Woodfall from Canadian neofolk/neoclassical act Musk Ox is a little bit of a rarity in a sea of bombastic pomposity and over the top theatricals that plagues many of the more ‘well known’ acts in this field. Pushing those clichés associated with the genre aside and giving rise to a host of influences that certainly push my buttons – reading through their biography online, they name check some of my all-time favourite artists from this genre, most of which are from the excellent Prophecy Productions stable such as Empyrium and Tenhi. So far so good then, Where at Night the Wood Grouse Play by Empyrium is an absolute classic and has had a huge influence on me personally, so was looking forward to what Musk Ox had to deliver.
Kicking off the album we have Earthrise, soft, graceful classical guitar opens the way for the accompanying cello and violin to weave their magic, creating a very peaceful and uplifting atmosphere, nature worship and age old tales are brought to mind as the repeated phrases subtly ebb and flow, dancing and feeding of each of the performers and serves up a great introduction. Windswept and Arcanum continue the story, the epic track lengths adding weight to their compositions, almost leaning on drone influences with the motifs that underpin each score rising over and over again drawing you further and further in. For Above The Clouds the tempo changes are shifted up a tad and the instruments dance around the mind’s eye with delightful abandon. The sedate but lengthy 17 minute closer that is Serenade The Constellations sits closer to the classical tradition in terms of structure and pace and does not fail to impress with the wealth of musicianship and deep emotion.
At first I certainly was not disappointed, lulled in by their obvious musical talents and earthy emotion akin to their named influences, dishing up lush aural vistas that yearn for the old ways. But something about the album bugged me as it progressed, it seemed to be lacking a certain something amidst the clinically polished production, a natural, ritualistic element, but all the same it is nit-picking at best, maybe I am trying too hard to recapture that feeling from the first time I heard music of this ilk at all, maybe. Either way if you are a fan of this kind of nature based atmospheric neofolk, this album is certainly worth your time and effort.
Scribed by: Todd Robinson