tim eriksen’s soul of the january hills is arguably the most punk album i own. fearless. lonely. harsh. indulgent. just him, singing. no instruments (throat excepted). a one take beautiful fuck you. folk music: traditional but transcending / transcendent. like sunno))) did with the chord, eriksen did with the voice. it’s a noise that has as much in common with his drone and minimalist contemporaries as it does with say, sacred harp singing or shirley collins. and in falling liminally betwixt the two, probably doesn’t get the recognition deserving from either camp…
that breathtaking simplicity of january hills is present here too but with (no prizes for guessing) banjo and fiddle. oh and cordelia’s dad comrade peter irvine on occasional percussion.
it’s the quietude i dig. intense. direct. like you can feel his goddam breath on the back of yr neck. a kindof ferocious intimacy. every sound seems amplified, every stringscrape and hit of wood on skin hangs ectoplasmic in the air, the resonance from each pluck and bow creating this bitching psychic hum that exists not so much in the recording process but in yr skullspace.
damn sure this shit ain’t easy to play, but it’s a complexity masked (paradoxically) by the seeming simplicity of the music. stripped back till there’s nothing but the beating, bleeding heart and guts left, exposed. sparse, powerful, pregnant with stories, harmonies, history. the primitive, pastoral creaks of ghosts, centuries dead. lazarus songs. songs of death and fear and love and sin and redemption.
it is proper folk music. none of the smothering of ironic distance, over-elaboration, pop or freakout sheen. instead, this wonderful and strange and abrasive honesty.