The Observatory Trips Into the Ether on 'Dark Folke'

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The Observatory

Dark Folke (Self-released)

Though this Singapore band may have placed the word “folk” (or “folke”) on their album, that doesn’t really capture their sound. There are elements of freak folk here: “A Shuffler in the Mud” has sparse, lovely harmonies and a gentle acoustic sway that wouldn’t be out of place on a Devendra Banhart album. Other tracks, like “Lowdown,” though, trip merrily into the ether, heading for the brainy, drony psychedelia of Japan’s Ghost. For that matter, “Decarn” is almost heavy enough at points to qualify as metal, locking into a head-thrashing trudge while keyboards burble overhead and somebody shrieks from the pits of Hades for a couple of bars before handing it over again to the gentle-voiced harmonizers.

The album feels like a delicate arrangement of shifting textures drawn on a black canvas and then erased. “Omicron,” for example, starts with an acoustic guitar strum that fades almost completely; then there’s a second strum, also followed by silence, and then a percussive keyboard figure takes over, building with other instruments and vocals, until again it fades almost to silence—and we go back to acoustic guitar. The track is built around changes in direction, but it’s not the busy post-modern bricolage of the Boredoms. It’s modernist, fetishizing space and silence.

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