Travels in Lowland, out today and self-released by Danish band The Migrant, takes some very simple paths to lead us to breathtaking heights. Many bands that fall in or around the “psychedelic folk” genre are sawing away on album after album, searching for the patience and control that The Migrant seem to channel effortlessly on this, their debut release. Time and time again, the giants of the genre, your Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bears, knock us over by waiting for just the right time to drop the hammer, even if only with the most subtle shifts, while the babies of the genre just harmonize and strum away. The common thread, song to song, on Travels is that sensibility. And the patience to hold out, build a moment, and then just let it happen. Kitchen sink orchestration, with whatever the moment calls for floating in and out of the mix, can sometimes corrupt a sonic palette, but the violins and whistles and clarinets on this album are tasteful enough to do their thing without eclipsing the focal points.
The only time all of these nice things go away is in a mid-album moment, titled “Beans”, when shit goes crazy. Yeah, it’s about beans, it features souled-out kazoo, it cops a seriously preachy desert-cult feel, and builds to a feverish swirl of screeching strings and woodwinds over some hippy guitar/tambourine. I thought I had dozed off and was dreaming it. It sort of called to mind the “Jesus Ranch” episode of Tenacious D.
Beans aside, this album is stunning, and equally stunning is that it is a first effort. The Migrant should have a very easy time establishing themselves with the other lords of Danish folk magic, like Efterklang and Slaraffenland. And shame on all the labels if the second Migrant album is self-released.
Recommended track: “Don’t Turn Tidal Wave”