Genre: Ethereal Ambient/Experimental Folk
Love Cult is a duo out of the historical Northwestern Russian region of Karelia – specifically the capital city of Petrozavodsk. The city itself enjoys the cold climate that Northern Russia has to offer (being located Easternly between, latitude-wise, the Finnish cities of Tampere and Jyvaskyla) while being located just off of Lake Onega which undoubtedly makes the bitter cold of the region even worse at this time of year. Perhaps this adds to a unique quality that Love Cult manages to attain, at least with their first tape on Brave Mysteries, “Nebulaes”, that allows them to maintain a sound that is both warm and cold at the same time. This is a city where the Winters are long and where temperatures reach an average low of negative 13.3 degrees Celsius (that’s 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit), and typically only reach highs of just below negative 7 degrees (just below 20 degrees Fahrenheit) in January. The record low for this month? An unimaginably brutal negative 41.6 degrees (negative 42.9 Fahrenheit). Needless to say, nights in this part of the world have the ability to reach temperatures that the majority of us in the Western world cannot fathom.
However, that only explains where the cold qualities seem to come from with Love Cult. The album starts of in a meditative warm drone that crescendos quickly and disappears like a playful apparition, only to reappear and quickly disappear again. From here the tape takes on a moderately Eastern-sounding bell melody, as played by Anya Kuts. The pristine notes ring out into existence with nothing but vast emptiness behind them and the occasional gentle echo or delay effect, creating cold spiritual scenery that can be compared to the scenic view of a Buddhist monk high in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. Snow gently falling around, with complete silence except for the occasional bell toll or jingle. This same melody is the bulk of the track, reoccurring in various volumes, densities and with various effects over the course of the 15 minute track, inevitably taking on a droning, thick quality in the end. Gentle female vocal hymns are added to the background of the sound to give it an even more expansive, cavernous quality that adds to both its pristine, cold side and its human, warm side. In reference to that warmth, the track is strangely uplifting and comforting. It forces you to listen, becoming its own entity rather than simply hanging out as background static.
Side B, “Absorption”, is more experimental to a degree, but still expansive in sound thanks to the nature of reverb used in the recording. Voice, acoustic guitar, lap slide and the occasional kazoo buzz make for a surreal if not scarcely psychedelic experience. This portion of the tape is more human and relates to ‘taking it all in’ as the title of the track implies. The track is intrepid, in a way — certainly less climactic than it’s predecessor. It combines different elements of aural beauty together to create an atmosphere that is born out of an ethereal manner, again taking on a supernatural sound as that which was hinted at in the opening of “Reflection”, evoking imagery of spirits lingering in the snowfall of Russia’s vast wilderness. The track is modestly chaotic but sincere in quality and tone — it’s creators not seeking to simply reach an end, but rather explore the possibilities created through their instruments.
The title of the tape hints at an otherworldly journey, but while this is true in its surreal nature, I feel that it still keeps us firmly grounded here on Earth. “Nebulaes” is an authentic journey into both their cold environment, and the warmth of their being. It takes on spiritual qualities, as well as Earthen folk qualities. The tape offers a great deal more than simple background ambiance; it is all-enveloping and has the ability to connect you in some way to your immediate surroundings, and thus, Nebulaes is the perfect companion to a cold Winter introspective meditation.