Listening to Nefelibata is like walking through a haunted house backwards. First there’s the fright: the dense, droning waves, the disembodied voices, the crackle and crunch. But by the end, the timbres are soft and sweet enough to sleep to. This LA-based artist may be mysterious, but his music is welcoming and warm. As usual, Time Released Sound has prepared a series of individually unique packages with redacted art, samples of which can be seen below.
The tracks bleed into each other, preserving the spell. “Aokigahara” (referring to the Japanese suicide forest) is haunted by footsteps, chimes and crows, and glows with an inner light. In other hands, such a track might be depressing, but it seems as if the artist finds beauty even in the strangest of places. One imagines a pilgrimage of flowers and incense and prayer: a gift to the souls of the deceased, rather than a walking dread. The tracks that follow – “The Way of Nature,” “The Way of Grace” – sustain this mood. Over static charges and threatening drones, the bells carry a message of comfort. If we are looking through the world through gypsy eyes, we are seeing paths traced on palms, echoing those in the woods: the lost are remembered through fire and song.
The word nefelibata means “one who lives in the clouds of their own imagination or dreams.” The cover image reflects this definition, as does the music. This is an album without choruses, an album of textures and half-imagined melodies. Danger is acknowledged, but only in passing; the overall sense is one of drift through time and space, accompanied by benign spirits: perhaps ancestors, perhaps magical creatures. When the footsteps reappear late in the album, one realizes that the journey is ongoing; what begins in the waking life continues in the netherworld of dreams. By the end, all imposing timbres have fled, leaving only the soothing and kind. This gentle surprise is like the tucking in that follows a fairy tale: all is safe, all is well. (Richard Allen)