Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Of the Wand and the Moon - "The Lone Descent" (2011) [Heiðrunar Myrkrunar]

How does one put into words the first listen to an album for whose release he has waited over half a decade? Is it possible to put that sort of magic into words, or will he stumble and sound more like the aQuarius Records catalog (sorry, Andee...you've got amazing taste but have made the word "amazing" lose its luster)? These are questions I have been pondering throughout the month I've had :Of the Wand and the Moon:'s latest offering The Lone Descent in my possession. Much like the story I told in my review of Yob's Atma, world-class musician Kim Larsen's solo project :Of the Wand and the Moon: has been there throughout me independent musical evolution. The Sonnenheim and Emptiness, Emptiness, Emptiness albums specifically have accompanied me on cross-country road trips, late night drives, and quiet, contemplative nights alone. I will always hold these solemn, introspective recordings near and dear to me, but I don't know if my personal connections with those albums will ever match what I have experienced with The Lone Descent. You see, the first time I listened to it I happened to be in an Intensive Care Unit waiting room.

For those of you who do not know, my family is still in the early stages of grieving for my grandmother who passed away on October 6th. The time before she left us was lengthy, painful, and physically draining. I had the sense to bring my computer, knowing that we would be spending long hours in the waiting room, letting her rest in hopes of raising strength for some miraculous rally in health. I knew I wasn't going to get any work done...which led to me falling behind in school and almost entirely ignoring my own website. I didn't really even listen to much music; the computer was there to preoccupy myself from internalizing the heartbreaking situation at hand. Of course, I didn't go entirely without some simple pleasures, and, while checking one of my frequent internet haunts, I discovered that after six long years there was to be a new O:f the Wand and the Moon: (:OTWATM: from now on) album, which raised my spirits at least a small bit. Sole musician Kim Larsen was kind enough to send me some promo mp3s, and I soon found myself curled up on a couch in the corner of the bleak waiting room, taking in what I could with my first listen. I didn't care that there might have been other people scattered about the room - I needed this, and with my selfishness I found therapeutic solitude. Within a building where each day people die and are born, I was alone with the music I was listening to.

Of course, now that I've sort of "spilled the beans" on why the album means so much to me, how can I describe the music? Well, it's a very personal album, as is the case with every other album Kim Larsen has put out throughout his career, whether it be the emotional death/doom of Saturnus and Black Wreath, the meditative psychedelic folk of Solanaceae, or the solemn, pastoral folk musings of :OTWATM:. Larsen has a keen ear for melodies that strike you at the very core of your being, rendering you helpless to his poetic musings, which is perhaps why he has always been a sort of idol of mine since I was...15 years old? Man, it has been a long time.

As he had made clear with his Solanaceae album, Kim Larsen is a big fan of 1960s psychedelic folk music, and, as I sort of expected, The Lone Descent sees Larsen carrying that influence over to :OTWATM:. Of course, this doesn't mean that Larsen has "gone soft" on us, but I must admit that the more "sing-songy" aspects of a few of these songs definitely caught me by surprise at first. Come to think of it, I don't really think I'd ever heard Larsen ever truly "sing" before this album, having grown fond of the delicate, deep whisper prevalent on previous albums, but perhaps Larsen is finally confident enough with himself to serenade his fans. There are still songs, namely "A Tomb of Seasoned Dye" that are reminiscent of the olden days of Lucifer and Nighttime Nightrhymes, but it is obvious that maybe after six years of silence, Larsen wanted to do something different with :OTWATM: and changed it in a manner that suits his musical style: slightly. Slightness is key in :OTWATM:'s existence, whether it be a softly strummed guitar, a hushed voice, or layers of chiming keyboards. It is this slightness that makes :OTWATM: unique and perfect in its own way, and the shift seen in The Lone Descent, while maybe confusing at first, is demonstrative of Kim Larsen's mastery of all things neofolk.

Though the rest of the :Of the Wand and the Moon: discography evokes mental images of forests, ancient rituals, and loneliness, The Lone Descent will forever remind me of bleached-white walls, uncomfortably hard couches, and my inability to accept the inevitable until it was...inevitable.

Rest in Peace, Sharon Kay Doyle (1940-2011).


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