Not all of Stereogum’s favorite sounds conform to what folks expect us to cover. In this space, resident Bananafish fetishist Brandon Stosuy focuses on bands, albums, singles, and villages in Sweden that may otherwise pass by unnoticed. This installment’s virtual milk crate contains The Blithe Sons, The Ivytree, and Varghkoghargasmal.
A few years back I was obsessed with Californians Loren Chasse (Thuja, the Franciscan Hobbies, Ov, among others) and Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Flying Canyon, Birdtree, Ivytree, Thuja, etc.) and their Jewelled Antler collective — that mixture of mystery, nature-folk field recordings (pin cone percussion, etc.), darkness, drone, lonesome pop, acid psychedelia. I just did a Google search and it sorta blows my mind — and freaks me out re: the speed of things — that the Birdtree’s Orchards & Caravans was released in 2003, half a decade ago, and that the JA moniker’s been around almost a decade. A couple months back when posting about The Child Readers, I mentioned that member Chasse also plays in Blithe Sons with Donaldson and suggested you track down We Walk The Young Earth (also 2003!). Blithe Sons have a new one on the way, The Great Orthochromatic Wheel. Take a listen to one of its five tracks “Try To Find A Memory In A Dark Room.” There’s still something magical about this stuff.
The Great Orthochromatic Wheel is out 10/21 via Family Vineyard. Also of note, Blithe Sons are playing their first show in about three years 9/30 at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall with Peter Hammill.
While we’re on JA, The Jewelled Antler Library 4-CD boxset’s also on the way. Here’s how Porter Records describes it:
With 4 CD’s that collect together the entire 12 volume set of the limited edition 3″ cd-r that includs artists: Loren chasse; tomes; ivy tree; hala strana; dead raven choir; the famous boating party; uton; claypipe; muons; thuja; fursaxa; kemialliset ystavat. Box-set also includes the limited edition recording of The Ways of God to Man. This will be a limited edition box-set of 1000 copies, with 13 groups, 59 tracks and over four and a half hours of music and sounds.
Glenn Donaldson told me folks spotted the original series on eBay for around $350, so they decided it was time to reissue (i.e. make it available for much less money). The box includes more than just the Bay Area members — there are Finnish avant-folkies, Dead Raven Choir (Texas via Poland and now back in Poland), and others who share a “similar” aesthetic. The Jewelled Antler Library is out 11/18 via Porter. Take a listen to Donaldson by his lonesome under the Ivytree moniker performing “White Sun.”
As noted, JA’s sound/approach/vibe isn’t specific to folks in the Bay Area — or even those who’ve heard of Jewelled Antler. For instance, see German one-man band Varghkoghargasmal. Avenger handles the drums, guitars, keyboards, effects and vocals. He lists Bathory, Black Sabbath, Vinterriket, Pentagram, Dissection (instrumentals), St. Vitus, and Cthulhu, among others, as inspiration (you could safely add Burzum) and plays what he’s termed “wooden metal” (kind of like Phil Elverum’s ““Black Wooden” music, but more unplugged … though Varghkoghargasmal’s “Listen To The Wind” seems to be dead-on with Elverum’s project, at least thematically). I’m linking him with Jewelled Antler, because he’d make good sense with the aforementioned Dead Raven Choir — the sense of dark metal on the forest floor feels similar, even among the differences. Listen to the damp sylvan backdrop on this one:
It’s difficult to get a sense of Varghkoghargasma with one track. He also does a kind of wobbly surf rock thing, breathy black metal vocals here/there, synthesized darkness (see above Burzum reference), etc. Drowned In Lakes is out via tUMULt.
[Blithe Sons photo by Christine Boepple]