Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Post-folk, Defined (Sort Of)

First: What is post-folk music? Brace for disappointment if what you seek is absolute clarity. As Eustace Pendragon III -- who was, upon release of his brilliant but popularly overlooked historical revision of hurdy-gurdy subculture in 14th-century Europe, labeled by Revolving Rock magazine (now-defunct) “an essential and timeless musicologist” – would have it (and as he will elucidate further in subsequent posts), post-folk music is merely, solely, a label. Unbreakable is the habit (or, to put it pejoratively, addiction) of denominating music and those who create it. Even if done only for convenience, the practice often unfairly compartmentalizes artists, thus jeopardizing their individuality and muddling labels themselves – indeed, it is a cyclical problem. Yet we at the Bjournal, these beliefs in hand, have devoted a publication to the very practice we question. Why? If labels must exist, must be ascribed, must mean, we prefer to assist in the development of that meaning. Lest the meaning be altogether lost.

For starters, then, post-folk is an elaboration on, a reinvention of, its traditional predecessors. An obvious idea, maybe, but it becomes quickly and frustratingly uncertain when one begins to observe all the various, even innumerable elaborations both possible and actualized. How are observers to keep up? And how are those with narrative influence to assist? One method is to brush label off completely, another is to label excessively – “... Joanna Newsom has gone from strength to strength as the poster girl for the indie, alt country, post-folk crowd on the back of her much-trumpeted Ys album,” wrote a journalist in New Zealand last year. The assiduous study will do neither. He will dissect art’s elements. He will understand the synergy between what is new and what is appropriated. He will discuss it and label it accordingly. In short, he will call it like it is, because he is fucking qualified. Again, and without further ado, welcome to the Bjournal, and read on.

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