June 20, 2012

Falloch - Where Distant Spirits Remain

By Natalie Zina Walschots.
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published by Exclaim.

The word "Falloch" means "hidden"; it is usually applied to a place in the natural world, like a glen or waterfall. This is an incredibly apt name for a band whose music conjures the solitude and introspection of being alone in nature with such grace and completeness.

The Scottish duo (comprised of Andy Marshall and Scott McLean) formed last year. Where Distant Spirits Remain is their debut effort and it is nothing short of extraordinary. Comparisons to Agalloch are easy, and they also remind me of the nostalgic French black metal created by Alcest and Les Discrets. Production on the album was done by Ronan Chris Murphy (Ulver), who has polished the hard bits to a diamond edge and brought warmth and clarity to the gentlest passages. The clean vocals are the album's only obvious weak point. They are a little thin, almost brittle in tone, but this is the only time Where Distant Spirits Remain falters. The acoustic elements are used appropriately and judiciously. In particular, the percussion in "Beyond Embers and the Earth" is wonderful, and the sound of a hand on the skin of the drum is very powerful. There's range on the album as well, and the gentleness often gives way to violence and ferocity.

Nature isn't just composed of the beauty of the trees and the soothing hiss of water over rock, nature is also made of landslides and tigers and forests that can swallow explorers whole. Falloch are like this kind of nature: mournful and tender, but also vicious and ravenous. Where Distant Spirits Remain is a work of flawed brilliance, and an incredibly strong, moving debut.

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