Upon an early morning hike in the woods, I stare into the intertwining branches. I see a deer galloping away, listen to the sound of a stream, and feel the crisp Winter breath on my flesh. My journey continues throughout the day as I sit next to a tree and read, waiting for dusk in order to witness the rising of the waning moon. These cyclical rhythms of nature are reflected in the music of Nebelung’s latest album, Palingenesis. An album title that reflects the idea of rebirth, it all begins to sink in as each track takes me deeper down a trajectory of reflection and continuation. It all seems quite natural as the day goes on, the whispers of Polaris fitting coherently alongside my daily existence. At times, I listen to one of those half-a-day YouTube tracks that are the sounds of a river or Tibetan bells and gongs, and with this one track playing hour after hour I go about my daily life. Palingenesis meshes with life in quite the same way, a suitable background that reflects these experiences. This certainly fits into the category of meditative music, and is completely comfortable being played throughout the day.
All of this is somehow done with acoustic instruments; predominantly classical and steel stringed guitar, along with cello, harmonium, percussion and, when needed, voice. They have gone somewhat in the direction of Neun Welten, in the sense of primarily composing instrumental tracks, and the vocals that do exist never follow the typical sing-along chorus elements of other similar artists. They sound like a wise old man, sitting patiently, knowing the value of every word. A child sits by his side, waiting, not so patiently, to hear what he has to say, and his voice is a low groan, almost a whisper, and each word contains so much value. These words, though sparsely adding to brief moments within a song, are not to extenuate the music, but to add another layer of introspection. What this mainly consists of is one guitar pattern, played repetitively, with subtle changes and progressions that overcome the listener with emotion.
I cannot help but to be amazed at how well Nebelung, and many of their Germanic contemporaries, fit into the music of the Pacific Northwest. Part of it is obviously the acoustic guitars, but more so is the connection to nature and, in particular, the seasons. I find it amusing that this is validated by recent Facebook posts by the band, promoting the likes of Novemthree. I can even hear an influence from label-mates Echtra, witnessing the repetitious movements and how the layers are added ever so gently. It’s like a calm breeze, moving tenderly for a few minutes and, after awhile, briskly picking up. Time seems to slow as the wind accelerates, and moments later the leaves fill the space around you. I can certainly imagine the members entering into a trance-like state while recording this, as it is largely based off of repetition.
Each song flawlessly blends in with the next which means no tracks stand out considerably on their own; their strength is in supporting each other, and hence a well-written album is born. Part of me certainly misses the old Nebelung, with the strong vocal patterns that made past works so enjoyable. Even though my German is far from fluent, when I listen to an older song it is a bit more engaging; I sing/hum along with it, and focus on the song. Nebelung used to be a band with strong song writing that was easily accessible even though the lyrics were in a foreign language. The newer tracks free you from this, allowing the music to enhance the experience of life. The difference is that one form of music demands your attention, while the other exists as a backdrop to life. Think of the difference between Death in June and Halo Manash; the former you listen to and focus on, perhaps while singing along, and the latter is like a guided meditation that leads you some place else, turning your focus off of one particular thing and allowing the mind to drift. Both have a different set of values, and what is truly amazing is that Nebelung have now done both. Certainly, the newer material is quite different, although sections of previous material gave subtle glimpses into what was to come.
Songs like “Nachtgewelt” contain a slow and plodding guitar, interspersed with a gentle sound that eases one into a somber mood, followed by cello to bring you back down to earth. This soundtrack, for those of us that identify ourselves as nemophilists, is a gentle woodland reprieve that somehow captures the meditative mind of Nature. As the seasons whisper death into birth, these songs reflect the continuous cycle of cessation, the ephemeral and liminal moments that are the Solstice and the Equinox. It is as if you were hiking in the woods, and the flora and fauna picked up some acoustic instruments and started playing a song that led you into the other worlds. Palingenesis is an album that demands a calm state of mind. With only six songs, it still somehow reaches the 50-minute mark, so it can be expected that music like this takes its time. Calm down and wait for it, you will be thankful. Tomorrow, the sun shall rise, as it has and will for thousands of years. Each day is a rebirth, while somehow staying the same, a paradox reflected in watching the seasons change, which always return wearing the same face, only now a year wiser.