In the United States, the right has talked about “culture wars” ever since we borrowed the word from the Germans. In Europe, the concept has come a long way from its 19th-c. roots of government vs. religion to suggest more of a guerrilla conflict of “folkish tradition” against an overweening liberal welfare state. The reactionary neoplasm loosely known as “neofolk” is the self-styled bard of this clash, obliquely nurturing the next generation of [color]-shirts.
Britisher Matt Howden’s one-man project, Sieben, has taken an unequivocal political stance within the European neofolk scene. Like the talented Karl Blake, he works as a hired strings (violin, whereas Blake is a bassist) beside musicians who flirt with the dangerous blood-and-soil aesthetics that were so seductive during the 20th century’s darkest hours. (Aesthetics the proponents of which, in our festering worldwide recession, are building their followings zealously in discontent as they did before, and always will.) Unlike Salvador Dalí, it seems unlikely that Howden will be seduced by the company he keeps.
In comments at the watchdog blog “Who Makes the Nazis”, the aforementioned Karl Blake speaks of his days touring with neofolk bands of questionable ethics. The information does not come out under interrogation, or “pulling worms out of the nose” (die Wurme auf die Nase ziehen) as Germans graphically put it. Ruing wilful blindness, Blake volunteered anecdotes over time which WMTN’s editor collected in the linked post:
“If I come out with “hate-speech against hate speech” it is my reactionary shift against all of that – I’ve got ‘Neo-poisoning’ if you like! I really am fed up with it and a lot of that is down to feeling thoroughly used and duped. I hold my hand up and say I enjoyed going abroad and playing all the time – and recording. Its my own fault that I took the path of least resistance and sat back and took the easy option of just turning up and playing bass and laughing at all the idiots with silly haircuts and anal-aryan uniforms.”
Howden won’t make that mistake. He’s an accomplished violinist who uses the instrument in much the “one man with processing” style ably practiced by Iceland’s Mugison or Finland’s Kimmo Pohjonen. His voice is finer and his lyrics more nuanced than many neofolkers bar Karl Blake himself (and Rome, about whom I wrote previously). And though Howden’s career took off through associations with Karl Blake and dicey Sol Invictus, he puts paid to any ambiguity in the song “Rite Against the Right” while acknowledging that musicality is an afterthought in much of the scene: “Licking the dregs of evil—it’s feeble…using symbols to shock because your music is cock.”
I’m not a fan of the purple cover featuring a prone naked dude and a big stick (erm), but it’s otherwise a fine album, like the rest of his releases: