In retrospect, it seems that the golden era of fantasy-themed hippie folk, layered with other-worldly vocal harmonies, pretty much coincided with the ’60s liberalism. Thus, the genre practically went extinct by the turn of the ’80s, as it was not exactly compatible with the yuppie ethos of the times. You cannot keep good music buried beneath the sands of time for long though, hence every now and then, along comes a band that revives the magic puff and channels the spirit of bands such as JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, FAIRPORT CONVENTION, and PENTANGLE. Finland, out of all places, does not necessarily come to mind as the likeliest breeding ground for a hippie-folk revival – but it is, now. The folk outfit, DUST MOUNTAIN, are releasing their new full-length “Hymns For Wilderness” on October 8th, 2021, via Svart Records. Preaching the pagan gospel of a world hidden but not lost, the album cherishes the virtues of these aforementioned folk legends with a subtle, modern touch, as though glancing into a parallel universe that has somehow existed all along, unknown and unseen within our mundane world of corporate rock and autotuned mumble-rap hits.
The album opens with “Harvest Maiden,” resonating with a somewhat mellowed-out HIDRIA SPACEFOLK vibe – plus the elfin vocals of Henna Hietamäki and Pauliina Lindell. The ghost of krautrock is strongly present – then again, the congregation of musicians on the album is quite an impressive line-up of battle-hardened kraut-metal veterans from bands such as ORANSSI PAZUZU, DARK BUDDHA RISING, and DEATH HAWKS. In effect, it means that the song avoids the usual trappings associated with hippie-folk endeavors. Instead of staging an impromptu, spliff-induced folk jam, DUST MOUNTAINS crafts an immersive snapshot into the netherworld of alternative folk with the full range of dynamics in use. It would be undoubtedly easy to find yourself absorbed and immersed into the album with the help of a certain sweet, pine-scented setting, but it is by no means necessary.
There are a few subtle nuances giving away that these folk darlings have a background in metal rather than flower power. First, the melodies tend to resonate with a somewhat dark air. The track “Margaret,” for instance, builds tension with subtly dissonant Mellotron textures paired with a vocal motif that echoes Angelo Badalamenti‘s classic Twin Peaks soundtrack. The acoustic guitar, in turn, arpeggiates a motif that could easily fit OPETH‘s 2011 album “Heritage.” The nicely balanced mixture of vintage sounds and dissonant folk doodlings echoes the modus operandi of Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s and Steven Wilson‘s STORM CORROSION project as well.
The mandolin-driven track, “Village on Fire,” gears up on the psychedelic krautrock in its coda and, befitting to the song’s theme of burning down unjust kingdoms, the last 2 minutes of the song are intense and groovy as hell. The song does not, however, plunge headlong into a shamanistic trance as you might suspect, given the pedigree trance-music specialists in the lineup. DUST MOUNTAIN seem content with only flirting with the dark vortex of krautrock. At its most flirtatious, the band summons the ancient Balrogs on the track, “Apollo.” Compared to, say, ORANSSI PAZUZU’s dark incantations, the trance-inducing riffage here is still quite mellow – sparkling, even. This is some sort of hippie folk, after all, not hipster black-metal. The shimmering beacon of light at the corner of your eyes never fully vaporizes into a fine mist in one grimly flashing poof. Still, the vernacular term ”hippie folk” should be understood as a point of reference only. DUST MOUNTAIN is traversing the hippie trail with a distinctively modern outlook, what with the heavy krautrock vibes and subtle metal flavors. The original hippie dream has been packaged and commodified many times over by all sorts of toilet-brush-bearded business consultants, but here we have a new batch of class-A musicians who kindly remind us that some of the hippie music covered in the dust of time is worth reviving into a brand new context – like a mountain of seven awesome songs.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Harvest Maiden
- Under My Spell
- Village on Fire
- Holy Equinox
- Bird Hymns
Henna Hietamäki (CATS OF TRANSNISTRIA, HENNA & HOUREET) – Vocals
Toni Hietamäki (ORANSSI PAZUZU, WASTE OF SPACE ORCHESTRA) – Mandolin, organ
Jukka Rämänen (HEXVESSEL, DARK BUDDHA RISING) – Drums
Riku Pirttiniemi (DEATH HAWKS) – Bass
Pauliina Lindell (VUONO) – Guitars, backing vocals
Jaakko Niemelä – Percussion