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Various Artists - Manifest Destiny, A New World Digest

Manifest Destiny is the first compilation from Triskele Recordings and as the title suggests its aim is to gain exposure for these American artists. The compilation covers artists operating in the neo-folk, post-industrial and experimental genres with a number of groups having close relations with each other.

Both Awen and Cult of Youth are familiar names to me having had releases on Dais Records. On 'Blackbird' Cult of Youth, free of the typical imagery, take their neo-folk into acoustic pop territory with sprightly strummed guitars and appealing vocal melodies. The same can't be said of Awen, a group lead by the CD compiler, Erin Powell, who in interviews talks of ancestral lineage and indigenous rituals. Their contribution 'The Iconoclast' is no-nonsense neo-folk in a homage to a 19th century American journalist whose writings - from what I can gleam from Wikipedia - was scathing in its attacks on Baptists, Episcopalians and inherently racist. The vocals are delivered in forced stern tones. The same is true of Luftwaffe with their distorted declamated tones. Over martial snares and light acoustic guitarwork the track, 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' is adapted from Julia Ward Howe's patriotic fighting song and is naturally furnished with military samples. Erik K, a member of Awen, strays further into dubious territory with 'Enemy Ancestry', its stripped down acoustic folk and rolling drums and lyrics of "bloodline" and "ancestry" seemingly carries some questionable leanings.

Naturally David E. Willliams manages to raise something of a smirk here with his low-key contribution 'The Soil of Langemark'. A sombre symphonic piece created from keyboards and electronic drums concerning an early battle in the First World War where the German army consisting of a high proportion of untrained soldiers fought and died "to keep Europa free".

Valence, Gnomonclast and In Ruin all offer variations on generic neo-folk. With acoustic guitar, accordion, hand drums and flute 'Stolen Wine' from Valence is closer to Celtic folk music. Gnomonclast, feature members of both Luftwaffe and Valence, and their track is dark folk, similar in respects to Ostara. With its craggy vocals In Ruin sound like they are fronted by an elderly gentleman. His withered tones are surrounded by violin and guitar making this track of weird folk closer to something that Steinklang would release.

Verdandi who have an album on Fremdheit is the musical project of Alice Karlsdóttir and Paul Fredric. Alice Karlsdóttir, a member of the Rune-Gild, might be familiar to listeners of Fire+ Ice - she sung on Bird King. Here though their contribution, 'Ragnarok', which features her spoken words over atmospheric keyboards and effects veers close to Freya Aswynn's pioneering work with Six Comm on the Northern mysteries.

Manifest Destiny isn't all neo-folk. The experimental percussive outfit C.O.T.A. offer 'Dream' a hypnotic groove borne from live and electronic drumming, with some spirited female singing amongst the samples. C.O.T.A. appear completely out-of-step with most of the other contributors. Their trance outdoor ritual performances must be good. With completely different sentiments H8! offer 'The Hour of Hate', a slice of primitive electronics and martial snare with bawled vocal about, uh, hate. 'Project MK-Ultra' from noted death industrialists Steel Hook Prostheses create a chilling atmosphere with distorted vocals in a narrative about brain washing and mind control. 'Imminent Death' the closing piece from Deform Uniform combines light synth work with noisier elements to create a fine slice of industrial ambient.

There are overlapping members between a number of these groups, especially from those in the neo-folk genre which predominate here. While the progenitors of the genre are doing something entirely new, and unlike many of the European groups on the Steinklang label who are tapping into something more traditional, the majority of neo-folk tracks here are typically generic, flirting with military and martial themes and figures of a suspect nature. And really the title, Manifest Destiny, brings with it too many issues that really don't need to be resurrected in this day and age. It's definitely not something I want to be associated with. The handful of other contributions only gives the slightest of snapshots of American post-industrial music. So for those reasons, Manifest Destiny only provides one take on American post-industrial music and for a more balanced overview you will need to look elsewhere. For more information go to