The Nocturnes – Aokigahara

The Nocturnes - Aokigahara

The Nocturnes is another feather in the cap of Red Sparowes member Emma Ruth Rundle.  The band formed in 2007 as a duo, comprised of Emma of Daniel Yasmin, but has since reformulated itself, replacing Daniel with Dave Clifford (also of Red Sparowes), Julian Rifkin, and Paris Patt.  In 2010 the quartet recorded Aokigahara, which was released on Errant Child Records in late summer of last year.

The eight lengthy, somber, but absorbing songs fall into the alt-folk noir and post-rock categories and are rich with spectrally ethereal multi-vocalist harmonies and deliberately paced movements heavy with portent.  The Nocturnes comes across like Mojave 3’s more crepuscular and despondent cousin, with a touch of Band Of Skulls to the tiered male and female harmonies.  While the band itself may be a passing fancy, with Emma Ruth and Dave now members of Marriages, the songs on this album make for a more lasting impression.

“The Road” is a prime example of the band’s sound.  It slowly and soberly builds in intensity and complexity, starting off with short-strummed guitar, shadowy, low strings, and bright notes that mix melancholy and hope in equal measure.  The hushed, slightly echoed vocals of three singers emerge, harmonizing on the on the first verse and then separating into contrasting vocal lines, with one singer intoning “…I will meet you as a ghost.”  Far off in the background a bright, reeling guitar line that is usually found in Shogazer-style songs lifts up to the heights.  The ending pares it down with alternating male and female vocals, instrumentation from the start, and an added beat.

Emma Ruth takes on main vocals for “The Cradle”, a dark alt-folk ballad in the vein of Ruby Throat, with picked guitar lines and a palpable sense of foreboding.  Emma Ruth sings in a delicate, wavering tone, coming across like a vulnerable Sinead O’Connor on her more hushed numbers.  “The Cradle” sounds like it was recorded live all in one take, as fingers glance along guitar strings, percussion is intermittently shaken, and Emma sings close to the mic, giving the song an immediate, intimate feel.

The reflective title song is almost medieval-folk in style, with its emotionally tamped down, minor vocal harmonies, until it begins to lightly venture into Shoegazer territory with drawn-out reverb guitar.  “Aokigahara” actually does switch gears mid-way through, breaking through the cloudy atmosphere with sustained ascending guitar lines and drier male vocals repeating the refrain “…lay me down…”