Before the rise of the Roman Empire and the spreading of Christianity throughout Europe, an intricate patchwork of pagan tribes existed. Today, fragments of these forgotten cultures can be found mostly in Central- and Eastern European countries during festivities to ward off evil spirits or to celebrate celestial events. These ancient beliefs evolved into folklore and eventually became fairy tales.
Wanderwelle explores these mysterious phenomena and rituals that surround the Slavic folklore and translated it into an ambient techno album. As dark woodlands are the setting for all these ancient tales, the Amsterdam-based duo collected field recordings in Russian, Czech and Dutch forests. The ominous howling of the winds and other natural sounds play a prolific role throughout the album.
The artists researched the many facets of East European folklore and became deeply inspired by the relationship between the strange beings that take a prominent place in the stories and the primeval forests they inhabited. These creatures were brought to life by Russian illustrator Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1876-1942) at the dawn of the 20th century. Known to have been highly influenced by Slavic folklore, he illustrated many tales and created the looks of beings like the Leshy; a woodland spirit that enjoys itself making people feel lost and anxious whilst travelling. They're known to lure travellers into the deepest parts of the woods where they eventually will perish.
Its shape shifting ability helped to trick unfortunate souls into chasing its hypnotizing chants. Another being that was of huge importance in the tales of Eastern Europe is the Domovoi. This protective house spirit cared for the houses owners. Originally being a forest spirit, Domovoi channeled itself into the house by using roots of nearby trees. The spirit resembles an old bearded man who lived in the shadows behind the stove in traditional homes. Although it cared for its owners, it behaved mischievously and even threatening when it was ignored. When angered, it made rattling sounds, which the artists translated into harsh percussion for the albums conclusion.
In the tradition of the work of Bilibin, Wanderwelle commissioned a work from Dutch illustrator Floor van het Nederend. He created a mystical album cover that suits the music in a similar way the illustrations of Billibin suit the bygone tales he was so devoted to.
~ The Story ~
The tale of the lone traveller starts in the open fields and meadows that embrace the primeval woodlands. Sounds of many critters and beings are heard at nightfall as he gazes towards the starlit night sky. It is winter and the wind accompanies him on his endless voyage.
The wind slowly rises and the traveller is therefore moving towards the woodlands. He is wondering if the wind is responsible for all the kinds of howling he hears. Snowy clouds start to dim the moonlight, but the woods are not close yet…
Night has fallen completely now, as he ploughs through the eternal snowfields. The glistening beauty of snow, which reflects the full moon, mesmerizes him. Wandering through the first trees, he realizes he made it…
Although he escaped the howling winds of the fields, darkness and monumental trees now engulf the traveller. It is easy to get lost in the woods, especially at night, even for an experienced hiker. He stands still, trying to orientate when he suddenly hears some kind of hymn… Spellbound, he chases the strange chants, which echoes throughout the canopy, not knowing he is going deeper into the forest step by step.
The chants continue as he gets by a river that is too deep to wade through. A small wooden bridge that crosses the river brings him to the other side. He has now entered an unhallowed place. A part of the woods where the leaves don't rustle in the wind but whisper…
Knowing that the chant was a trap to lure him even deeper into the woods, he starts panicking. He feels hunted and watched by eyes he cannot see. Running through the dense vegetation exhausts the traveller when suddenly he gasps…
Before his eyes an open space in the woods appears. Struck by fear for the unknown he doesn't realize the woods are quiet at this forsaken place. No animal sounds can be heard nor trees that sway in the winter winds. An unsettling chill shivers down his spine when he sees something that he never had expected in this outback.
A decaying shack emerges from the shadows. Knowing he is doomed, he walks with a slow pace towards the shed and opens the creaking door. As he enters the old wooden building the wind rises again and slams the door shut. Through the cracks in the walls and roof, some sparse moonlight reaches the floor on which he stands. Suddenly, a loud and hollow voice speaks to him in a language that no one has heard in centuries. The traveller tries to flee the forbidden place, but soon finds out that he is forever lost in a sea of trees…
Written and produced by J.P.A van Dulm & A.G.A. Bartels
Illustrations by Floor van het Nederend
Inside photo by Danthon
Mastered at Optimum Mastering
[SSV11] Silent Season 2017