Musk Ox - _Musk Ox_
(Independent, 2007)
by: Quentin Kalis (6.5 out of 10)
Musk Ox is the project of one Natanael Larochette, whose forte is the performance of pastoral folk akin to _Where at Night the Woodgrouse Plays_ era Empyrium or Ulver circa _Kveldssanger_. Acoustic guitars are the driving force and primary focus, but an assorted collection of instruments are utilized, including grand piano and recorder.

This subgenre of neofolk has not been exhausted; both of the aforementioned albums were significantly flawed, and thus present much opportunity for expansion within this paradigm. _Kveldssanger_ suffered from songs that were too brief and insufficiently developed, whilst Empyrium's effort was marred by simplistic songs and execrable vocals.

Musk Ox suffers from neither of these flaws: vocals are largely absent, limited to Garm-esque chanting, only more inviting, whilst his compositions are a great deal more complex than Empyrium's work. Larochette has spent eleven years studying the violin and his classical background is strongly manifested within his debut, with a strong reliance on classical finger picking, rather than jaunty melodies. However, Musk Ox has an unfortunate tendency to carry on for far too long. Fourteen minute numbers are acceptable in doom or ambient, but in this context, it sounds strained and unnecessarily drawn out. There are many fine passages, but his songs as a whole feel somewhat disjointed.

Musk Ox undeniably have their own take on this style, and Larochette has talent, but is held back by songwriting. Fortunately, that's also the easier to correct and will probably be remedied with time. At the moment though, _Musk Ox_ is a monument to unfulfilled potential.


(article published 11/3/2008)

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