Retrospectively, the journey of Mistelteinn is more than a debut revival. For newcomers, it’s a careful release that sings poetic exhilaration.
How do you scratch beneath the surface of a genre such as dark, experimental folk music when you’re a hypochondriacal, coffee addicted, McCarthy reading, five foot six, agitated, twenty-something year old ‘man’ with a fetish for adjectives? Seriously, I got Nebelung’s re-release of Mistelteinn only yesterday and immediately wrote an essay on the importance of folk preservation and/or revival in the contemporary music sce-
No…put the overpriced Americano down.
Folk music in any attempt of definition is so difficult to describe when looking for blatant markers of genre, thus I won’t play games of critique with Nebelung. The album being an entire remake of their debut, it is fair to treat this like a fresh release to even fresher ears; naive and curious to both the band and the style. The album is, for all intents and purposes, the folk album a simpleton like me knows and predicts, but not one for the soul that has never had an eery night of unpleasant calmness.
The re-release is, in a phrase, ‘captured atmosphere’. Whether it is the poised production or the palette of writing between each track, Mistelteinn wonderfully traps an assumed context in cautious quality. It does it’s job incredibly well, and not in the sense of a complacent achievement. Relating this from opening track to the end of the third, “Abel und Kain”, the trio show immense cohesion in changing the air around you in order to experience whatever story, be it in my case the instrumental tale, as I am clueless as to what the tongue says. The layering of instruments in shades of body and ether flow smoothly which marks the experience as a comfortable and enjoyable listen. It is an album where I feel like I’m missing a lax evening of stars and wine in some country festival, in Germany – which is a pleasing sort of torture when revisiting the album for a second or third listen.
The guitars and cello on this are no less than stellar. I listened to Mistelteinn on jacked out laptop speakers, a $1 pair of earphones from Miniso, and then on actual studio monitors, and on every turn I found that cool, crisp acoustic body so neatly tracked and mixed. The layering, percussion to string, is what will hook you into each song. Noting the title track, the thump of the instruments come two minutes in, marks a smooth praise to the swaying and sombre prologue that came before. It’s this that makes the repetitive element on some tracks enjoyable. The guitars and Katharina Hoffmann’s cello background hold hands so tightly from track to track that the music is haunting and picturesque as it thumps again and again. It is damn effective and I love the album for it.
Although, when approaching the vocals and lyrics of Mistelteinn I have no place. My familiarity with German timbre is as common as my knowledge of any graffiti marks found on the Bonn Minster (also, one does not have access to the lyrics so the keyboard hordes can shove it if I am expected to flash translate the themes by ear). As an English speaker I can appreciate the language in music but I cannot critique it confidently. Yet, what I can slightly complain about is the not-so-often droll of Stefan Otto’s vocals. Not to say that his voice doesn’t compliment the music, as it shines in bringing that lost in the gray/green forest feel, but the variety of melody in each song instrumentally, cruelly divides in light of his unvaried execution. However, this noting of said droll could further relate to my little understanding of the language, and having only glanced at the Icelandic saga this album possibly conceptualizes, I am in no position to state the above as a problem. The vocals work, but the instruments and their gravity make a duff of them, at times.
Mistelteinn fulfills my unwarranted and unequipped ‘folk’ expectations. It was a challenge and learning experience which brought me to a more comfortable level of approaching the deeper niches of music. Many of us are confident in listening to everything and all, but to somehow phrase and review it makes the experience sometimes a haphazard one. You almost want to get it over and done with as to further enjoy or dislike whatever there is humming out of your speakers. Nebelung’s sound, immediate concept, and professional output of remaking a debut release, allows an easy approach; which if immediately presented to a listener without preconception, makes the journey of Mistelteinn one of poetic exhilaration and immense appreciation of the care needed to make such beautiful music.
Order on a limited edition, white 12′ vinyl here: https://nebelung.bandcamp.com/
Temple of Torturous 2016