The market is so crowded with LPs about endangered peatland that it’s hard to sort through them all. Just kidding, there’s only one. FEAN‘s self-titled album is educative, leading us to ask questions such as:
“What is peatland?”
Also known as sphagnum, it’s a family of 380 types of water-bearing moss.
“Is it the same as peat moss?”
“Any relation to Randy Moss?”
No, he’s a former NFL wide receiver.
“What is it good for?”
“Where can I get some?”
Home Depot, or wherever gardening supplies are sold.
“Why should I care if it’s endangered?”
Without moisture retention, nearby plants dry up, tree roots buckle, woods catch on fire, creatures lose their habitats and food, and the chain goes all the way up to us. So even if you’re a selfish bastard, you should care about peatland.
The album cover is a lovely peat green, helping us to make the connection right away. The music is as soft as a peat bed, gentle as the feeling of bare feet on dew-speckled moss. While Jan Kleefstra’s lyrics are in Frysian, with him it’s seldom about the lyrics, but the direct appeal to the heart. Along with his Piiptsjilling companions and additional friends, Kleefstra forms FEAN, which in Frysian means PEAT.
The entire album is magical, curled around the edges like plants preparing to unfurl. Mariska Bears’ soft intonations are whispers of encouragement, like the angels who bend over flowers and implore them to grow. Subtle electronics buzz around the sonic field like pollinating bees. The air of breath is apparent in exhalation and wind instrument. A sense of holiness is conveyed by church organ. And this is a holy cause. FEAN is an album of mood; one imagines a fantastical world, populated by color and texture and growth, the earth bearing fruit, the ecosystem in balance, a response to koyaanisqatsi. In terms of volume, this may be the quietest protest we’ve ever heard. And yet we listen, due to the lack of bombast. Kleefstra’s voice offers an alternative to shouted speech. Chimes suggest Buddhist meditation. Radio static narrates dying stars, implying that the airwaves are empty, a void waiting to be filled. Only “Ketlik III” is dark, crunching like broken limbs beneath a bulldozer as Bears sings a lament. Mercifully short, it warns, metal is stronger than peat, but heart is stronger than metal.
One need not understand the words to connect with the affection that these artists have for village and land. FEAN helps us to care about something that wasn’t on our radar before this recording ~ the soft green cushion beneath our feet, upon which so much life depends. (Richard Allen)