Musk Ox
Woodfall


4.5
superb

Review

by Nash J. CONTRIBUTOR (41 Reviews)
July 5th, 2014 | 700 replies


Release Date: 06/17/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A captivating, masterfully-crafted achievement of not only neofolk music, but of music in general.

Never in recent memory has instrumental folk music seemed more epic and grand-scale than on Musk Ox’s Woodfall. Due to the genre’s tendency to be relatively relaxing and atmospheric, I often find myself being drawn to instrumental folk in times of stress or when I simply need to calm down after a long day’s proceedings. Vali’s Skogslandskap, for instance, encapsulates my favorite elements of the neofolk genre; boasting serene arrangements that focus on the subtle elegance of nature. Woodfall, however, is an entirely different venture from most well-known neofolk; so much so that it defies any sort of genre-labeling. A mere two albums into their career, and Musk Ox have already perfected their sound and released one of the most powerful albums of the past few years.

There was no surprise upon learning that Woodfall was six years in the making. With five tracks spanning an hour in length all together, the album is massive both in size and scope. Woodfall is ambitious from start to finish, with each expansive track covering a slew of different emotions while never succumbing to stagnancy. The album’s tone changes frequently, but never feels forced or disjointed, continually serving to entice the listener with each passing second. Although no song remains the same throughout, each track has an entirely different focus and conveys its own unique imagery. Beginning with the soft, ambient sounds of nature, opening track “Part 1 - Earthrise” has an extremely lighthearted feeling to it, with the violin painting a gorgeous picture of a colorful garden alive with all sorts of life. Yet, as the song progresses and the instruments begin to crescendo, an oncoming sense of fear becomes all the more present. “Part 4 - Above the Clouds” on the other hand, despite remaining true to the album’s overall sound, has an entirely different agenda. The harmonies between the violins and cello creates a wonderful dichotomy that seems to tell the epic tale of an adventure that pits forces of good against evil. Perhaps most notable of all is “Part 5 - Serenade the Constellations.” Opening with ethereal guitar picking played over an ambient-like backdrop, the song wraps up Woodfall perfectly by encompassing each of the album’s different emotional themes. In fact, throughout its seventeen-minutes, “Part 5 - Serenade the Constellations” creates an atmosphere so mournful and contemplative that it is difficult not to be brought to tears as the song, and album likewise, decrescendos to its end with the same ambience in which the album began.

The ingenious way in which Woodfall is crafted sets it apart from other contemporary neofolk releases more than anything else. By incorporating elements of classical music, post-rock, and even metal into their sound to convey an entire assortment of emotions, Musk Ox’s sound is one that is both unique and intriguing. Every song is built by layers of harmonious melodies that range from calm and ambient to jaw-droppingly intense. There are so many intricacies to each layer of Musk Ox’s music that the listener is always kept completely immersed. Although the album’s ambition is overreaching at times, dragging slightly during “Part 3 - Arcanum,” there is no moment in which Woodfall becomes repetitive; a remarkable feat for an hour-long instrumental release that relies heavily on atmosphere. Another element of the album that is bound to further keep the listener engaged is Musk Ox’s absolutely top-notch instrumentation. Band members Nathanael Larochette, Raphael Weinroth-Browne, and Evan Runge are masterful musicians, each one displaying his individual skill on certain parts of every song. Powerful, soaring melodies by the violin, incredibly passionate classical guitar and dark, often heavy cello playing create a sound so grandiose that it is easily comparable to a full orchestra.

Woodfall is a step beyond what one would mostly identify as excellent instrumental folk music. Sure, the album is full of beauty and serenity, but to call it merely a “beautiful” or “serene” album does Musk Ox a great disservice. Woodfall is a captivating experience; one that encompasses a large variety of emotions from sadness, to jubilly, to fear, while never losing its focus. Like most neofolk, this album is easy to get lost in, but at the same time challenges the listener to explore the depths of their subconscious with extravagant arrangements that tell fascinating stories. If anything, Woodfall is an indication that, despite them being around for ten years now, the story of Musk Ox has just begun.



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user ratings (213)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


6995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The quality of this album seriously took me by surprise. If it wasn't for the new Trophy Scars record,

this would be my AOTY thus far. Fans of the genre or not, be sure to give this a listen! Shout-out to

CaptainDooRight for bringing this to my attention and to Atari for really getting me interested in

this.



Woodfall is streaming here:

http://muskoxofficial.bandcamp.com/album/woodfall

Digging: Faith No More - Sol Invictus

avonbarksdale221
July 5th 2014


8292 Comments


Nice review here buddy this sounds very interesting indeed

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


22934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Will check soon. I dig the artwork.

Digging: Oneohtrix Point Never - Commissions II

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


6995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks guys. Agreed Cap, the emotions are outstanding. And you should definitely check this JT, I think you would dig.

manosg
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


7701 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The album and the artwork are both incredible. Nice find guys!



Great work as usual Judio. You've missed a couple of things such as "I often find myself being drawn to instrumental folk in times of stress when or when I simply" but solid work.

Digging: Deaf Dealer - Journey into Fear

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


22934 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Excellent review btw.



One small thing I noticed:



the album is massive in both in size and scope.




Remove one of the in's.

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


6995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for pointing those out Manosg and JT! It's pretty late at night and I'm getting tired so I had a bad feeling I missed a

couple typos.

Calc
July 5th 2014


12696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

everaia (or whatever) is the true start of this hype train yall should thank him

Digging: The Hirsch Effekt - Holon: Agnosie

laughingman22
July 5th 2014


2151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cool review



try not to use the phrase "Never in recent memory has *insert genre* seemed..." so much, I feel it appears in your reviews a lot.

Digging: White SeeD - forgetting what is real

Mad.
July 5th 2014


4421 Comments


Awesome review, sums up the album really well. Wonderful stuff

Totengott
July 5th 2014


2405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review.



The album is a masterpiece.

Digging: Steve Von Till - A Life Unto Itself

Artuma
July 5th 2014


18810 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

agreed

Digging: Steve Von Till - A Life Unto Itself

ExplosiveOranges
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've heard many good things about this album. Great review, Judio. I'll check this out ASAP.

Digging: Kamelot - Haven

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 5th 2014


18513 Comments


I...will...hear this. If it's the last thing I do!

Mongi123
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


13771 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet I'm gonna read this in a bit

Calc
July 5th 2014


12696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

feels like you rushed this review to me. I dunno I never read your other stuff but you say pretty much the same things for two long paragraphs and there's these:



"None of the band members ever let up or refrain showing off their skill"



kind of doesn't need to be said no?





"one that encompasses the entire emotional spectrum while never losing its focus."





there's a lot of these fluffy buzz-cliches that make the review feel kind of hollow, like you didn't know what to say about it and you threw these in. Lastly:





"Part 4 - Earthwise"



Part 4 is called "Above the Clouds"







Just what one reader has noticed. That last sentence is particularly good though.





Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


6995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you everyone for the compliments!



Calc, I really appreciate your feedback. I did put a lot of work into this review but for some reason

(probably due to my exhaustion and bad mood) I did a really awful job of proofreading, and I apologize

for that. I should probably reword the "None of the band members" part, I meant to point out how

talented they are but I could he worded it better. I didn't notice anything wrong with the "one that

encompasses" part when I wrote it but if you think it sounds hollow I can change it. I meant to say

that nearly emotion I could think of that would be associated with music of this type is encompassed

on this alum but that does sound pretty lame. And I can't believe I made that mistake on "Part 4" and

didn't notice it, that's my favorite song on the album in fact so I feel really stupid. As a whole I'm

sorry you didn't like my review, I tried to separate my second and third paragraph by having one talk

about the songs specifically and the other discuss the musicianship and how the music is built,sorry

if it didn't come across. In any event thank you for reading, I'm honestly embarrassed at how many

times I screwed up here.

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


6995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"there's a lot of these fluffy buzz-cliches"



Are there any other instances of this you noticed in my review, Calc? I assure you it wasn't my intention to come across as not

knowing what I'm talking about so I would really like to edit those out.

Evreaia
July 5th 2014


4197 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

incredible review, incredible album.



AOTY, nothing will top it!

Digging: Yersinia - Pafageltronen

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
July 5th 2014


20556 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

not sure how much editing you've done after calc's comment, but I thought this was a great read man!



also, I had no idea this was 6 years in the making, but I suppose it takes time to create a masterpiece like this. Album is so so fucking good. Hard Pos





Digging: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No. 1 in B? Minor



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