Release year: 2021
You can hardly be faulted for asking “Kaelte who?” – this German neofolk act aren’t household names even in the neofolk scene. I don’t have any recollection of how I first discovered them, but throughout the years I’ve checked out a track here and a track there and certainly not disliked what I heard. For some reason, however, I never ended up picking up any of their several releases.
So, when the band put out this, a self-released 16-track compilation of re-recorded versions (or is that remastered? – the description on their Bandcamp is in German, and my German ain’t that good) of some of their personal favourite Kaelte tunes, it was a pretty obvious purchase. With a running time of over 70 minutes, this is definitely a good introduction to the band.
To put it simply, Kaelte’s style is for the most part pretty standard neofolk with a definite German spin to the sound. It’s not just the lyrics, which are entirely in German, as they have some of that far more abstract German spirit that artists such as Darkwood also have. There’s the same kind of almost tender sadness to many of the tracks.
Musically, the standard blueprint of singer-songwriter neofolk, a voice and an acoustic guitar, is at the centre here. There’s nary a track whose core doesn’t consists of this, although many are augmented by synths, electric guitar, piano, accordion or sparse drumming. The role of these is, however, very clearly to provide support, and the focus is on the aforementioned classic formula of neofolk music.
Some songs have slightly unusual inflections, such as Auf Dem Schiff‘s flamenco-tinted guitarwork, but for the most part arrangements on Lieblingslieder are quite middle-of-the-road neofolk. Stylewise, Kaelte are not the most individual and unique artist.
However, lack of originality does not mean failure. It is but one of the many dimensions that constitute good music. In terms of musical quality, Kaelte fares better. There are many songs here that are good exponents of prime neofolk, echoing German compatriots and the likes of Death In June. Perhaps intentionally, one of the most traditional and at the same time one of the strongest tracks, In Der Hallen, opens up the album, and instantly sets the tone.
Admittedly, it is somewhat hard to keep up enthusiasm for the entire duration of the album. Sixteen tracks and 71 minutes of music is a lot to take in at once. The massive nature of the release does in some ways the music a disservice, throwing so much at the listener his or her attention will likely start drifting off before the end.
That drawback notwithstanding, Lieblingslieder is a fine introduction to Kaelte’s melancholy take on neofolk. Judging by this release, it is obvious to me why the duo have never risen to the higher rungs of the German neofolk scene – but it does seem strange that they are as little recognized as they are.
I mean, there are certainly far less interesting neofolk acts out there that get more attention.
Summary: A good introduction to Kaelte’s brand of German neofolk.