How would you like to spend an hour in a Bohemian forest? Travel may be restricted right now, but you are invited to take a sonic trip with Ká. In a time of crisis, a trip to the forest is much more than forest bathing. The woods and its denizens can center the mind, but they can also send it spinning back to thoughts of what is ancient: both the extinct and the everlasting.
In the Land of Lonesome Vicarages V kraji opuštěných far recalls a far earlier time before planes, factories and computers. The forest is lush with the activities of its wildlife, which are often at odds with the titles of the pieces (specifically “Landscapes with Suicides,” which recalls Aokigahara). There were more birds back then, more bears, more creatures dangerous to humanity (to whom we were considered snacks). But there were also Baroque churches, dances around Maypoles, and weddings in the woods. While wandering through the ruins of abandoned chapels, Ká muses on the role of religion and the need for God. He connects an image of “lepers with jingle bells” to today’s pariahs suffering from COVID-19. “Unclean, unclean!” the lepers once shouted, warning people away. Churches attempted charity. Now both are gone.
The rooster is connected in the imagination to farms, mornings, and Peter’s denial. Those who don’t live around roosters may be caught off guard when they hear its cries in the second track. Traffic – the bane of the field recordist – disturbs the reverie, but the creature will continue to make appearances throughout the set. Peter’s three denials were met by three blessings; it’s no coincidence that the center track was recorded on Easter. “Easter Dusk” is one of the album’s few musical expressions, along with the distant music of “Memory of Wedding” and in two tracks, the tolls of church bells.
If modern religion fails us, and ancient cathedrals have crumbled, is there still value in faith? Ká imagines that there is, but scrubs away the trappings of religion to rely on meditation, in particular humanity’s place in creation. “Can I relate to creation with sacred awe?” he asks. Given the nature of the artist’s label ~ whose other 2020 releases are titled Green, Ocean and Springs ~ we’d say the answer is yes. As for the rest of us, we need such prompts. If we feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under our feet, perhaps we should ask about the ground on which we land. Throughout the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, God is referred to as solid rock and foundation. Ká begins his written meditation with the words, “As I wander through the vanishing forests of my homeland.” A well-known Christian hymn begins, “When through the woods and forest glades I wander.” Each author arrives at the same conclusion. When we are in the presence of something larger than us ~ in this case the Bohemian forest ~ we can imagine something larger still. (Richard Allen)