What’s in a name? With a moniker like Mountain Folk you’d be forgiven for imagining this new project to be full of battered acoustic guitars and check-shirted men with over-sized beards, singing heartfelt songs suited for camp fires and log cabins. When this act was sent over to us for consideration, you can imagine that the assumptions made from their choice of title might have us parking it as yet another potential Bella Union suitor, and although Fleet Foxes fans may find lots to admire here, this is actually far more cerebral and weird than you might expect. So does that mean a band name is irrelevant? Well, let us suggest that it could mis-guide and potentially put people off, so it has an importance to a certain extent, but thankfully, even though there’s very little on offer here that can be described as mountainous or folkish – at least in the traditional sense – the music is mind-numbingly good, rendering the moniker a rapidly fading issue.
Mountain Folk is the new outfit being worn by Tom Eno and René Kirkegaard. Kirkegaard has operated a record store, called Dezigner Soundz, for the last 15 years in her home town of Aarhus, Denmark. The store’s speciality seems to be focused on electronica, house and hip hop music, generating something of a focal point for the vinyl-hungry locals. Eno was introduced to her last year and they’ve set about developing this new project ever since. The UK-based Eno, (who confirmed to us that he is absolutely no relation to Brian – we had to check, right?), is perhaps better known for more of an acoustic history, having released two solo albums prior to stepping into this new duo. They’re planning to release their debut single, Don’t Go Down There, on Jack To Phono Records on June 25th. We’ve been reliably informed that they are currently in the process of recording and producing the complete debut album, which they hope to have out later on in 2012.
The two protagonists clearly have a lot of space between them, (both geographically and musically), with Kirkegaard surveying the electronic end of the spectrum and Eno preferring the strings of an acoustic guitar. This starts them off with a very large gap to fill, but thanks to their open-minds and creative ideas they seem to not only have bridged it, but in fact they’ve crammed the space with some extraordinary invention. Originality is so hard to find these days, so just how do you locate new concepts in the modern era when you have to compete with the dense range of ideas from over the decades. Thankfully today’s Internet generation and the technological revolution going on in bedrooms around the globe allow a new unlimited space for ideas to flourish. The debut single on offer from this duo doesn’t quite sound like anything you’ve ever heard before, proving that in today’s over-crowded online jungle the fight for the light can still be won with imagination. Their two opposing ends of the spectrum have allowed Mountain Folk to blend the authenticity of finger-to-string with a computerised electronic pulse. This is a lesson in fusing the old with the new.
Don’t Go Down There is over seven minutes long so this isn’t aiming for broad commercial appeal, although it’s actually already featured on BBC Radio One and 6Music’s specialist shows, with Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson and Rob Da Bank already supporting it. It begins with an underplayed echoing beat, that tweaks it’s handclaps just enough to make you realise this is a song that will have electronics woven into it. Eno’s vocals arrive delivering the slacker melodies, reminiscent of Beck at his Mutations best, before subtle electronics creep ever closer to the centre ground. There’s a dreamlike quality to it all, losing none of the original pace or melody, but after five minutes you find yourself taken away from what felt like some kind of dusty Spanish Sierra into Outta Space. After six minutes you’re chugging along inside an unidentifiable vehicle of layered thermionic synthesizers. It’s a journey, a ride, between Eno’s acoustics and Kirkegaard’s electronics. It’s stunningly beautiful and by bravely pulling together two experts in their very different fields we see them collide in the middle with an explosive song.
Alastair Lee, a film maker, was so impressed by the track he used it in his recent film Moonflower and lent them some footage of Alaska which had filmed, (you can see that below), for the single’s accompanying video. Remixes arrive from Afrikanz On Marz and Sundogs, with both choosing to turn what is a seven-minute song into a near ten-minute opus. Eno kindly sent us an alternative version of another album track, Black Fields, in what he’s called the ‘cabin mix’. It’s another patient song, although this time coming in at only just over four minutes, but it retains the same style of samples that come in firing synapses and curious loops. It doesn’t explode like the single, instead selecting a more mature and thoughtful path, but it’s still original and enticing. For what is the equivalent of just a b-side version of an album track this is mightily impressive. Although it turned out that Fleet Foxes need not worry after all, this is still a lesson for all other artists out there; that to locate genuinely original ideas, whilst maintaining the melodies and the accessibility, you need to be brave, to be bold and to look for ideas in new spaces. (MB)
MOUNTAIN FOLK – DON’T GO DOWN THERE
MOUNTAIN FOLK – DON’T GO DOWN THERE (SUNDOGS REMIX)
MOUNTAIN FOLK – BLACK FIELDS (CABIN MIX)