Thomas Bel has entitled his latest record This Is Funeral Folk; whether the title implies a shortcut to the intended genre or a blatant means to set the tone is up to the listener.
After four listens of this record under the duress of music journalism, it has been appropriately decreed (with critical resolve) that This Is Funeral Folk is ultimately a simple case of ‘it is what it is’. Four listens at forty minutes apiece was an enduring exercise with only subtle increases in the ‘listen on listen’ retrospective quality of the record—this on top of the declining motivation of having another go to achieve further insight. Alas, I won’t get that time back, and the realisation of time being a constant conundrum brings me closer to a funeral of my own, mooring the pity.
Bel’s self-published online biography tells you that he was born in autumn (auspiciously the record was released on the last day of autumn in 2015), lives in Toulouse, France, and occasionally dances with birds at night. The aforementioned is as revealing and as inspiring as the twelve tracks that have been assembled on This Is Funeral Folk.
Whether funeral folk is an actual ‘thing’ or simply the lovechild of a depraved franc is immaterial. A brief scan of the track titles denotes a nihilistic theme, which the average punter would expect from such a record title. Beginning with ‘Veins’ and ending with ‘Veils’ and all sorts of lacunae morbidity in between, This Is Funeral Folk appears primed to attract maturing emo fans away from their declining subculture. The applied music and lyrics replicate a similar aesthetic value whilst never catching the pitch-savvy ear off-guard.
Snippets of ambience, ritual structures, and drone give the album some delineation from the electro sequencing that creates the monotonous backbone of each individual piece. The minimalism in Bel’s music reflects his aforementioned biography, and the perception of a constant simplistic theme makes it seem intended. A modest back catalogue and collaborative history shows positive links to the ambient scene with alignment to a few labels of modest note.
Thomas Bel’s cascading vocals dwell within an octave of comfort yet stagger in pitch and quality the higher they go. Whether this is an intended vibrato or inexperience makes no difference as the end-result contributes to the dark tones they exhume. Subtle piano notes, chords, and gentle guitar strumming make the odd cameo appearance within the elementary arrangements and provide slight credence to the notion of any ‘folk’ presence.
Folded liner notes accompany the disc with a set of poetic guiding principles for each song. Apropos to ‘Wolves and Witches’ for being noted as merely instrumental.
Notwithstanding all of the above, if you are partial to music in the key of nihilistic ambient folk, don’t mind a down-tempo electro feel, and are willing to accept it for what it is, This Is Funeral Folk is a slight chance for you.
02) The Lines We Sear
03) Evening Song
05) The Empty Soil
06) Death Interlude
07) Lo-Fi Love
08) Solid Black
10) The First Tear You Will Cry Will Fucking Kill Me
11) The Future of Evil