Kentin Jivek is back, now nearly a year and a half after our review of his last opus, Ode to Marmæle, was published to mixed reactions within the neofolk community. It seems that Jivek can be a bit of a polarizing force within our realm of music, to which the reasoning is a mystery to me. I can’t help but feel, though, that perhaps it is the exotic nature of his compositions that may put off a few people whom have grown used to a specific Germanic guitar-and-voice styling. Indeed, as the album title Third Eye hints, Jivek is an open-minded singer-songwriter and doesn’t appear interested in having his imagination bound by the works that preceded, and most likely influenced, him. Ode to Marmæle left us with a lingering cultural understanding about the music that Jivek creates around folklore, as the album weaved tirelessly through four languages and even more traditional styles to put another vibrant chapter in his already promising lineage of albums, which now stretches back over six releases, the latest two of which we are focusing on here.
Unfortunately for me, there is a missing chapter as Jivek’s official last release, Now I’m Black Moon, has evaded me thus far, and it seems that a new direction has been taken somewhere along the way. While the traditional elements remain from previous records along with Jivek’s fixation towards multilingual story-telling (along with the same English pronunciation issues that I noted in my review of Ode to Marmæle), there is something much darker present on Third Eye than was found on its predecessors — perhaps embodying the apocalyptic portion of apocalyptic folk in a literal way. This is an album that, upon receipt, I immediately mistook for a possible Current 93 disc with artwork that is somehow strongly reminiscent of Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain with the color scheme of Black Ships Ate the Sky. Similarly, there are some strong Tibet-esque influences present on the album from dark experimental meanderings to psychedelic spiritual visions. This all ties into a bizarre “inner solar revelation” concept that was popular in 2012 as theories about the end of the world were circulating through every conceivable channel of media and human inquiry. It appears that this specific, albeit vague, reference is to the complex Nibiru / Planet X paranoia that came to a climax that year, as a brown dwarf star from outside of but near our solar system was, in theory, supposed to swing a giant planet on a huge elliptical orbit through our planetary system and either smash into Earth or throw it out of orbit via gravitational pull. Given the lack of lyrics with this release and Jivek’s own difficult-to-understand vocals, it’s difficult to say just how far he went into exploring this theory or what surreal nature he took it to, though with mentions of both Shiva and Moloch, it doesn’t appear that he stuck to a very specific path outside of perhaps the whispered mythology surrounding the planet.
Third Eye contains equal amounts of folk, experimental, and dark ambient elements that all combine in a sort of chaotic maelström of eclectic mysticism and starry-eyed melancholy. There’s an emotional desperation present throughout the more folk-laden tracks, especially in “A Bunch of Mimosa for you SleepyDead” where the full expanse of building emotional tension finally manifests through deceptively peaceful guitar melodies, warm synth and droning splendor at the end. The darkness on the album comes through both in subtle bass-end melodies that continue to build tension throughout the entirety of the album, as well as the numerous moments of foreboding dark ambience that more or less dominate the atmosphere of the entire record. While Jivek’s attempts at creating a truly experimental style of folk are admirable, I feel that artists like Kinit Her/Wreathes and Ô Paradis are doing so more effectively because of their ability to maintain some sort of consistency within their releases. Here, Third Eye is a bit of a roller-coaster. It never really allows for any given atmosphere to settle in, and it inevitably leaves us feeling unmoved until the very end of the album. That said, the conflicting elements of dark ambient and experimental folk do create some unique moments that serve as what could be a very interesting groundwork for future release.
Six Diamonds continues down a similar path of psych folk and musically dark atmospheres, though thematically Jivek trades away the wonder on Third Eye for a concept geared more towards reason. Here, he finds his vocals coming out as far more expressive, and his music is certainly produced with either more attention to rhythmic detail, or simply more layers to give the album a stronger sense of thickness and harmony when it counts, while the more desolate moments are reserved for specific moments. The opener to Six Diamonds, “Le Ciment des Sentiments”, suggests that a more electronic approach is destined to be taken, but this filters back into subtle experimental aspects that surround Jivek’s work later in the album rather than retaining a rhythmic style. Unlike Third Eye, Six Diamonds has much more of a consistent sound, engaging in an atmosphere that is almost desert-like — dusty, vast, slow-moving and barren but beautiful. Slide guitar meets minimal percussion and effects, depressive melodies pierce the foreground over-top of barely existent drones, reminding one of the music that A Death Cinematic has crafted in his best moments, albeit with less structure than Jivek’s creations.
Throughout both of these records, I just can’t help but feel like there is something big missing from Jivek’s music. Both albums are intensely beautiful in moments, but both are also excruciatingly dull in expanses that just trudge on for far too long — something that Six Diamonds is more guilty of than Third Eye, hinting at an unfortunate potential downward trend in the quality of and inspirations behind Jivek’s music. Perhaps it’s the thematic direction that the album took — a concept that explores Game Theory in a philosophical discussion about ethics but that, like Third Eye, was difficult to understand and deconstruct both because of lingual issues and a complex subject matter that was made all the more difficult to discern by the artist’s own abstractions. Perhaps the downward trend is simply a case of an artist putting quantity over quality, as Jivek has turned up the production of new music in the past two years. In terms of performance and production value, both releases are exceptional, with Third Eye having the added benefit of quite a bit of originality behind its compositions. It’s just frustrating that there are deeper meanings lurking underneath the textured layers of psych folk and ambience that beg to be understood, but can’t be for the reasons that have already been discussed here.
01) Third Eye Opened
02) As the Frog Speaks upon the Hill
04) Mais Qui étes vous Madame Blavatsky?
05) White Letters on Black Sheets
06) Doppelgänger, l’Ombre Ka
07) Djinn Moloch Speaking
08) Thou, Raven Song
09) Shiva is Landing
10) A Bunch of Mimosa for you SleepyDead
11) Third Eye Closed
01) Le Ciment des Sentiments
02) Des Signes qui ne Trompent pas
03) Heyoka, the Straighten (Outer)
05) Dans le Salon des Oubliés
06) Now can you Hear the Night Birds?
07) I Love you Skinny