August 7, 2021 — Hailing from rural Siberia, NYTT LAND’s ancestral connections to Norse mythology remain uncertain at best. But, when it comes to the assertion that identity equates to authenticity, the artist trio who forms the eclectic NYTT LAND dispels that notion entirely.
“NYTT LAND’s greatest creative strength lies in its ability to deploy a wide cultural and sonic arsenal whilst creating a linear sonic narrative that can carry the listener from start to finish.”
NYTT LAND’s immersion in Norse culture is a matter of absolutes, crafting soundscapes every bit as involved and well-researched as the likes of Heilung or Wardruna (from whom they admit to having taken many cues, particularly in their early days). Incorporating strong motifs of mysticism and naturism (i.e. the notion of respect and reverence for nature, not to be mixed up with its association with nudism) alongside the usual mythological backdrops familiar to the wider Norse folk genre, NYTT LAND have cannily utilized a combination of historical tradition and pop culture imagination to earn their own place in the pantheon of neofolk artists to break through to global audiences.
Initially formed as a side-project to folk act Ylande, NYTT LAND have forged their sonic identity across six immersive Norse folk album explorations. Initially taking their cues from Wardruna, the band has learned from the best in the game as to how to craft texturally rich compositions while also using shows like Vikings to further world build and craft near-spiritual experiences. While it is unlikely actual Vikings ever made it so far east as Siberia (with many scholars even debating the use of the terminology ‘Viking’ as distinctive purely to Scandinavian settlers or to the raider warriors so revered in pop culture), it is true that around 500 years before the Viking Age came about, there was a Kingdom at the edge of the Lop Desert in present-day China (along the ancient silk road) called Loulan, where woodwork has been found that date from the 300s AD and show clear Western influences (the nearby Gobi desert show signs of Celtic-clothed settlers by way of Scythian mummies — that predate the Chinese in the area by 2000 years.) NYTT LAND nonetheless draws on the similarities in Siberia’s own traditional customs as a way of further intertwining their own sense of inherited tradition to the Nordic folk framework.
Their seventh record in as many years as a band, Ritual shows that NYTT LAND’s well of inspiration is far from dry. The interplay between throat singing and percussion creates a dark sonic motif that runs throughout the record, its title an appropriate representation of the hypnotic effect it has on the listener. While the group has always been up-front about the ritualistic nature of their music, the album affects a sense of almost shamanistic abandon to its core sound.
Songs will often maintain a core metronome that steadily becomes more intense as it progresses until eventually the listener is entirely sucked in and the composition becomes almost mesmeric in nature. Take the percussive “engine” at the heart of ‘The Fires of Ragnarok’ — ever-present throughout the piece, they set the pace for the song and steadily build-out until they almost echo a heartbeat. A little over the two-minute mark, the pace suddenly becomes frantic — the steady drone of throat singing instantly takes on a cadence of urgency, but rather than become a jarring transition in the same way such increases might be utilized in a genre like thrash metal (or even classical), here it summons a sense of disconnect that feels like plunging into the depths of a sonic pool.
Spartan sensibilities or subtle arrangement?
NYTT LAND’s compositions tread the precarious line between minimalism and Wardruna-style near orchestral arrangement. At a glance, their music maintains a simplicity that suggests as little sonic clutter as physically possible, but then songs like ‘The Birth of a Shaman’ and ‘Dead Man’s Dance’ breeze through, and once held up to the light of day — become more expansive in scope.
Ever-present percussion and layered vocal patterns draw the attention, but it is the use of traditional string and wind instruments that most elevate the compositions, bridging the gap between traditional music as entertainment and the role it could play in ritualistic ceremonies. Ultimately, maximalism seems to win out – the likes of ‘U-Gra’ seem to have a litany of faint instrumental parts threaded in beneath the main percussion/throat singing display, artfully maneuvering to keep the attention fixed on the dramatic ‘spotlight’ in the song whilst providing a greater sense of depth.
The Norse/Siberian Connection
Though focused within the Norse-folk framework (and therefore using the “usual” hallmarks and cultural touchstones), NYTT LAND manages to incorporate some of their own cultural bleeds into the scene. “U-Gra” itself utilizes the Norse proclivity for spirits and mythological beings to explore a story centered on the Khanty, an indigenous people of Siberia. The song’s pervasive throat singing draws on cultural traditions from the east, while mournful strings evoke the epic craft of neofolk acts like Danheim or Myrkur as a way of communicating a story even amidst language barriers.
Out of 10
- The quasi-religious approach of Nytt Land lends the record a sense of importance and drama.
- Ritual lives up to its name by sucking the listener in completely – this is an album easy to get lost in.
- The record treats repeat listens as more elements emerge in the background as the listener dives deeper.
- The production at times feels a little overly clean; for a band so immersed in nature and rural settings, the output feels almost sterile when put to record.
NYTT LAND’s greatest creative strength lies in its ability to deploy a wide cultural and sonic arsenal whilst creating a linear sonic narrative that can carry the listener from start to finish. Consumed linearly as a full album, Ritual builds intensity whilst not venturing too far from its core percussively driven motif, but even when broken down into its constituent parts, each song has a sense of hypnotic intensity that commands attention. While perhaps unlikely to oust the likes of Wardruna and Heilung as one of Nordic folk’s biggest breakthrough acts, NYTT LAND nonetheless possesses a unique, ritualistic theatrical approach that for sure is deserving of celebration.
Ritual is out now on Napalm Records where a vinyl release and new merch can be obtained. The new album can also be purchased or streamed from NYTT LAND’s Bandcamp page. We have added our favorite songs to the Kurgan Compass™ Spotify playlist — reserved only for the best, newly released neofolk music.
Also, NYTT LAND will be performing Ritual as part of a novel, ritualistic live stream set to premiere on August 13 at 8:00 PM CET/2:00 PM EDT. Use this YouTube link to set a reminder.