The term, “Appalachia” conjures more than its share of images – some deserved, some less so. While this stretch of untamed wilderness is believably home to fairytale monsters like bigfoot, haunting some of the oldest mountains in the world, popular media has peopled it with far less savoury characters ranging from serial killers to inbred mutants and the entire spectrum in between, tainting what should be a celebration of nature’s splendour with unpleasant associations.
Thankfully, we have up-and-coming neo-folk artists like Osi and the Jupiter to set things straight again: their latest EP, Appalachia, emphasizes the lonely beauty in these sprawling hills without resorting to populist scare tactics. That said, this Kent, Ohio duo still somehow injects the proceedings with a significant proportion of underlying menace, from the bell-like cello drone on “They Ride Through the Sky on Horse Drawn Chariots” to the throaty vocal drawl that always sounds like the singer is barely holding his tears in check.
The shorter, video edit of The Binding Will of Mountains is nevertheless a moving and heartfelt musical journey.
The EP suffers from two pertinent problems, however, and the first is one easily solved by a quick trip to the artist’s Bandcamp back catalogue: three songs is simply cruel, arousing one’s appetite without putting it to bed straight after. And, if you’re hungry for newer material, there’s the recent collaboration on the four-way split for Eisenwald, Songs of Origin and Spirit, which brings together the talents of Fellwarden, Mosaic and By the Spirits alongside Osi and the Jupiter’s contribution.
The second problem asserts itself after the aforementioned visit through Osi and the Jupiter’s discography: the thematic shift is sudden, to say the least. From the offset (and even reflected in the band’s bindrune logo) a strong association with Nordic lore was established, with all three preceding albums (Uthuling Hyl, Halls of the Wolf and Nordlige Rúnaskog) celebrating this and drawing comparisons with the likes of Wardruna, despite the difference in instrumentation. The cello and acoustic guitars that Osi and the Jupiter employ may seem more suited to Americana, but they have proved over the past few years (the band’s first release was only in 2017) that their misleadingly simple compositions suit ancient pagan rites just as well. The slow spread of the 12-minute “The Binding Will of Mountains” illustrates this perfectly.
Despite this unexpected change in subject, though, the result is more than pleasing. Gentle, warm instruments contrast softly with a melancholic undertone bound together with gravelly, gloomy lyrics that are as much a warning as a joy. Appalachia speaks to the theme as much as the listener, a soundtrack as apt for a nature documentary as for a simmering, shadowy drama.
Appalachia Track Listing:
1. They Ride Through the Sky on Horse Drawn Chariots
3. The Binding Will of Mountains
Run Time: 21:33
Release Date: July 31, 2020
Record Label: Eisenwald