On Almanac Behind, Daniel Bachman trades ancestral folk forms for a modern day folktale of ravaged climate, mapping the physical decline of rural America in real time. Recorded in and around his home in Banco, Va, deep in the Appalachian Mountains, Bachman uses a year’s worth of flood warnings and field recordings from Virginia rivers as they lash out at the surrounding environment. The sources are swelled beyond capacity and swallowing portions of the community whole with each downpour. As the listener pulls back, the locale becomes just a conduit for widespread collapse, acting as just one drop in the rising tide that’s enveloping the Earth. The record serves as a warning, but also a document of decay pushed past a tipping point.
Bachman turns the ionic waves into another instrument in his quiver. Squalls and static entwine, captured to tape and bounced back through FM waves to lay beside warnings that pitch with steely urgency, as effective as any strum or slide of the strings. His songs become elegies for the environment, lullabies for humanity, a funeral march of modern comforts that have scarred our surroundings. In Bachman’s works, the environs envelop the consumer in a reminder that nature’s chaos was always bigger than us. Poke the bear and get what you deserve.
Folk music has always been a reflection of the times in which it was forged, and Almanac Behind feels like crawling through the rubble playing hymns to the fall of false gods. Even the more mannered moments like “Think Before You Breathe” still glitch with an electronic curdle, feeling like the e-waste washout has seeped into the strings. The electronic decay is manipulated and massaged into rhythm, played like heartbeat pulses and warped into meditative thrum. Bachman hinted toward a reshaping of Americana on Axacan, a record that is haunted by the ghosts of the past, and with Almanac Behind he’s begun forecasting the future through fractured folk. There’s a sickness and exhaustion to both albums, but the tone of Almanac weighs heavy under the specter of an unstoppable wave. As it ends, the cycle peeks its head around the corner, ready to ravage once more.
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