Solitude can be a musician's greatest inspiration. When one's soul is left unto itself, the mind and heart can wander into previously unexplored territory when a virtual treasure trove of creativity can be unearthed. Depending on the individual, the artistic output can either be a soundtrack to his/her own insanity or inner beauty (middle ground notwithstanding). When Natanael Larochette took his journey, he found his solace in the latter of the two extremes.An incredibly cerebral and soothing piece of work, "Musk Ox" sees Larochette playing the role of multi-instrumentalist, employing the use of acoustic guitars, piano, various flutes and the glockenspiel to paint a lavish portrait of inner peace and serenity. Samples of chirping birds and babbling brooks only further the album's oneness with its creator and his apparent fondness of nature. If none of what you've read so far sounds exciting, then this is probably not your cup of tea, but AGALLOCH fans have undoubtedly begun singing the praises of MUSK OX. Organic and almost minimalist in delivery, the disc's longer tracks, "Un Jardin Au Bout Du Monde" and "Entre La Terre Et Le Ciel" (both nearing the fifteen minute mark) pass by as smoothly as the stream heard in the background. Larochette brilliantly textures his finger-plucked acoustic foundation with striking melodies and an ethereal choir of chanting. The brilliance of this recording comes in the performer's ability to create an elaborate and glowing soundscape by using as few notes as possible. Each of the melodies produced by Larachette floats effortlessly and easily across the backing music as if nature has intended it do so. Additionally, the songs themselves seem bound together by some unseen force, making this an album that demands to be experienced in its entirety. Save for Natanael's harmonized chanting and a pair of female voices on "Lullaby For Ghosts", "Musk Ox" is devoid of vocals, which only makes its overall mood that much more striking. Powerful in its subtlety, it's as if MUSK OX has simply offered a blank slate, leaving it up to the listener to paint the real picture. Not being an expert in the field of neo-folk, I can't judge how this disc would hold up to others of its ilk, but can say with great confidence that these are 45 of the most enchanting minutes of music you'll hear this side of a magical forest. When the lights go down and a thin whisper of smoke lingers in the air above, the time is right for "Musk Ox".
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