Vàli – Musical Forestry, Sonic Subtlety

vali_headerIf you want to know what it’s like to walk in a Norwegian wood, many album options are available for the Metal fan.  While most involve Second Wave screams or ambient movements ringed with distortion, artists that express the experience solely with non-electric accompaniment do thrive.  Case in point: Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Vàli, whose weapons of pagan instruction are acoustic guitar, violin, piano and flute.  Worm Gear reached out to this one-word enigma to glean the motivations behind his soothing and inspiring sound-creations that anyone with a hankering for flora and fauna (not just nature-obsessed extreme music aficionados) will enjoy.  Read on!  – Jim

Worm Gear: Your previous work, Forlatt, feels like an announcement, a statement to the folk scene at large that a collection of pieces worthy of attention has arrived. Put another way, while each individual track is beautiful and inviting, taken as a whole the album also has a directness in production and structure. As this was your debut, was this intentional?

Vàli: To be honest, no. I had no plans to make an album with only acoustic music. I had no plans to make an album at all. I originally recorded one track for my own amusement which I only shared with some friends and family and eventually uploaded to the internet. Then some guy from Poland heard it and contacted me to ask if I wanted to release a demo. So I quickly recorded 9 more tracks to make the “Forlatt” album. Actually, most of the background guitars on “Forlatt” were improvised and done in one take. I didn’t put much thought into the track order either, so it was pretty rushed. But, it turned out okay in the end.


WG: Nine years passed between Forlatt and Skogslandskap. Were there life events that caused the delay, did you need that time to completely feel out the tracks that would end up on Skogslandskap, or would both reasons apply? Were there other reasons entirely?

V: The tracks for “Skogslandskap” were ready to be recorded back when “Forlatt” was released. I actually started to record some of the tracks right after the release of “Forlatt”. However, things in my personal life, without going into detail, as well as practical and logistical issues delayed the album by many years. I’ve said this in other interviews as well, but making music is just a small hobby to me so I only have so much resources to invest into it.


WG: Your label’s (Prophecy Productions) website states that Forlatt “was a match for genre classics such as Kveldssanger by Ulver or Where At Night The Wood Grouse Plays by Empyrium.” What are your thoughts on these albums, as well as the the ‘dark folk’ sound that’s developed since then? How do you feel you do and do not fit into that sound?

V: “Kveldssanger” has been one of my favourites ever since I first heard it . I remember very well the first time I heard this album. It was late autumn and it was grey, windy and rainy outside. It was a perfect soundtrack to the season. I am not too familiar with all the Empyrium stuff, but I did hear their albums back in the day and did enjoy some of it. I believe I liked the last album better than “Where At Night…”, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard any of them.

I think “dark folk” sounds a bit silly quite frankly. Most genre names sound silly. I remember when “Forlatt” was released and it was labelled as “dark folk” by others, but I had no idea what to call it and I didn’t care. I don’t think there’s anything dark or depressing about that album. That was not my intention. Neither “Forlatt” or “Skogslandskap” are meant to be dark or depressing. To me they’re more about finding peace and quiet in a hectic, modern society. Maybe this is what separates Vàli from other bands who have the “dark folk” label. But, whatever. I can’t tell people what to feel when they listen to the music. In the end I don’t care about genres or labels, so people can call it whatever they want.


WG: Are you happy that for many, your introduction to listeners at large was through the metal world?
You played guitar on the doom album De Glemte Tider by Skumring; would you ever consider involvement or creation in a metal album again?

V: I think both “Forlatt” and “Skogslandskap” would appeal to non-metal fans as well, so it is a bit unfortunate that more or less only metal zines etc. review them and metal shops sell them. But, this is a very small niche in music, so I understand it’s hard to promote it elsewhere. I do actually have some plans for more metal music in the future, but this is just in the planning stages. Who knows if it will ever happen.


WG: What can you tell us about your musical background, and how it informs your writing? Are you classically trained?

V: I have no particular musical background or training, and I have absolutely no clue of what I am doing when it comes to making music. I think this is evident when you listen to any of the albums, as the tracks have very simple, almost childlike compositions. But, perhaps this is a good thing. Simple is better I’ve heard.


WG: On both of your LPs, you avoid the common practice of having overly-protracted song lengths. The brevity of the tracks allows one to quickly get the emotion of the moving songwriting, and to then, just as quickly, return to everyday life. How did that stylistic tenet of brevity come to bear within your technique?

V: I personally think that this kind of music, which is purely instrumental with acoustic guitar and just a few other instruments, gets boring pretty quick if the tracks go on for too long and have little variation. If I used lyrics and vocals, as well as more or different instruments I would probably have made longer tracks.


WG: I liken the after-effect of each track’s four-minutes-or-less approach to your music’s greater sense of longing, or unfulfillment. Was it your intention to have the listener desire more at each song’s end? Are there other reasons for the conciseness of you songs?

V: I don’t think it would’ve worked very well with long tracks for this album. I wanted to keep the tracks relatively short and straight to the point and not have any long, monotonous tracks. Especially when there are no lyrics or vocals. Also, the tracks are a bit more uptempo than on “Forlatt” so it was natural for me to keep them shorter.


WG: From the opening notes of ‘Nordavindens Klagesang’, the listener is taken by the hand into the Norwegian forests by means of (to my mind, at any rate) a Spanish melody, making for a brilliant opening for what is to come on Skogslandskap. What about the composition of ‘Nordavindens Klagesang’ inspired you to place it first on the album?

V: I knew as soon as I started to record the album that this track was going to be the opener. The idea for this track had been in my head for many years, and I almost included it on “Forlatt”. I think it reflects the overall mood of the album very well, so it was a good track to open the album with.


WG: Each piece on Skogslandskap contains counterpoints of light and dark that weave in and out of one another, like a surrender of positive and negative energy into something new. Was this resultant bittersweet energy something you wanted to convey, or was there another motivation at hand for the album’s theme?

V: Well, I think it’s safe to say that I am at heart a melancholic, but I do have a positive approach to things and situations in my own life. So, I guess my personality is somewhat reflected in the music.


WG: Will Skogslandskap have any live performances? What circumstances would have to be in place for a show to occur?

V: There are no plans for any live performances. I don’t feel the music from “Forlatt” and “Skogslandskap” would translate very well into a live performance. Also it would be difficult due to various practical reasons.

WG: Thank you, Vàli, for taking the time to answer these questions and, most importantly, for sharing music with such depth and beauty with the world. As always here at Worm Gear, the final word is yours; feel free to close, plug, and/or pontificate as you will!

V: Thank you very much for the support. I guess I should mention the Vàli facebook page which is where you will find any news and updates: http://www.facebook.com/vali.official

~ by cliftonium on November 27, 2013.

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