If a picture says a thousand words, then music paints a thousand landscapes. Scenery is the first thing that flashes before your eyes when listening to ‘In The Wake Of The Dark Earth‘, the latest album from Clan Destine Records and Opal Tapes pairing Dard Å Ranj Från Det Hebbershålska Samfundet – commonly shortened to D.A.R.F.D.H.S. – and the second in a trilogy of LP’s showcasing on Dutch imprint Field Recordings.
Specifically – thanks to the references to location, mythology and history – it is the imagery of picture postcard Scandinavian landscapes and the weather blasted plains of Eastern Europe that comes to mind; nature without civilisation, imposing hills and deep lakes that stretch to the horizon with the shroud of mist nestling on the shoulders of peaks, valiant Baltic shrubs clinging to exposed existence on rolling hills unbroken by frivolous luxuries like roads. Such is the vividness of imagery that you can pick out the colour with clarity; where the deep blues and greens of the north are darkened to the core as if the intimidating climate has rendered them with a secret desire to be the colour black, and how the eastern foliage is bleached to the point of expiring sepia.
If this, the title of the album or the track listing within – full of sombre phrases such as ‘Drowned In Lake Ladoga’, ‘When Angsar, Plague Of The North Arrived’ and ‘The Fallen City / Reduced To Loneliness’ – alludes to an unforgiving listening experience, as in the previous Field release ‘I Look Upon Nature While I Live In A Steel City‘ from L’estasi Dell’oro, you’d be quite mistaken. It is an album that moulds to your moods; wispy when cheerily contemplating the mundanity of everyday life, blanketing when feeling introverted and efficiently restless when combined with the commuter bustle. It ensnares you within seconds of committing yourself to the play button, whisking you away on a point to point journey from Northern Europe’s boreal climes, linking lake to river to lake, before emerging deep into the vast Russian landmass.
Scenes flash before your eyes as you listen; ‘Ruriks Holmgard‘ is a cruise through an undulating and unpopulated landscape flanked by a metronome of pylons, in ‘Slave Merchants In Aldeigjuborg‘ a Space Oddssey-esque monolith of cloud intimidates its way through the sky overhead before dissipating into mist, you can tangibly feel the movement from white water foaming to a placid drift in ‘White Sea / Black Sea‘, peering over the edge of a ferry into the titular Lake Mälaren is captured in the aquatic bubbles and shadows of ‘Leaving Mälaren, Across Austmarr‘, and the widescreen grandeur and grace of ‘Entering The Caspian Sea‘ appropriately befits the landlocked wonder.
However the moments that linger most in memory are thanks to the canny knack for captivating monophonic melodies, such as the ones that drift through the likes of the magnificently misty ‘Offerings To Njord‘, breaking through the fog and electrical hum of ‘Drowned In Lake Ladoga’ and the mournful ‘Broken Arrows Hidden In The Sands‘.
While it seems a touch presumptuous to be able to throw the dice of acclamation and roll a combination of “of the year”, “album” and “best” so soon into 2015, the truth is borne out in the way ‘In The Wake Of The Dark Earth’ imprints itself onto you. Quickly it becomes the most sought sound when leaving the house, when blocking the grind, when taking the time to look inward. Thus is the mark of a truly great work; how instead of consuming it, you find that it is yourself which is consumed.
In The Wake Of The Dark Earth is out now on Field Recordings, order a vinyl copy from Delsin.
1. When Ansgar, Plague Of The North Arrived At The Gates Of Birka
2. Offerings To Njord
3. Leaving Mälaren, Across Austmarr
4. Drowned In Lake Ladoga
5. Ruriks Holmgard
6. Slave Merchants In Aldeigjubdorg
7. Down The River Volchov
8. White Sea / Black Sea
9. Byzantium Traders Sailing Over The Edge Of The World
10. Entering The Caspian Sea
11. Broken Arrows Hidden In The Sand
12. The Fallen City / Reduced To Loneliness