Review Summary: To take oneself far away
Certain albums have the power to grab you by the hand and guide you into their world. Albums like these aren’t just a collection of notes, they are an experience. They temporarily take you away from your everyday life, and for a moment allow you to reflect on a world not your own. Old Yarns, the debut release of Sputnik’s own bnelso55, is one of those albums, and the world he’s created with his project Eloign is one worth diving into.
While predominantly comprised of acoustic guitar and vocals, Old Yarns also incorporates a wide gamut of other instruments including banjo, Native American flute, various hand drums, piano, and sparse electric and bass guitars. Such an array of instruments does have the potential to lead to a cacophony of “too much”, however, Eloign manages to balance their use effectively over the 22 minute journey, only incorporating them at opportune moments. Joined alongside the various instruments are well placed vocals, which tell tales of ocean voyages into the unknown, self-contemplation and wonder, and an encounter with a threatening foe amidst dark woods. Tying all of this together is the admirable songwriting and fantastic production found across the record.
Opening the album with an acoustic guitar and winding in and out of gracefully played melodies, “From Hovel to Hilltop” is exemplary of the overall atmosphere contained on Old Yarns. It evokes feelings of both uplifting nostalgia and also the yearning for exploration. It builds into a climax of beautifully strummed acoustic guitars and a dreamlike electric guitar melody similar to what you’d find on Agalloch’s – The White EP. Transitioning perfectly, “Heritage” quickly presents its seafaring vocals and banjo melodies. It’s an adventurous song with unexpected twists and turns, that goes through several cohesive dynamic shifts before its inspiring resolution. “Radiant Dark”, an all piano mid-album overture, is carried by the stream of conscious-like notes which are backed by ethereal swelling to create a hypnotic atmosphere and is well placed on the album. “Deeper Skies”, the most somber track, contains gorgeous minor melodies and croons which capture the essence of night and paves way into the excellent closer “Wolf Psalm”. Old Yarns’ final track dances through folky flutes, Spanish sounding guitar passages, and piano segments that all harmonize masterfully.
Old Yarns is folk music done right. It draws you into its world and never loses touch of its natural aim. From the well-chosen instruments to the lyrical themes it pulls you in and holds your interest for the entirety of its runtime. It’s an album to be appreciated from start to finish and if experienced with an open mind, will reward you for your time.