When I had my first taste of the Hungarian Neofolk duo The Moon and the Nightspirit, it came in the form of a pleasant surprise I didn't think I'd ever encounter. Such was the case with 2017's Metanoia
that I found an entirely new style of music I'd never thought of giving a chance before, and three years later, I find as a result multiple bands from this same sub-genre. So with that said, The Moon and the Nightspirit will always be thought of in my mind as a gateway band, one that has helped to expand my music library. Calling them a gateway band however shouldn't take away from the fact that they are currently one of the most interesting and unique Neofolk bands in Europe.
It's unsurprising to learn that The Moon and the Nightspririt have been making this music since 2003, considering the artistic flair and creativity on all the band's releases over the last decade, not to mention this year's Aether
, which is arguably their finest release yet. Though it lasts little over 40 minutes and is the cumulative work of two musicians, there is instrumentally so much variety here. The opening title track demonstrates the band at their most lilting and captivating, Agnés Tóth providing her gentle, serene vocals amidst a backdrop of steady harp-led rhythms and pulsating acoustics as the song progresses through its seven-minute runtime. Alas, the song doesn't even seem to last that long, thanks to such fluent songwriting and a wispy atmosphere that never seems too bombastic or indeed pretentious for its own good. Instead, both members allow their instrumental and vocal presences to breathe, even with Mihály's gruff calls to the wilderness, presenting a contrast to Agnés' input.
The album continues in similar fashion with “Kaputlan Kapukon Át”, a song which once again is initially led by acoustic instrumentation but finishes with a more prominent sonic flair. It's the first song which focuses more on percussion and those steady rhythms, resulting in a sound which is ultimately more invasive and haunting, commanding the listener's attention immediately. It's the pacing of the song however that truly excels, working in the same way as the title track to ensure all instruments are performed to their greatest strengths, allowing room to breathe and never speeding up for fear of its audience getting bored. The rest of the album is thankfully just as consistent. “A szárny” is considerably shorter than its three predecessors but represents the a different side to Mihály's vocal presence, one which is now gentler and cleaner than in the slightly more menacing “Égi messzegesék”. “A szárny” does seem more straightforward and less adventurous in its initial stages, but once the vocal duet between Mihály and Agnés gets underway, it presents a powerful aspect which often helps Aether
to come across as a very complete
album. “Logos” on the other hand represents a more isolated musical setting, one which is rendered slightly disturbing thanks to those creepy dulcimer tones and the backing atmosphere reminding you of a slow walk through a forest, one which leaves you directionless and perhaps in despair. It's still a beautiful recording, yet never seems to deviate from its opening notes and offers a more menacing experience thanks to Agnés' haunting whispers to complement her ululations elsewhere in the same song.
What The Moon and the Nightspirit have done with Aether
is nothing too dissimilar to previous works, and yet every aspect of the duo's sound seems more amplified and expansive as a result. This is ultimately a band that seem contented with their output and songwriting, and it helps to appreciate albums like this knowing a lot of heart and soul has gone into the recording. However it makes you feel when listening to it, Aether
has served its purpose as another creatively successful album for The Moon and the Nightspirit, rendering the duo still in a field of their own.