Track These Down – Eiyn Sof and Fiver
For this week's Track These Down we take a look at upcoming releases by local musicians Simone Schmidt aka 'Fiver' and Melissa Boraski aka 'Eiyn Sof', two very distinct takes on folk music.
Eiyn Sof is the softly spellbinding acid-folk project of Ontario’s Melissa Boraski. She may be best known for her 2011 album Bloodstreams, released on Brian Taylor and Rick White’s Blue Fog Recordings, but has continued to quietly slip out releases on her own Springskull label and UR Audio Visual. Boraski’s latest effort for the Etobicoke-based CD and cassette imprint Arachnidiscs (“Music For and By Weirdos since 1999”) is yet another mellow mind-expander.
While Eiyn Sof’s 2015 album The Chthonic Tongue was comprised of only autoharp and vocals, Meadow Thrum has expanded her psychedelic palette considerably, including everything from analog synths to a small men’s chorus, backmasking, and recordings of birds. Despite the tickle trunk of instruments and non-instruments alike, this album maintains a consistently languid lysergic mood throughout.
The mystical slow-strum of “Lunar Ship” is an obvious standout (continuing a collaboration with Rick White in its animated video), while the hazy tunes of “Alone” and “On Beyond” cast a subtly powerful spell. On the downcast “Bogland”, Boraski plods through similarly swampy territory to her previous Blue Fog labelmate Jennifer Castle on a 2011 split with Wyrd Visions.
Meadow Thrum spins on a time-traveling merry-go-round with visions of Vashti Bunyan’s diamond mind, the sundaze of Toronto’s Folklords, or the modern-day freakeries of Tickley Feather. RIYL the sweet smell of psilocybin in the morning.
Eiyn Sof’s Meadow Thrum will be released at 6:28 a.m. (EST) on March 20th, the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It is now available for pre-order from Arachnidiscs: https://arachnidiscs.bandcamp.com/album/meadow-thrum
The unmistakable honey-smoked voice of Toronto’s Simone Schmidt has previously led projects like the country-rock caravan $100, cosmic ramblers The Highest Order, and her solo folk guise Fiver. For the past two years, Schmidt has devoted herself to a deep dive into the 19th century archives of Kingston’s Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane. With this “retroactive reconstruction” she has created a new set of “fictional field recordings,” spinning the tragic tales of imprisoned women into song when they were sometimes given no more than a few lines of biographical text.
The cast of true-life characters in these tightly wound odes include members of the Brook’s Bush Gang, women held in horse’s stables while the asylum was built, and Rockwood’s notorious founder Dr. John Palmer Lichfield. Moving from England to Canada, the brazen impersonator became the asylum’s administrator and professor of medicine despite his complete lack of formal credentials, education, or experience.
Schmidt has explored these stories with dense liner notes inspired by the Smithsonian Folkways compilations, credited to her ethnomusicologist alter-ego Simone Carver. The accompanying 32-page booklet includes reproduced and interpreted images, clinically poetic historical context, and the lyrics to songs that are both audible and unsingable. A mini-documentary by photographer/filmmaker Colin Medley continues to document her detective-like research of Rockwood’s case files.
In a stirring interview with The Imposter podcast, Schmidt explains her motivations to challenge dominant patriarchal traditions in both folk music and Canadian history. “Before I did the research, I conceived of it as a way to interject into a folk canon that I feel is pretty male-dominant,” she says. “People have tried to reinscribe into the traditional North American folk canon songs that aren’t just about murdering women but are about women murdering. That flip is great but there’s a lot of nuance to femininity and womanhood that gets lost when we try to parallel it in flip narratives. I was interested in reaching back and finding stories of people who probably would have written songs but never had the freedom to.”
Audible Songs From Rockwood is fleshed out with musical contributions from the bluegrass trio Lonesome Ace String Band, Indigenous cello-futurist Cris Derksen, and the shimmering flute of Alia O’Brien from pagan-metal band Blood Ceremony. The result is the first true masterpiece of 2017, with songs like “Pile Your Silver” or “Worship The Sun (Not the Golden Boy)” that will be sung for decades to come. The hauntingly beautiful melodies of Schmidt’s story-songs cut to the quick, documenting the undocumented and bringing their lingering spirits into the future.
Fiver’s Audible Songs From Rockwood will be released on April 21 and is available for pre-order from Idée Fixe: http://ideefixerecords.com/if016.html