[sic] Magazine

Sieben – Lietuva EP

Reviewed by Stephanie Wiesman

Sieben is comprised solely of Matt Howden, and his rather alluring layers of looping violin, set against a backdrop of tribal drumming. It’s often described as Neo-Folk, Goth-Folk, or even Post-Folk, but unlike many other artists that fall into these categories, Sieben actually has something new to say, or an ancient culture to celebrate. Howden has never followed that all-too familiar Neofolk formula of throwing a Rune on the cover, and relying heavily on cryptic occult references to fill in the lyrics. Instead, we hear the violin in a different way, layered and mesmeric, sometimes kind of Celtic, Eastern European, Klezmer, Baltic, or even modern,( with his cover of Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’).
I was first exposed to Sieben with the 2007 release Desire Rites, which contains the very stunning and controversial track: ‘Rite Against the Right’. This song definitely sticks out in the mind, and at the very least opens a dialogue about where the Neofolk scene may or may not be heading.

“You sad bands, you poor Nazi boys,
I hope you get a history book
or lessons in consequences
Licking the dregs of evil- it’s feeble

You sad bands, you poor Nazi boys
Using symbols to shock
because your music is cock
Using symbols to shock
because your music is piss-poor”

Besides calling out Death in June and Death in June wannabees, Desire Rites also shows range, romanticism, and a great storytelling ability that intrigued me and immediately got me hooked. The latest Sieben EP, Lietuva,(the old name for Lithuania), released June 2nd, coincides perfectly with the great Menuo Juodagaris Baltic Festival held in Lithuania, August 28th-30th. The festival completely immerses one in Baltic Culture by featuring Neofolk music, lectures, crafts, documentaries and cuisine. For more info, visit the website via the link provided.

Lietuva is a refreshing departure from previously executed song structures, abandoning verse/chorus structure and storytelling, and instead embraces mood, intuition, and soundscapes. ‘Black Moon Rise Again‘ is the first track. It’s almost 10 minutes long, but you would almost never know it. The layers of violin continuously build, the percussion is infectious, and the minimal lyrics repeat over and over again like a mantra. This one is a bit more ‘gothy’ and danceable than the others. The second track, ‘Uzupis’, is also around 10 minutes in length, but it is slower, slinkier and more serpentine. Bellydancers and campfire aromas almost seem to breeze on through.

‘Cult of the Fallen’ is almost like a long lost Into the Labyrinth era, Dead Can Dance B-side. There’s a very welcome Brendan Perry-ness to it all.

Lietuva is short and sweet. You will probably not be wowed by the lyrics on this release, but that’s precisely what makes it work. The EP ends with a reworked version of ‘Knudlusty Summer’, which was originally featured on 2003’s Sex and Wildflowers. It’s interesting to see how a song can evolve over the years.

It is said that when one of the 5 senses is dulled, the other remaining ones grow magically sharper. Here, our energies are not wrapped up in logic which allows us to be more receptive to the music’s other messages; the ones felt in the gut, and in the dance.

Similar artists – Dead Can Dance – Brendan Perry – Jerome Reuter – Rome

Matt Howden

Menuo Juodagaris Baltic Festival