Friday, 5 September 2014

Pagan Spells From Sisilisko

I have no idea how I “discovered” Sweden’s Sisilisko. It’s like one of those creepy short stories or vignettes – you know, how something just appears at the doorstep, or the letterbox, or in this case on the desktop of my laptop. The album Waldeinsamkeit is like a Tom Waits-led spiral into the inexorable mess of folk music buried in the muck and the mire...with Michael Gira as wingman. There is a otherworldly feralness to it all, like the discovery of a pagan ceremony in a frigid forest, a Nordic folkloric narrative that tips into horror. The fact the band come from Sweden may have something to do with such naturalistic, stark and terrifying imagery, but the music itself inhabits a darkly pastoral space that inexorably drags you into a story rife with pregnant shadows, Gothic presentiment and macabre fascination. The fact that the duo (Albin Boman and Peter Engqvist) recorded the album in an industrial district outside of Stockholm somehow heightens this hyperreality – as if by recording it in a manmade district of urban unease, it mirrors the pastoral kismet that lies at the aural core of these songs. Waldeinsamkeit (which approximately means alone in the forest) highlights this paganism in song titles alone – ‘Green Man’ being a gargantuan march into the unknown, with a fairytale existence burning in the shadows; ‘The Mare’ a brooding, fragile meander through the undergrowth of reckless regret; ‘The Woods’ enveloping the foreboding, marked out as a Swans-meets-Shearwater deathmarch with the harbinger of doom spelt out by closer ‘You’ll Soon Be Dead’. In fact, this all reminds me in spirit of the duo’s countryman John Ajvide Lindqvist, the seminal horror writer who has managed to shine a distinctive light on many well-trodden speculative genres. In particular his novel Little Star comes to mind, which focuses on the pitch-perfect yet emotionally void Laila, an ethereal babe abandoned in the woods who rises to become a beguiling “monster”. Combine that character with the characteristics that come with the physicality of Dren, the “created” focus of maligned/misunderstood Vincenzo Natali film Splice, and you have what Waldeinsamkeit does to me in a visceral sense. It’s haunting, haggard, sleek, sinister, and quite brilliant.

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