Stangala – Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All (05 December 2011, Solitude Productions)
Good afternoon, Readers. How are you? This day has been dragging on forever, and I’m so glad it’s finally ending! There seems to be no amount of coffee sufficient to keep me alert today — no matter what I do, I feel like I’m stuck in slow motion and surrounded by fog. This morning I was feeling pretty terrible but then I took some allergy pills, and now I’m feeling… nothing. Just sort of dazed. Which would be totally fine if I didn’t have to be at work, and even then it might not be so bad if my job didn’t revolve around numbers and thinking and stuff. Times like this, I feel pretty nervous to come back the next day, because I’m always afraid I’ll hear about some big mistake I made where, like, I forgot how to add and I ended up being off by a million dollars someplace, or that I totally zoned out and missed a step, and some important thing didn’t get paid on-time or whatever.
Ugh, it would totally hurt my head just thinking about it, except for the fact that at the moment I am more or less incapable of feeling any pain. So, nevermind.
Do you ever have days like this? It’s actually not so bad, like being all cozy inside a drug-induced cloud. Of course, in this particular instance, those drugs are ones that were legally purchased from a pharmacy (actually I think they’re even Wal-Mart brand, how stupid is that), but, whatever. This afternoon I’ve been listening to some equally tripped-out, hazy, cloudy music, and I thought just maybe you’d like it if I shared it with you — keep on reading and then give it a listen; maybe you won’t even need any chemical substances to feel like you’re in an altered state!
The band is called Stangala, and their debut album Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All came out last December via the Russian emporium of doom that is Solitude Productions. Stangala aren’t Russian, though — they come from Brittany, in northern France. All of the song titles (and probably the lyrics as well) are written in the Breton language, and I’ve been unable to locate a free translator online, so whatever they’re about will just have to remain a mystery.
I suspect that understanding the words wouldn’t really clear things up all that much, anyway, considering the intense acid-washed psychedelic vibe they’ve got going on here. But, it’s my understanding that the lyrics are inspired by Celtic folklore, which makes perfect sense, considering the fact that the music also contains a strong element of Celtic folk.
No, seriously. This stoner/doom trio’s fuzzy, spacey songs are influenced equally by psychedelic acid-jazz and traditional folk music.
Opening track “Doom Rock Glazik” serves as an excellent introduction to the variety of sounds you will hear from this band: we start out with some pretty standard stoner-rock riffing and vocals, everything nice and fuzzy, and dripping with thick reverb as though the band was recorded inside an enormous box. But about a minute into the song, the guitar and bass riffs are now accompanied by some counterpoint riffs played on the pipes. Just reading that description, you might think it would sound strange or out of place, but actually the only shocking thing about it is how naturally it all works together.
Even when there aren’t actually any folk instruments, there’s often still plenty of musical influence, such as some of the riffs in “Langoliers” and the main themes of “Bigoudened An Diaoul.” Along those same lines, “Boued Tousek Hag Trau Mat All” (I could also just say ‘the title track,’ but it’s much more fun to type “Boued Tousek Hag Trau Mat All”) is mostly pretty doomy, with some really dark, rumbly, bottom-heavy organ; but later in the same song there is some folk/jazz-inspired fretboard-dancing as the guitar and bass trade licks back and forth.
Sometimes they present a more straightforward doom metal, without the folk elements, with a song like “Sorcerezed” — here they are heavier and darker, with vocals even more reverby than elsewhere. I’d go so far as to say this particular song has a bit of evilness to its sound, but nonetheless it really gets the head nodding unconsciously.
And sometimes there’s more straightforward folk music without any metallic characteristics, as in “Kalon An Noz” a duet between two different instruments — I’m not really able to identify them for sure, but one is higher-pitched and sounds like it might be played by a bow on strings (possibly a hurdy-gurdy??), while the other is a bit lower and I’m pretty sure is played with a reed (like a cor anglais, maybe?). This track is very minimalistic, but also sort of foreboding, in a ritualistic chant kind of way.
However, the band seems to really come into its own when combining the two; for example, “Al Lidou Esoterik An Dolmen Hud” is another very heavy and dark song, full of crunchy fuzz with a bit of organ hanging out in the background — for about five minutes, but then a bagpipe melody enters in unison with the guitar part, then the bagpipes drop into the background with some sustained notes while the guitar plays a solo. “Bigoudened An Diaoul” similarly pairs a bagpipe with a bass riff around the middle of the song. “Deus Bars An Tan” is a lengthy exercise in ambience, featuring what I believe to be throat singing and the occasional tribal-sounding percussion, but in the distant background everything is drenched in feedback; then towards the end, the track gets swallowed whole by some super-heavy monolithic doom chords coupled with torturous wailing and screaming.
The album proper seems to end with the penultimate track, the wonderfully epic “Izel Eo An Dour,” with its repetitive sing-songy vocals, and a huge amount of atmosphere that continues to build upon itself in an ending that could rival the end of the first side of Abbey Road.
As an encore, the band brings out the one-two punch of the tenth track: “Mij Du” starts out alternating between punishing doom riffs and sounds that could have come from a movie soundtrack (specifically, a theremin sound reminiscent of an old Sci Fi film that features little green men and UFOs; this is coupled with a lo-fi synth line that I swear I’ve heard in the castle levels of some Super Mario Brothers game). Not pulling any punches at this point, Stangala continues on its marathon romp through the world of stoner/doom for nearly a dozen minutes before sputtering out. After a few minutes’ silence, though, they fade back in with “Tri Martolod” — in case you had forgotten about the bagpipes, the remainder of the album features this solo instrument, with the simple accompaniment of a strummed acoustic guitar, and some rather emotional-sounding singing, in what resembles a tragic old love song.
Running just over an hour in length, you’ll find the album does require a bit of a time investment, but I’m sure you’ll also find it to be well worth it, for the thoroughly unique experience it provides!
Listen to Boued Tousek Hag Trau Mat All here:
Buy the CD here!