Sometimes, I’m excited to listen to a new-to-me artist based on the description of the music alone. I remember once receiving a promo that said the music was a “cross between Pink Floyd and The Beach Boys”. But that’s beside the point. NOÊTA, who seems to prefer their name to be in all caps, grabbed my attention with the label “black ambient folk”. I’m glad I took the plunge. “Elm” releases on April 23rd.
NOÊTA comes to us from Sweden, the land of countless artists. The band is actually just a duo made up of “Êlea and Ândris”, and thus their mystery and hazy imagery begins with their names. The band name itself comes from Greek philosophy, describing a term for universal thoughts that exist without someone thinking them. I find that a very interesting topic.
“Elm” is definitely labelled well as “black ambient folk”. The artists have their roots in black metal, and so the blackened atmosphere rises and hovers over the entire album. The music is also ambient, lacking percussion or drive, though you will hear plenty of rhythms and patterns. Lastly, the music is folk in a Scandinavian fashion and with acoustic guitars providing most of the instrumentation.
What really draws me to this album, though, are the textures and qualities therein. The music is dark and melancholy, but sensuous, poetic, and organic, too. Every small pinprick of sound necessitates a reaction from my nervous system, and so the music can often be unsettling, yet always beautiful: spacious, yet somehow claustrophobic, too. It bubbles and drifts with life, but it also feels slightly morbid, like burrowing deep in the sodden earth.
Though this is a mysterious album, one whose atmosphere is poignant and opaque, there is a sense of nostalgia for me. I’m often reminded of the hypnotic density of the Elven vocal harmonies in the Lord of the Rings, such as within Lothlórien or in Arwen’s theme. The yearning, despair, and earthly sadness expressed in those beautiful compositions is what I also hear on this record, and this draws me deeply into the experience.
“Elm” has eight tracks, though this isn’t the type of album where I can pick “favorites”. The record is one experience, and a weighty one, at that. From the misty awakening of “Dawn Falls” to the active rhythms and high notes of “As I Fall Silent” to the utter inky gloom of “Disillusion” and “Above and Below”, the album projects a decisively human void into our minds, but in gorgeous fashion.
I think I do enjoy the last half of the album most, though. “Fade” with its cinematic touch and “As We Are Gone” with its asphyxiating tone are both fantastic tracks. The last couple tracks, though, are the title track suite. “Elm” and “Elm II” feel distinct, being more textured than the rest of the album. There is an alien atmosphere of sorts, one that feels certainly terrestrial, but from another dimension of existence. The second part, especially, is full of whispers and hair-raising moments, and ends with a stark, yet lush melody that I love.
NOÊTA has a sound I really enjoy. I love the atmospheric, barren style, and I get lost in the gentle weave of rhythms, textures, and harmonies. This definitely isn’t an album that you will crank in your car, but is an experience to sit, savor, and absorb with eyes securely shut and your mind wide open.
Find NOÊTA online: