Folk off: Let's get hypnotised

the fallowingThe Fallowing - Adam Geoffrey Cole Cornish (Sunstone)
The Tracks of the Afterlander - Adam Geoffrey Cole (Ramble Records)

I don't have much taste for what gets defined as “folk”.. Which conjures up the same sorts of things for you as it does for me, really. Marxist Orstrilian dingbats dressed up in “traditional” Oirish garb, wittering out stuff which all sounds a bit too twee and cliched, while bunging on a nasally twinge and waxing lyrical about a lifestyle they're only really familiar with through reading about it (and possibly a holiday in the Auld Coontry when they were 11). Oh, and bags of make-believe wailing humility.

Shoot them all, I say, and be quick about it.

The Tracks of the AfterlanderFunny how so many think that metallic drones got invented in the last few decades. You ain't heard the hard-core folk bands. I love the measured pace, sturm und drone of Adam Geoffrey Cole. Don't get me started.

Too late.

Now, I've seen this man play twice here in Adelaide, and he's blown me away each time. Absolutely marvellous, astonishingly moving. His playing simply ripples upwards and ... yeah, hypnotism isn't too strong a word. Also, Cole's rich tidal guitar piling up in layers contrasted with his lost and yearning voice... yeah, well. I'm sure you'll recognise aspects of it. But ... it's so simple, reflective, yet understatedly emotional. Some songs he seems so ... abandoned, and trying to make sense of it all.

Look, don't take my word for this. Go see him. Travel to - gasp - Adelaide and catch Cole. He doesn't play all that often - he's recently moved from Melbourne but is anything but your prototypical arty Melbunnite. If anything, he ... follows his own path. A chum of mine described his set, the first time I saw him, as “characteristically beautiful”. Same gig - different chum (his taste seems rooted in late 1970s' beer barn) took one listen and stomped off in disgust: “Music to commit suicide to”. Me? I'm entranced.

“The Fallowing” is utterly riveting. So much going on. What's he play, you ask? Tabla, bells, bodhran, dulcitar and hurdy gurdy. His music should sound far more Spartan than it does. Anthony Cornish is on-board for this one, on harmonium, and violin. He's an excellent co-conspirator, adding a lush, yet decaying tonality which ... oh, enough. No lyric quotes this time. Discover it.

I should explain that Cole has a pretty strong following. “The Fallowing” vinyl LP sold out ages ago.

You might not have heard of Cole's long-term outfit, Trappist Afterland.

The “African Paper” website description:

Trappist Afterland not only advanced to a quality guarantee of dark, mystical folk music shortly after their still rather experimental and psychedelic beginnings, they were also a document of a spiritual search, which accompanied the singer and multi-instrumentalist, who ran the project with numerous friends, from Christian Orthodoxy to Gnostic-esoteric realms and back. The lyrical and atmospheric result was always of an intensity that is capable of captivating even less spiritually oriented listeners.

Here's a quote from a 2020 interview with Cole:

As we started to record ‘Afterlander’, ‘God’s Good Earth’ and ‘Se(VII)en’ my interest and downright obsession with mysticism, Gnosticism and the more esoteric forms of Christianity and Eastern mysticism reached its peak, I’d just joined the Apostolic Johanite church (an American Gnostic organisation) and started attending meetings in the Melbourne branch of the church. For me that was such an exciting creative time, music was coming very easily and I was learning so much about myself and the world.

So this guy's not into metal, then? Er, actually, yeah, he apparently is.

"I wrote the whole new solo album “Fallowing” during the first and second lockdowns. Although the album isn’t necessarily about the pandemic, it’s been impossible for it to not have a huge influence over it, and most obviously the title of it expresses that."

To Cole's latest LP, "Tracks of the Afterlander" ... well, tough shit, the vinyl for that sold out pretty damn quick as well. Here, Cole's playing guitar, Cittern, oud and Tanpura; Anthony Cornish is on harmonium, Mellotron and violin. A chap or chapette called Grey Malkin also plays piano, und Glockienspiel (on the sixth track).

It strikes me, not for the first time, that there is a wealth of talent out there. Again, I reiterate: this first quarter of the twenty-first century may not have a specific movement or two driving it but by god there's some amazing music being made. Sure, there's the dross stinking up the braincells of the everyday, but there always was that repellent shit.

Look. Right now my time is limited, in the extreme. And right now, I cannot get these two CDs out of my player.. The constant, driving contrast between the incredibly personal, the reflective and self-abnegatory ... and the utterly gorgeous tunes which emphasise acceptance, forgiveness, humility and strength.

More than a few reviewers of Cole's music place him in a daring folk context, breaking barriers and so on. That may be so. I have no idea. My idea of folk music is somewhere between Nick Drake and Einsturzende Neubauten, with a side dollop of Leonard Cohen and Tom Jones, which means I really can't comment on current folk movements. I can say I was never much of a fan of Redgum, but god, who was? I mean, really?

So. I can't tell you which is my favourite, though in terms of songs right now I think “Tracks of the Afterlander” is better. Tomorrow I'm sure I'll change my mind.

Here's a link. The bugger's been busy, so download the lot and prepare to be swept away.

I'll be seeing Adam Geoffrey Cole at the Metro Hotel on 11th December 2022. In Adelaide.

There are some other bums playing (including our own outfit). But I can't tell you how stoked I am to be on the same bill as this man.

five- both

Tags: melbourne, adam geoffrey cole, the fallowing, the tracks of the afterlander, sunstone, ramble records

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