Tissø Lake – Paths to the Foss

Album Review by Jamie Bowman | 08 Dec 2016
Album title: Paths to the Foss
Artist: Tissø Lake
Label: ITLAN
Release date: 17 Dec

Paths to the Foss, the new album by Tissø Lake, is a beautiful, fragile thing, which feels more like some ancient artefact than something as tangible as a collection of songs. 

Ian Humberstone, the man behind Tissø Lake, has form in this field. Humberstone co-founded the Folklore Tapes label in 2011, releasing the soon sold-out (and much coveted) Songs for Mariann Voaden – a largely instrumental sonic history of a 19th century Devonshire witch in rich analogue drones, which came in a cassette tape housed in a hollowed out hardback book. Last year came the Black Dog Traditions of England, a year-long undertaking delving deep into the lore of black dog phantoms which featured site-specific field-recordings and original audio of local storytellers spinning out black dog yarns. 

Paths to the Foss is a set of songs (and three instrumentals) influenced by Humberstone's stay close to Øvsthusfossen, a thundering Norwegian waterfall hidden among shivering pines. Much of it was written in 2013, when Humberstone lived close by the sheer waters working as a farmhand.

As a result, the album feels about as close to nature as it's possible to get as Humberstone's rich, deep voice sings of 'moss on the ground' while a slightly pagan-sounding mix of fiddles, gently plucked guitar and brushed drums swells and tumbles in the background. 

The effect on the listener is one of beatific satisfaction as we follow Humberstone through his working day, and the rhythms and distractions which fill the gaps. It's intimate and dreamy in the way that recalls such other meditative classics as Virginia Astley's From Gardens Where We Feel Secure and John Martyn's One World. Like them, Humberstone is no mere ambient noodler. These songs are melodically rich and varied; mood pieces in the truest sense of the term.

Listen to: Paths to the Foss, When Work Is Done