morning drives in the freezing cold it was a nice break from all the other more generic material that I sift through but in the end, as an album this is most likely very much too repetitive for folk-oriented listeners and not heavy enough for those into Drone and really sub-tempo music. It falls into a place somewhere between - an instrumental album of folky yet slow and droning music that could be happily survived in a video game where your character is walking through a middle eastern marketplace or on a desert highway. In a metalhead's collection this may not fair as well as in the collection of a Brian Eno fan. Ultimately, the tone and vibe is beautiful and relaxing even if the overall songs do have some drawbacks.

No comments: