Myrkur

Folkesange

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AllMusic Review by

Amalie Bruun (aka Myrkur) has explored several musical directions during her career. She's issued indie pop, electronic, and rock records solo and with Ex Cops, as well as black metal and Nordic folk as Myrkur. While black metal purists decried her for not being "true kvlt," she paid it no mind. She never said she was black metal, only that she was a fan. In 2017 Myrkur released a solo performance video to YouTube playing and singing the traditional folk song "Två Konungabarn" on a nyckelharpa, the ancient Swedish "keyed fiddle" that produces long drones via the use of a bow. Beautiful and melancholy, it fit seamlessly alongside her black metal recordings. Besides, Scandinavian folk and black metal have always held hands: Ulver's Kveldssanger and Winterfylleth's The Hallowing of Heirdom are kindred spirits. Folkesange is Myrkur's first collection of folk, inspired by her lifelong fascination with traditional music, and the birth of her first child in 2019. This production entails the use of the ancient stylings of "kulning," a type of Scandinavian herding call along with exclusively acoustic instrumentation that incorporates lineage instruments like nyckelharpa, lyre, frame drums, piano, and mandola.

Produced by Christopher Juul of traditional European folk collective Heilung, Folkesange opens with "Ella," a sweeping, Gothic-styled ballad writ majestic by Myrkur's stacked and layered choral harmonies that meld classical formalism to raw folk. "Leaves of Yggdrasil" is quite sparse with droning nyckelharpa and piano in a spectral waltz. The warmth and calm provided by the acoustic instruments frame Myrkur's singing as intimate and immense, sometimes simultaneously. "Tor i Helheim" makes full use of kulning. The song's melody bears resemblance to Celtic and Anglo-Saxon songs of the 17th century. Juul's production is modern; he separates everything in the studio and adds just a ghostly hint of reverb, creating warmth and immediacy around and under Bruun's voice. One of the set's biggest surprises is the reading of Bob Dylan's "House Carpenter" a 1961 outtake released by the songwriter on Rare & Unreleased: The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3. With strummed lyre, nyckelharpa, organic percussion, and mandola, its sense of adventure, doomed romance, and passion defines the lyric. The album's final two songs, "Guderness Vilge" and "Vinter," showcase two distinct sides of folk experimentalism. In the former it's the juxtaposition of Bruun's multi-tracked soprano, droning nyckelharpa, fingerpicked mandola, and deep-tuned frame drums carrying out a sad processional as time itself seems to slip. In the latter, a crystalline piano and wordless vocals deliver a formless minimal -- almost impressionistic -- ballad. Myrkur's Folkesange is a balm for the soul, a stark and heartfelt offering of solace and comfort amid chaos and darkness; its warmth, resonance, tenderness, and lucidity envelope the listener in reveries of nature, mysticism, and love.

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