NOÊTA is a duo based between Norway and Sweden and consisting of multi-instrumentalists Ândris and Êlea, the latter of whom also provides vocals. Their music is an intriguing hybrid of dark folk and dark ambient styles, with just a hint of black metal seeping in around the edges.
Elm (Prophecy Productions) is NOÊTA’s second full-length album release, following 2017’s Beyond Life And Death. The press release tells us that Elm “is loosely based on emotions connected to the eponymous poem by celebrated American author Sylvia Plath, who struggled with severe depression and sadly committed suicide shortly after writing Elm”. The music is largely based around acoustic instruments and Êlea’s flowing and ethereal voice. But other elements including dark synth tones and subtle black metal-influenced electric guitars creep in and out to subtly shift the mood and the level of tension. In fact, as the album progresses, the intensity level seems to gradually increase. And that is the true genius of this record; just when the melancholic and wistful soundscapes are at risk of fading into the background of the consciousness, something happens to sharpen the focus and pull on the emotions that little bit harder. Notably, the record does not feature any percussion sounds. There is also a prevalence of long and nectarious reverb, particularly evident on Êlea’s haunting vocals. All of this creates an ambient, atmospheric, and mysteriously brooding textural landscape. Comparisons could be made to Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins, Darkher, or Anna Von Hausswolff, but ultimately this record doesn’t sound quite like anything else.
Highlights include the brooding “Disillusion”, the lush and cathartic “Fade”, and “Elm”, with its eerily whispered reading of Plath’s original poem. There are also two guest contributions from black metal musicians: E. Rustad of Knokkelklang adds ghostly electric guitar to “Above and Below”, and P. Stille of Bergraven plays a neofolk-esque guitar part and sombre piano chords on album closer “Elm II”. The most effective way to experience this album, however, is to immerse yourself in its richness for the full duration while the sonic depictions rise and fall amongst the auditory mist.
Elm is a work of melancholy beauty that touches the soul. It possesses that strange and elusive ability to be both desperately bleak and oddly uplifting. It radiates its own special kind of magic, as the best records invariably do. Listeners well-versed in the more experimental side of black metal or in the darker end of the singer-songwriter world will find a lot of inspiration here. In fact, for all open-minded fans of dark music, Elm is a vital and essential listen.
Elm will be released on 23rd April 2021 via Prophecy Productions in CD, black vinyl, gold vinyl, and digital download formats. Buy the album here: http://lnk.spkr.media/noeta-elm
9 / 10