There are cycles and themes in life that have been acknowledged and revered by humans for thousands of years. And there is beauty and poetry to be found within those years as they repeat in a pattern based solely on where we are in relation to the sun. This is clear in that, regardless of how much time has passed since the beginning stages of our behavioral modernity to the present, most people inevitably continue to revere the light and darkness and all that falls in between in their own respective ways—both individually and culturally—whether it’s intentional or not. One such cycle catching the attention of so many who have walked upon this rock circling around a star would be the autumnal equinox, or Mabon as some might know it. Traditionally, it has long been acknowledged as a time for harvesting, but beyond that, it was seen as a reminder that, in reality, all is ephemeral. In accepting that impermanence it was recognized as a time to value the earth’s bounty and to embrace those dearest to you. Considering this, mankind has relentlessly continued to find ways with which to honor the earth. And, of course, so much of that gratitude, so much of our story, is to be found in music. Released on September 22, 2017, one such autumnal offering would be Forget Not by Vancouver’s Crooked Mouth.
Ceremonial and ambient, “Landvaettir Summoning” draws the listener into the release with a harmonium, a singing bowl, and miscellaneous percussion that deliberately sets the atmosphere of what is to follow. The pieces then unfold with an intention that is apropos and authentic, something which I appreciate not only because having a purpose is essentially a part of the very definition of folk music itself, but it is additionally necessary for creating folk music delving into sonically darker and conceptually esoteric realms, as this release assuredly does. Considering this, Forget Not is undoubtedly dignified, standing strong outside of the sea of passionless pretense that is all too frequently sailed by bands of all genres these days. As one may expect, these songs feature the steady strums of a twelve-string guitar. To continue in the path of expectation, the compositions aren’t terribly complex either, but that’s precisely the point. Simplicity, when done properly, forms a solid foundation and provides the space for embellishments to ensue.
These songs could be played on their own without accompaniment and would remain strong, but the accompaniment on this record is brilliant. Lillian Liu’s violin playing is absolutely exquisite, especially when played alongside the percussion, typically and most notably a bodhrán, as played by P. Fiess. Furthermore, this recording also features the collaborative presence of S. P. Haché of Vancouver’s Night Profound providing backing vocals and additional guitar work, thereby creating a sense of camaraderie so rarely seen or felt in more contemporary scenes, especially in the western half of North America. With that in mind, my personal favorite track, “Return to Brackendale,” is a fantastic way to end this four-song release. Following a well-done and generally true-to-the-original rendition of a Backworld song, this closing tune features the violin swirling around layers of plucked guitars, the lead melodies of which are deeply moving, especially in conjunction with Crooked Mouth’s calm, slightly melancholy tenor voice. Granted I don’t know much about Brackendale, but I know it is a small community on the northern end of Squamish, BC, and it doesn’t take much to assume it was once a place called home. I am forever a fan of music that calls attention to one’s roots, to the origins of our individual beings as well as to our collective selves. While so many of us may call different places home, we are all united in the inevitability of change, and such a song drawing this EP to a close feels perfect, particularly as most of us have gathered by now that there are no ends, only new beginnings.
For not being a full-length LP, there is a lot to be found on Forget Not. The sonic fabric is diverse throughout, though it also maintains the sort of auditory homogenization necessary to cultivate a style that allows Crooked Mouth to stand out from others playing the same variety of music. Considering this, I greatly look forward to hearing any potential future releases and/or collaborations from this band.