I adore artists who create in many different spaces and genres; I love that sense of adventure, curiosity, and eclecticism. Mike Oldfield would be an example. So would Michał Wojtas. His brand new solo album Lore released on February 27th.
Michał is best known as the mastermind behind Poland’s Amarok, a fantastic band in their own right. He has been, however, exploring other sounds lately, from electronic to dance to folk. On Lore, he handles vocals, synth, frame drum, samples, and percussion. You will also hear Sebastian Wielądek on kora, hurdy gurdy, lyra, duduk, and shawm; and Kornel Popławski on violins.
As I mentioned, Michał explores a wealth of sounds in his various releases, and this album targets Viking, Slavic, and Celtic folk music. Do not, however, expect a prog rock album with folk trappings. No, this album is deeply cinematic, ritualistic, textured, and ambient in its approach. You can feel the darkness and the mystery in your very bones. This is earthy, organic, and enigmatic music.
There is something I need to mention before I continue, though. In all of the eclectic elements here, one thing can get lost: Michał’s vocals. Not that they are lost in the mix, but that they can be taken for granted. His vocals are absolutely outstanding. I’ve always liked his pure and atmospheric tone, and he takes that to new heights on Lore. The layering and darkened expressions he uses offer spine-tingling results.
The music for this release was made in collaboration with the James Wilton Company, which is a dance studio. You will notice that in the titular music video. It feels exotic and tethered to the roots of the earth. There are a few different kinds of songs on this album, and I think that is a good way to divide the discussion.
The first kind is the gorgeous vocal piece, such as “Eiocha” and “Song of Cernunnos”. These songs can properly be called such, and they have beautiful melodies, ancient lyrics, and wondrous soundscapes. I like them a lot.
The second kind is the rousing, spirited, rhythmic sort. These pieces are full of percussion, breathy vocal rumblings, and mountains of color. You will find this style in “Lore”, “Ritual”, and “Tales of the Woods”. All three are excellent, with my favorite being “Ritual”. It is substantially darker and more hypnotic than the others, and I simply love that style.
The third kind are dark, textured ambient tracks. You will find “Myth of Creation”, “The Oak Tree”, and “The Roots & the Rain” here. These, I confess, are my favorites on the album, as they feel like stories in the deepest roots and rocks. “Myth of Creation” is absolutely brilliant in its slow, steady, exotic atmosphere; “The Roots & the Rain” feels like echoes from beyond as the primeval forest soaks up nourishment and creates wet, writhing life; and “The Oak Tree” feels like delving to the innermost parts of the earth as we follow the roots of an ancient creature. These songs are spellbinding affairs.
One last track, “The Echoes”, feels like a combination of the other three styles. It features plenty of amazing vocal work and atmosphere, rhythmic portions, and dark ambient segments. They string together in a beautiful piece that lasts about twelve minutes and is absolutely wonderful.
Michał Wojtas is one of the most interesting artists in Poland today. He creates with a depth of passion, grace, and wonder that few others do. He is never satisfied with the same sound over and over, but digs, searches, and expands into anything he can. Lore is an immensely satisfying album that displays a myriad of tones and textures, some familiar and some profoundly alien in the most organic way possible. This is a fantastic album and I know it will only grow on me.
Find Michał Wojtas online:
Nice! It’s like Gjallarhorn and Bear McCreary birthed something primal in the remote orc-filled wilderness.