Led by guitarist Nathanael Larochette (who contributed to the latest Agalloch release The Serpent & The Sphere), Musk Ox is (in this album's lineup) a Canadian neofolk trio of classical guitar, cello and violin.
This second full length release by the band is an instrumental, classical music styled suite in five parts. 65 minutes of acoustic music, with no disguises and no production tricks; just the compositions and the performers' skills. Musk Ox is loyal to the original aesthetics of classical music (in stark contrast to Helen Money, whose Arriving Angels is also reviewed in this issue), and we can honestly appreciate this rare preference of clarity and perfection.
The modernity of the music is not so much in its nature as it is in its underlying, lurking rock/metal background, enhancing the appeal. In fact, the music here is of a clear romantic nature, as it relies on its overt, natural beauty, expressed through moving, elaborated yet intimate movements. The second part ("Windswept"), for example, opens with a blend of bowed strings and picked guitar that has songlike, gently hypnotising rock grip, while the fifth ("Serenade the Constellations," arguably the best section here) offers - by means of brilliant composition maneuvers separating and rebuilding unison lines - some moments striking with harmonic majesty.
Musk Ox might take another release or two in order to fully realise its compositional potential and deliver a work that is consistently fascinating throughout. Still, Woodfall is enchanting, and despite being an independent release it comes with a gorgeous booklet, which makes the CD purchase all the more worthwhile. (8.5/10)
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