by Dan Capp
Gutteral male chants underlay a sweet female voice, to accompany the scene of a young lady deceased… the spirit of her attendant ascending from his body to embark upon a tranquil woodland journey in search of her. This is how Czech dark-folk duo Nemuer choose to present themselves to the world with their forthcoming video for ‘Descent to the Realm of the Dead’ from their new album Gardens of Babylon, making quite clear that they’re serious about the spiritual, mythological themes tied to their music.
Nemuer’s self-identified ‘dreamy acoustic music’ caught me off-guard; the appearance, land of origin, and network of musicians from which the duo arose (at least, to my perceptions) had me assuming that this was another broadly neofolk act, preparing to offer the listener dark Romantic hymns to Czechia or Europe-at-large. Rather, Nemuer (comprised of Michael Zann and Katarina Pomorska) are here, on their latest album, emphatically concerned with ancient Babylon—a fact which brings rationale to the bright, colourful look of the album art. The lyrics are drawn from the Babylonian language, and we’re treated to the occasional sound of the ancient Egyptian harp. These things, along with the scarce, competent use of acoustic guitar, percussion, and expressive male and female vocals lead the listener into a surreal realm of primordial culture and myth.
Gardens of Babylon, self-released, is bold in every regard, and I find myself admiring Nemuer’s audacity more with each consecutive listen. For example, two-thirds of the way through the album, its calm, meditative atmosphere is abruptly broken by the thrash stylings of ‘Revealed Face of Chaos’—played upon an acoustic guitar, but familiarly fast and discordant nonetheless. The album then settles back into the ritualistic yet sombre canter of the aforementioned video track. I’m left with the sense that this is a rare music act with a unique and unwavering vision for what they wish to present to whichever legion of music fans are drawn to their work. Fans of Daemonia Nymphe, Dead Can Dance, as well as today’s popular pagan ritual-folk music, darkwave, and neofolk could all find a place in their collection for Gardens of Babylon, so long as they accept the album on its own terms and at its own pace. An enchanting listen.