Liholesie: The Fog of Transition
Infinite Fog

If ever an album cover matched its musical content, it's The Fog of Transition. The image of a cowled, silhouetted figure blowing a Signal horn against a misty backdrop of trees, sky, and water convincingly captures the timeless character of this 2016 ambient-folk collection by Liholesie, the latest in a long string of releases by the Siberian artist dating back to 2001. By his own admission, the album was inspired by a visit to Lake Teletskoye, the largest of its kind in the Altay Mountains; what struck him most was the wondrous sight of fog “flowing with streams down the wooded hills and cloaking the water glaze like a shroud.”

Though synthesizers are present, they're not used to lend Liholesie's music a modern sheen but to deepen the ethereal ambient-folk tone of the material. During the scene-setting “The Immersion (Dreams at Dawn),” bells and hand drums merge with reverb-drenched synth atmospheres, flute-like tones, and dribbling water to paint a powerful picture of the outdoors. During the opening leg of the title track's sixteen-minute journey, deep-throated vocal murmurs, wooden flutes, and tinkling bells create the impression of an early morning drift across the lake, the setting so peaceful even the tiniest sound resonates with clarity; as the trip advances, however, the pace quickens and the intensity level rises when Liholesie animates the material with primal percussion elements and sweeping synthesizer washes. There are moments where the album plunges into darker waters, such that “It (Is Merely Ripples on the Water),” for instance, could be classified as dark ambient with some degree of legitimacy, and one arguable flirtation with contemporary musical practice arises when “Towards Ghostly Horizonts” [sic] combines aggressive dance rhythms with glossy synthesizer melodies in a manner that reflects a proggier side of the producer's work.

Running throughout the fifty-six-minute album as an undercurrent is a sense of ritual that amplifies the music's mystical and timeless qualities. Regardless of whether the instruments used in the album production are of modern or ancient vintage (the wiry twang of a Jaw's harp is one of the elements used to power “By Paths of the Spirit,” for example), Liholesie's prog-folk music resists any attempt to tie it to a particular era. To a large degree, one could imagine The Fog of Transition as having been produced during the ‘70s as much as a year ago.

May 2017