Helena Espvall is a psychedelic folk musician originally from Sweden who has since relocated to the United States, and was active starting around the year 2000 until about 2010. Espvall has been a member of and played with numerous psychedelic folk groups and artists like Espers, The Valerie Project, Fursaxa, and Sharron Kraus. This album, nimis & Arx (2006), was Espvall’s debut album, and is her only solo record to date. I really enjoy a lot of the artists that Espvall has worked with, so I’m pretty stoked to check out this album. With that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“idioblast” starts out with some super interesting distorted guitar that has a noise rock sort of feel, and I’m immediately on the edge of my seat waiting for more. The guitar seems to break down a little bit as the track continues, and interesting accentuations are added from what sound to be other, nearly industrial rock, guitars. Super interesting track, and I’m excited to hear more.
Oh wow, “kretslopp Av Blod Och Stjarnor” begins with a nearly haunting, incredibly mysterious melody from a cello or violin of some sort that’s playing what sounds to be an Arabian folk song. I really dig the accentuation/feedback from the guitars/keyboards. Great track.
Holy smokes, “nimis & Arx” starts out with an interesting, somewhat tinny sort of drum, while what sounds to be a pan flute gently plays in the background while triangles and other simple percussive instruments frame the soundscape. This track is almost like you’ve suddenly awoken in an ancient forest with cloaked people performing a ritual around you, as though either summoning a demon to or exorcising a demon from your body. Oh wow, some big, mysterious gongs alongside a rattling of chimes permeate the soundscape, making the soundscape almost akin to the ominous sounds from the Death in June album that I listened to recently, except with a bit more inclination towards nature-esque sounds instead of industrial, though the industrial sounds are still prevalent. Oh wow, the end of the track features this light, strange percussion on what seem to be hollow strings, almost like Espvall recorded spiders gradually climbing across a freshly woven web. Great track.
Oh wow, “certainty of the Neverseen” starts out with some discordant violin accompanied by some experimental, and nearly industrial sounds, which build tension in a style reminiscent of horror films. Oh wow, the violin begins to sweeten up, bringing about a style that feels vaguely Transylvanian with middle eastern roots, as though Espvall is playing the score to an old folktale that’s shared between different cultures. Oh wow, I really dig the discordant chaos introduced by the cello at the end of the track. Wow, great tune.
“multiplication Broken and Restored I” starts with a slowly moving flow of different bells and piano notes, which gradually become sweeter while remaining somewhat discordant, which reminds me a lot of the sort of dark, strange sound of The Doors. Holy smokes, the first vocals in the album create a momentary, ghostly aether that wafts throughout the soundscape, and has somehow pulled me nearer to my speakers. Wow, great track.
“tidepools” begins with a really sweet harmonization of a violin and cello, and gradually picks up a sort of ominous folk sound, as though you’re a character from an old myth that’s about to wander through a dark forest, inhabited by creatures unknown, and one that people rarely make it through to the other side. Wow, great track.
“the Straight Line Leads to Hell” begins with some super high-pitched squeals from a violin of some sort that nearly sounds like birds chirping at first. I’m really digging this track, and the album as a whole so far. Oh wow, the track takes on an improvisatory sort of feel as the cello and violin tighten up and seem to become increasingly discordant. It’s almost as though you’re in some sort of nightmare and you enter a strange building after hearing a noise, and you walk in to find a demon playing a song for you. Oh wow, the cello plays alone after a certain point, nearly bringing a sweetness to the bass-y notes, however there is still an eerie feeling looming overhead. Wow, super sweet track.
Oh wow, “mar amarga” begins with some super mysterious operatic singing, which nearly sounds as though the notes are being sung in a large church hall that’s underwater. There are some light, high, and nearly plucky notes from what almost sounds like a harpsichord and/or a guitar. Wow, great track.
“purgatory chasm” begins with some bright, cutting notes from either a cello or violin, which again sets a sort of mysteriously eerie tone. The playing is somewhat reminiscent of “the Straight Line Leads to Hell”, but the playing isn’t quite as ominous. The discordant notes in the song resemble old, squeaky playground equipment that hasn’t been used by anyone but the wind in decades. Great track.
“multiplication Broken and Restored II” continues where the previous version of the song left off, with sort of eerie piano and bells, but this time there are some really interesting, somewhat experimental, eerie additions from what could be either a synthesizer, a violin, or perhaps both. Wow, super sweet track.
“vortex” starts out with some eerie, somewhat screeching high notes that have a sort of experimental sound, and a deep, low, somewhat grating notes from a cello. The song really sounds like you’re at the climax of a horror movie of some sort, especially with the addition of the sweetness from the violins, which contrast in a super enchanting way with the nearly industrial, experimental soundscape. I’m really digging the chaotic energy in the soundscape. The soundscape seems to take on a nearly ghostly sound in the bright, whirring, synth-y sounds in the backdrop of the soundscape. Oh wow, the cello comes in with some super sweet flavors near the end of the track, which seems to shift the soundscape to some eerie drone. Wow, super sweet track and a great way to end the album.
Holy smokes, this album is sweet. The album created a sort of experimental folk sound with a haunting presence throughout much of the album, and kept me intrigued the entire time. The overall experience was filled with a sort of strangeness that kept me listening closer, and though the album wasn’t overtly psychedelic, there were some elements throughout of the psychedelic nature. I’m sort of brought to an experimental folk styled album that reminds me of C.A. Quintet’s Trip Thru Hell (1968). If you’re into dark, strange, experimental, and haunting folk music, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the experience at least as much as I did.