Johan G. Winther - The Rupturing Sowle

26 Apr 2021 - Thorsten

Melodic-Dark-Folk | Pelagic Records | Release date: 26 Mar 2021

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What do Scraps of Tape, Barrens and Blessings have in common? What is the shared denominator between the Rock band, the Post-Rock newcomers and the Blackened-Hardcore outfit? They all release or have released on Pelagic Records, yes! But did you know that they are all powered by the same mastermind? And that guy has recently released a new solo thing.

Sometimes it can be (too) hard to see the connections between bands and in the case of Johan G. Winther, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, it literally makes no sense as there is hardly any connection other than the fact that one and the same guy now shows his ability to create highly charged dark folk with ambient and drone elements. To clarify that combination a bit more: Imagine a mix of Wovenhand (minus David’s magical voice) and Wreckmeister Harmonies on the one hand and Sigur Ros and ef on the other. This record has grandeur and patina, style and decay – but it is always moody and the most frequent color is some form of golden-brown hue. Like the picture from (seemingly) decades ago on the cover of The Rupturing Sowle that shows a house with a man in front of it, the colors of the picture all fading and corroded. Interesting is also the near-absence of any human on the picture (similar to a human voice missing from the album): The man is nearly lost in front of that typical wooden cabin somewhere in the Swedish countryside. One tends to first not see the man because only a few parts of him and his clothing don’t blend with the dark wood behind him.

Musically, this record does a lot of things right and one could be the lack of vocals; because of it one listens even more closely to the music and the single instruments. The most dominating ones are the accordion and the cello, with the first giving the record some shanty-like quality, as if we were listening to the sailor stranded in the middle of the forest who has no idea where to go and what to do. The cello is very often used to introduce a song and its idea before ambient or drone parts overlap and finally dominate it (exemplary would be the title track which ends in a wall of white noise). However, sometimes the tracks are also build on some pretty jazzy uptempo part as in “Blacken The World” with both instruments now only adding some final touches to a track whose mellow flow is based (seemingly) on the tombs and the click-beats played on the rims and the sticks themselves. The way that Johan G. Winther is able to structure the songs provides one with the wonderful chance to wander off in your head into a timeless place somewhere out in the woods.

Johan says that, for him, the songs are dealing with the duality of light and dark, of good and bad, and the fact that we all carry bits of both in us. And this duality is what he thinks is the “rupturing soul” (never mind the old-fashioned spelling) – the way that our character can be warm, mellow and soothing right now and dark, intruding and dangerous in the very next moment. A very interesting yet also highly difficult idea because isn’t that also in some way some definition for a “classic” sociopath? The extreme mood swings and the unpredictability. In some ways this idea might not do the record justice because if there is one thing that it surely is not, then it is dangerous.

Interestingly many songs on the record are based on a record of the same name which was released in 2013. This version now has some more songs and a packaging to die for with the thick high-quality paper and wonderful merging of colors, images and music. This re-release is definitely deserved because it would have been a shame not to give more exposure to an album like an unintended travel through time and space to a place where being at peace with yourself is really important for otherwise one cannot stand the small attacks (like in “Evighetstonen”). You have to be able to blend in with your surroundings.

It remains to be seen if Johan will now be recognized more often, maybe not on the streets but in our little circle of friends, for he really is an enigmatic songwriter who shows that his solo stuff is as interesting as his bands’.