While so many naturalist painters dripped toward the Hague School of art to become fixtures beyond the inspired period of Oosterbeek area artists it’d seem only the few who’d gone mad would go public with much of an imagination beyond livestock, ships, and sepia tone landscapes. When considering a relatively small but influential group on the edge of impressionist renderings all are remembered but, only one communicated something emotionally transcendent, it’d be Matthijs Maris who’d see beyond convention toward a softer, seemingly unreal depiction of life in the moment. Figures so softly tapped into reality that they appeared as ghosts, sour-faced men, and forever veiled child brides beset in obscuring mist all highlight a long period of isolation unto death, the life’s work of a man who’d live ’til nearly 80 years old. These were often works of pure atmosphere with no hard lines taking shape as Maris‘ depiction of reality moved away from architecture and light toward pristine nature, emotive blurs and fearless streaks of experimental works. “They wanted to see beautiful paintings but I still couldn’t make them, one illusion disappears for the other. I have made Cold reality, and I have made Truth. Is there a truth, also the cold reality is a truth. What exists between them was [only] baroque convention…” France couldn’t warm to his aesthetic, the Hague scoffed at the formless ghasts that’d stretch too away from realism — Unwelcome by peers, a bitter retreat into his own devices lead to an incredibly inspired body of work again, unto old age. I could rant on and on about the beauty of ‘Bloem’, in relation to this driven sort of modus as a forward-thinking and borderless work of atmospheric black metal stretching the vision of Gelderland, Netherlands duo Fluisteraars‘ vision to the point of warp but, not without reflecting lightly upon the darker formative years preceding their “blackened psychedelic folk-rock” vibrancy today.
If you examine “Lust der Wolven”, from the (then) trio of young fellows making up the original Fluisteraars line-up it becomes clear that the ideas that’d lead to ‘Bloem’ eleven years later were planted by way of melodious atmospheric black metal ideals. ‘Beringheim‘, (2009) already featured some light shades of bands such as Agalloch and perhaps Wolves in the Throne Room but those elements would never define the bands sound too grotesquely. (‘‘t Hongslog‘, 2010) had even gone a bit harder and more traditional, barely finding any connection with the incomplete melodic spirals of the first demo. The band’s first full-length ‘Dromers‘ (2014) might fare well today as a fine example of atmospheric black metal but for that time it was just above average due to the massive overpopulation of artists attempting the sub-genre, it was nonetheless the opening of the floodgates and Fluisteraars would find maturity and distinction on their second album (‘Luwte‘, 2015). From that point guitarist, drummer, and bassist Mink Koops would take a few detours drumming in several equally well received projects (Solar Temple, Nusquama, Knoest) while first hinting at great change with an EP (‘Gelderland‘, 2016) and then a complete mind-expansion of a song on ‘De Oord‘, a split with the equally brilliant folks in Turia. Although “Oeverloos” appeared as a complete paradigm shift I’d described it as “subtle” primarily because I’d not dug backwards into their discography and only compared it with Solar Temple. As it turns out that song was the perfect preview as to what would come next, a reasonable leap beyond ‘Luwte’ and a delivery upon the limitless expansion that “Oeverloos” sung upon high… and more succinct songwriting of ‘Gelderland’, too. All pools into a collective identity for the project some elements bigger and yet expanding while others fall through the sieve and float away.
Forward-thinking, folkish, psychedelic, darkly naturalistic, and yet familiar in a sublime post-punk meets atmospheric blackened rock kind of movement, ‘Bloem’ is a remarkable point of evolution. Just as Belgium’s Witch Trail stunned the skin off my bones last year so does Fluisteraars‘ newly shifted sands, which aren’t exactly -that- avant-garde or brazen with their sound design so much as they are intricately melodic, voiced within grand and complicated movements that gain momentum in the mind from listen to listen. “Tere Muur” introduces itself with quartet of acid-soaked punk volleys before rolling right into it, a thrilling and (soon) comforting reminder that ‘Bloem’ has started, or begun to repeat into its full spin again for the hundredth time by my own hand. The energy communicates well enough without words but the ease between rushes and bounding respite comes and goes like a drug-induced hallucination, a ‘peak’ if you will, where some strand of golden light on a wave becomes a thrilling sight and just as quickly disappears. Those moments appear conscious and built toward within each song, effective to the point that I’d soon find myself chasing after them like faces within dreams… Never getting clarity but remaining swept up in the sloth-inducing realm of sleep, with glances of righteous expressions of all sorts.
Maybe it is fantastic drugs, the solidifying experience of natural spirituality, dedication to sight beyond the norm (those who would paint cows and boats), or some unregulated collaborative enrichment that’d force maturation over time but, it seems the atmospheric/post-black circles in the Netherlands are exploding at the seams with creativity and truly inspired works. This record and the most recent Turia record are colorful and bounding-free works, it is remarkable to see how their rivers do flow into entirely different realms while converging in some profound ways. A madness outside the lines pours from the soul of the songwriter as the incredible standout “Nasleep” unhinges Fluisteraars from any bounds, producing great rivers of imaginative flow inspired by folk rock, post-punk, and post-music as much as they offer an angle on the continued evolution of atmospheric black metal by way of rasped vocal and violent aggression. This song becomes a seven minute block of time where I cannot help but stare bewildered by the emptying of my mind-palace it instigates. When I’d read notes on psychedelic folk, rock, and mention of brass instrumental flourishes (by way of T. Cochrane at E-Sound Studios) on the first press releases for ‘Bloem’ I’d never imagined a song like “Nasleep” might be such a knock to the head, much less the rest of the album as it follows suit.
Things push on quickly for these very tightly-wound and never wasted 35 minutes as even bigger, more shocking evolutionary traits lie ahead with “Eeuwige Ram”, an artfully sung piece recalling some sections of vocalist Bob Mollema‘s performance on “Oeverloos”. This song will undoubtedly spark the ears of Sólstafir fans for its diction and patiently oozed progression. I suppose at this point the emotion in the man’s voice demands some translation of the lyrics and this is where the paganistic point of view really ‘seals the deal’ for my own taste as the poetic value of Mollemma‘s lyrics are impressive even when thrown into an algorithmic translation. Most all imagery is of nature, communicating beauty and ferality at once while often steering towards the flower (‘Bloem’, eh) as an allegory for what treacherous poison or glorious coloration it’d provide for the world. You can muse over how these themes relate to the psychedelia inherent to the experience but they do cite some quite old psychedelic rock and folk artists as atmospheric influences. To go on with a track-by-track review would be a messy, unreadable affair so I’ll cut it off there and suggest that all of ‘Bloem’ arrives with matching ingenuity, energy and every piece is remarkably well placed. If you’ve any love for post-black metal and/or atmospheric black metal that makes a point of being non-traditional for the sake of listenable, memorable and meaningful music then this third full-length from Fluisteraars is an essential piece of your 2020. Very high recommendation.
Very high recommendation. 4.25/5.0
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