Fans of folk tales, intense keys, and hard hitting basslines rejoice! The Chronicles of Father Robin have released ‘The Songs and Tales of Airoea’, the first of their upcoming three part trilogy of albums, and it leaves us wanting nothing aside from the subsequent two releases. We dive into the mystical world of Father Robin, and traverse across the land of Airoea, through tales woven together by the influence of 1970’s – 1990’s sound, accented by rich vocal performances and the magic of mythology. This is a tale you do not want to miss.
Artist: The Chronicles of Father Robin
Release Title: The Songs & Tales of Airoea – Book 1
Label: The Old Oak Records / Karisma Records
Release Date: September 15, 2023
Location: Oslo, Norway
Digital Price: €14 EUR
If this release was a colour: Burnt Orange, Hunter Green
Length: 46m15s? (I think I did that math correctly!)
Written by V. Joyce
From Oslo, Norway, The Chronicles of Father Robin herald their collective as a ‘seven headed creature’ playing their own special blend of psych, prog, vintage, and folk rock. They are a construct of members from a variety of Norwegian musical projects, including Wobbler, Tusmørke, Jordsjø and The Samuel Jackson Five. I find ‘seven headed creature’ to be an apt descriptor, considering the absolutely otherworldly sound they’ve managed to create on their latest release, ‘The Songs & Tales of Airoea – Book 1.’
The blending of influences, voices, and instrumental textures has created an absolutely otherworldly hydra of sound. I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy centric media; films, games, and themed music alike. Nothing quite hits like a good bard’s tale, and Father Robin have managed to scratch that itch with their rich, colourful melodies and beautiful lyricism while keeping grounded in the present day with strong basslines and complex rhythms. It is worth noting that this release (and the two subsequent releases to come) are evidently a deep labor of love, being almost 30 years in the making. This album leaves absolutely nothing to be desired, aside from the release of the rest of the trilogy. Though this has been my first experience with the music of The Chronicles of Father Robin, I can say with confidence that I will be coming back for more. With that, let’s dive into The Songs & Tales of Airoea – Book 1.
We open with a prologue, sitting at just over a minute at 1:07. We are wandering through a woodland, with whisper of the ocean at our backs as we traverse over dry grass and leaves. Slowly, we hear evidence of life; of instruments drawing nearer and nearer. The inclusion of this soundscape on the album seems almost crucial to the worldbuilding to come, and as we step into what I imagine may be a tavern, through a creaky wooden door, we are welcomed into the world of Father Robin.
We’ve arrived just in time to hear a bard’s epic recounting of ‘The Tale of Father Robin’, with a strong oom-pa bassline and the twinkling of a harpsichord accenting the absolutely velvety, airy voice of lead vocalist Andreas Prestmo. We learn of Father Robin, who lives in a mighty tree, and is heralded as the “prince of day and light, and the brother of the night.” We get some exposition here, and have the opportunity to build an image of Father Robin on our own accord, which I really enjoy. This track, though short at 1:16, provides us with some background information, and sets the tone for the tracks to follow.
‘Eleision Forest’, which was the preceding single to The Songs & Tales of Airoea, almost feels like a continuation of the previous track, the sounds of the two blurring together even after a small gap of silence. I would compare it to taking a breath between two sentences of a story: This is Father Robin…And this is where he lives. A caesura in a sonnet, if you will. It hits hard and hits quickly, the lyrics painting a detailed image of the forest, which we may assume to be the home of Father Robin. It feels like a fly-over of the land, and we come upon scene after scene of the forest’s inhabitants. A verse I find particularly notable in terms of imagery is “We can see the morning children picking / Flowers to the sun, dancing on the edge / Laughing at the pale blue sky.” There are so many aspects to this track that deserve praise, including but not limited to the floaty accompanying vocals of Aleksandra Morozova, and the masterful keys and flute that are dispersed throughout. At 11:57, this track is lengthy, but not wastefully so by any means.
We follow with ‘Death of the Fair Maiden’, which has a driving start, but soon dissolves into a lament; a plea to Father Moon to help locate a maiden who has gone missing, much to her lover’s dismay. Could this be Father Robin’s love? At 3:47, our percussion melds into a march, accenting by an almost inquisitive bassline. We can feel our narrator searching as he calls out again to Father Moon, the swell of keys building the tension before we get release in a woeful harmony at 4:38. We settle back into our regular rhythm before being gifted with those punchy keys and gritty guitar once again. It is at 5:56 that this track takes off, melody and rhythm guitar acting in tandem with skillful riffs until the end of the track, ringing out and leaving space before our next tale.
‘Twilight Fields’ is an absolute treat, and admittedly my favourite track on the album opening softly with eerie, haunting keys and guitar riffs. Where exactly are we? A trilling flute calls a change of pace, before we settle into a more meandering walk at 2:28. The scene is set, in what I imagine is a land dark and foggy, with stars littering a purple sky. We learn that ‘The Council of the Elders’ are celebrating merrily here, along with some other guests. At 5:25, we hear what I can only describe as a music box, which I think further validates our nighttime motif, and this being an almost haunting lullaby, despite the creepily jovial description of the party being held. It feels as if we’ve stumbled onto a gathering of eldritch horrors. The song goes through so many amazing and subsequent shifts, twisting like the tentacles of an octopus–very fluid, and almost alive. I hesitate to describe it beyond this, as I feel it is best experienced firsthand. At 15:24, this is the longest song on the album.
We close the book on our last track ‘Unicorn’. This song is resplendent, for lack of a better word. It is so beautifully textured, and really solidifies the vintage/folk rock sound that The Chronicles of Father Robin has aimed for. The name here is very fitting to me, as it feels as if it belongs alongside America’s ‘The Last Unicorn’, on the soundtrack to the film itself. Additionally, I find it worth mentioning that Andreas’ vocal performance here is my favourite on the album. The strength and warmth of his tone really envelops and lifts the track, and I find it comparable to many of Robin Pecknold’s performances as lead vocalist of Fleet Foxes. The flute work on this track, courtesy of Kristoffer Momrak heavily contributes to the whimsy. The song shifts into something intense, gritty, and psychedelic, before ringing out, signaling the end of our journey into Airoea…for now.
Each song on this album was its own story–it’s own tale, so richly detailed and damasked in whimsy. I cannot thank The Chronicles of Father Robin enough for letting this out into the world. I highly recommend giving this release a listen, or two, or a hundred, especially if you’re a fan of the traditional sounds of 1970’s rock. Father Robin’s influences shine through, and they have harnessed them into something bigger than just an album–they’ve built an entire world for us to dive into. I can’t wait to see what Books 2 and 3 will have in store for us.
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