14 Sept 2015
Trappist Afterland - Afterlander
Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Melbourne based psych folk artists Trappist Afterland have been quietly but consistently releasing some of the most outstanding and distinctive albums in underground circles over the last four years or so. Consisting effectively of the trio of Adam Cole, Phil Coyle and Nick Albanis along with various friends and musical accomplices their use of unusual instrumentation and unique sound (as well as their easy but persistent way with a melody that will get its hooks in and not let go) marks them out as one of the most important and visionary bands currently working in the psych scene. Their new opus 'Afterlander' not only builds on the successes and strengths of past albums but takes the Trappists into a whole new realm of their own, with a set of assured, powerful and majestic songs tinged with mystery, ritual and beauty.
Album opener 'Lucifer Mosquito' begins with the simple sound of chimes before complex layers of dulciters, ouds, a hand drum and Adam Cole's distinctive and emotive vocals enter in a psyche haze of immense grace and beauty which then continues to layer, grow and build into a stunning and transcendent climax. It left this listener absolutely transfixed, let me be clear at the outset; this is mindblowingly good. At once otherworldly and yet also immediate and persuasively melodic, Trappist Afterland ably suggest a dark mysticism and esoteric sound whilst also maintaining a tight, rhythmic and controlled mastery of their song craft, similar perhaps to contemporaries such as Stone Breath, Six Organs Of Admittance or James Blackshaw. 'Saint Peter And The Rainbow's eastern drone leads into tense and intricate, inventive string work (instruments present on this album include bell citern, hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery and lute), eerie backing vocals and strident tabla, propelling the song ever forwards. Fans of the afore mentioned bands, acid folk acts such as the Incredible String Band and COB and also of Michael Gira's work with Angels Of Light will find much to adore here.
'Where The Willows Weep' enters with a pleasingly disorientating backwards loop before a processionary beat begins, an air of unease and incense pervading amongst the dulcimer and oud's raga melodies. 'Jessie's Root (Isaiah 11:1-10)' rides on a moving carpet of bells, sitar drones and chanted backing vocals, sounding both haunted and haunting in its vast and lysergic soundscapes; this is music for when the sun goes down and candles can be lit. Next, 'A Jar On Mystics' is a more reflective, hushed piece of wyrd folk with Naomi Henderson's spooked flute weaving Will O' The Wisp style throughout, a truly unique slice of bucolic beauty. Trappist Afterland are clearly masters of both dynamics and atmosphere and have crafted a perfectly paced and formed album which ebbs and flows with gentle force throughout, sometimes surging with a thrilling intensity and sometimes floating delicately but addictively with measured restraint. 'Black Dog Coast' is a case in point; starting with gentle washes of acoustic sound and fragile vocals this then breaks into an increasingly insistent sounding drum-led symphony, delivering shivers down the spine and huge emotional power. The following 'Feathers' tabla rhythms, eastern air and melancholic edge is absolutely hypnotic whilst the brilliantly named 'The Psalms Remain The Same (Psalm 31)' is a plaintive, gorgeous spectre of a song, resplendent with ghostly backing vocals and a sense of hazy doom. Album closer 'Hillsong Leeches' layers tanpura drone upon drone, string upon string, and vocal upon vocal to create a blissed out wyrd and wonderful reverie that is genuinely moving and close to anthemic. A suitable and fitting finale to what is a hugely impressive and highly evocative piece of work and an album which I guess will not just be one of the best I'll hear this year but one that I will hear for many a year to come. Really.
Trappist Afterland have many extremely fine releases already under their relatively young belts and a back catalogue that amply rewards investigation, however with 'Afterlander' they must (if there is justice) become much more of a name to be reckoned with in psych circles and underground music in general. A seriously superb album that needs to find a home in your record collection without delay.
Available now as a digital download from the Trappist Afterland Bandcamp page (below). A blood red vinyl edition from Sunstone Records sold out in a matter of days, but do keep your eyes peeled for any future physical manifestations of this album - a second vinyl pressing is not definite, but likely.