‘Funeral Folk’ pairs multi instrumentalist composer Maria W. Horn with violinist, singer and composer Sara Parkman on a soundtrack commission for Mattias Lech & Lisen Allard’s dance performance of the same name. Drawing on a shared, formative background playing in the same band as teenagers in their hometown Härnosand, Horn & Parkman naturally and skilfully collapse their worlds of influence, ranging from sacred songs and minimalist spectral music to Finnish black metal and Swedish folk, into epic arrangements for synths, zithers, hurdy gurdy, guitars, mellotrons and lamenting vocals. The results patently play into XKatedral’s love of slowly evolving harmonic and timbral sounds, but also reach to far more climactic appeal than we’ve come to expect from the label, edging on the sort of musical dramaturgy one might better expect from Anna von Hausswolff, or comparable to Okkyung Lee’s ‘Yeo-Nuen’. Stirring stuff, we tell thee.
Flocking around a mutual passion for the sort of progressive music coming from their native north Sweden as teenagers, as well as personal deep dives into their family’s Christian heritage of several generations, Horn & Parkman reassess the meaning of “rites of loss in a de-ritualised and dying civilisation” with a crafty blend of the sacred and profane guided by a heightened emotive intelligence.
Cinematic opener ‘Evighetens Sommar’ or ‘The Summer of Eternity’ establishes a grand sound stage spotlighting hushed vocals and luminous string swells, where ‘Till Margaretha’ follows with sky-clawing Finnish black metal riffs giving way to a keening Karelian vocal lament in staggering fashion. At its core ‘kyrie’ pushes this formula to its most impressively proggy peaks, and the choral vignette ‘Mementomori’ recalls Cucina Povera’s eyrie minimalism, seemingly prepping the way for the final send off ‘Hornalaten’, an unhurried 10 minutes of glistening timbral shifts and soothing drones that feels solemn yet optimistic, and as enchanting as Pauline Oliveros’ drone prayers.