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Horse Cult's Debut, "Day Dreams & Night Mares," Is Destined to Become a Poetic Dark Folk Classic

Day Dreams and Night Mares

Day Dreams and Night Mares

The world in which we live has been perpetually perceived by mankind as both wondrous spectacle and indiscriminate beast; ultimately a regal and formidable force which we both adore and fear. These feelings of exaltation and trepidation together are responsible for much of our history and the paths that we’ve taken to bring us to our present. And while the present feels particularly cold and uncertain at times, in considering history, retrospect would reveal this to be a frequent observation of man. As such, it has always been up to us to find a way to translate our experiences, to be masons laying bricks, building a sense of shelter for ourselves and one another in the face of adversity, challenging environments, and ever-changing social and political climates. Music, of course, has proven itself to be a major tool in that process; it is a limitless resource that has provided humanity with a sense of splendor, connection, and warmth for centuries. And every once in a while, you stumble upon a band that creates music that embraces all of this. One such band would be Portland’s Horse Cult. Their debut album, Day Dreams and Night Mares, self-released this past April, is a record that beautifully encapsulates the beauty and darkness of our waking lives and our dreams, along with an understanding of the past as it stands in relation to where we are now, all while emanating an energy that alleviates some of the chill that the harshness of reality would otherwise have us feel.

Beginning with “Morning Fire,” it is immediately clear that Horse Cult’s music is mystical and magical. It is the kind of music that heightens your senses, that brings to mind the smell of earth and autumn leaves disintegrating into it; the kind of magic that connects you to where you are, that makes you consider things such as how many footsteps may have once passed beneath where you’re standing over the course of centuries. This introductory track starts with chimes and a subtle though eerie soundscape, followed with a dulcimer and soon thereafter, harmonizing female voices, a steady percussive beat, and the addition of a guitar. It evokes the presence of something primordial and strangely familiar that simultaneously feels new. It is this same trait that becomes even more clear with the song “Twa Corbies,” which is essentially their rendition of an old traditional—though slightly cynical and morbid—Scottish folk song. It is this approach that basically brings to light the brilliance behind this project and their efforts. Much of what they’ve written is inspired by traditional folk songs or tales, most of which are far more obscure than what the vast majority of people in the modern world are educated about. It is clear that a strong passion is present in these individuals for tracing back to times sadly forgotten by most, and it is in this that they bring it all back to life, with the added beautiful embellishments or interpretations based on their own experiences, talents, and various contemporary influences. Each musician brings something unique and distinct that complements the offerings of the others involved. For example, as with “Brigg Fair,” where an exquisitely plucked harp draws you into what soon becomes an epic instrumental of various stringed instruments overlapping and weaving in and out of one another with intent and precision. Or on “Devil’s Nettle,” where the two vocal harmonies heard are distinctly different but merge together in a delightful way to make the tone minor and melancholic. Between the mood created with these vocals in conjunction with the dulcimer, a flute floats over it all, forming a beautifully psychedelic atmosphere. It is that sort of hint of psychedelia that comes and goes throughout this album which truly and distinctly ties it all together.

Horse Cult

Horse Cult

Kierkegaard once wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Horse Cult have poetically realized this statement in their music by joyously, unabashedly digging through the soil, finding the roots that have brought us to where we are today, extracting that essence and painting portraits of tales of life and dreams and all that lies in between, in whatever beautiful, dark, or mixed state that might be. Day Dreams & Night Mares has become one of my favorite releases of this year. Anyone that is fond of dark folk, or even of more traditional folk on up to some of the more psych-tinged folk of the sixties and seventies, would surely appreciate this release, and I can virtually find no reason why anyone interested in these things would choose to ignore this album.

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Track List:

01) Morning Fire
02) Rano Rano
03) Twa Corbies
04) Blacksmith
05) Queen Hel
06) Silver Bough
07) Brigg Fair
08) Devil’s Nettle
09) Raven’s Omen
10) Devil’s Courtship
11) The Changeling
12) Heimat Lata
13) Cruel Wind & Rain

Written by: Anne K. O’Neill
Label: Independent (United States) / None / CD, Digital
Dark Folk / Psych Folk / Neofolk