I got an email recently from Wellington, New Zealand fringe folk band Bent Folk to let me know their debut full-length, Why / Liar / Gone, had been released. That email was signed by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dick Whyte, and it featured a great big dangling hook. Whyte said that Bent Folk sounded a little like Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing and Dylan Carlson covering Leonard Cohen — and that sounded like an amazing combination to me.
Obviously, that was a bold claim to make. And to Whyte’s credit, he wasn’t exactly being dead serious in making the comparison. But still, Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing are madcap outliers. Carlson is a drone-sculpting genius and a genuine innovator. And Cohen’s an icon, for a million good reasons. If you want to compare yourself to any of those aforementioned music-makers, you’d better be ready to back that up. And that’s pretty much what Bent Folk do on Why / Liar / Gone.
The album definitely has passages that you could imagine hearing on one of Carlson’s solo or Earth releases. There are also hints of the icy isolation of a backwoods drone band like Barn Owl. And echos of the enigmatic organ-sprawl of Mamiffer and Circle’s collaboration on Enharmonic Intervals (for Paschen organ).
That’s not to say Bent Folk are remotely copycatting anyone else, and it’s really no kind of criticism to note that the band’s music features the same hypnotic drawl as Carlson’s musical endeavours. Why / Liar / Gone is off-kilter, although it’s not as confrontingly weird as a Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing release. But an undercurrent of unease runs throughout the album, and sparse acoustic drones with plaintive instrumental passages mixing with Whyte’s world-weary vocals definitely bring a sense of darkness to proceedings.
Why / Liar / Gone unnerves as much as it soothes. It’s stark and it’s raw, both emotionally and socially, and the album’s tracks call to mind vast windswept landscapes and grey skies overhead. There’s also an introspective feel to the album, where beauty is shadowed by sorrow. So if you’re searching for mesmeric music that marries desolation to melancholy, then the heartbroken plains of Why / Liar / Gone await.
(Note: Why / Liar / Gone is available digitally, but a limited edition cassette version featuring all of Bent Folk’s previous releases is also available.)