I’ve got a Slavic two-for here this week, and we’re also taking it back to what I feel has become The Basics for this column: gentle, mournful, evocative folk music, this time courtesy of the Italian-by-way-of-Russia singer/songwriter/artist Kariti and her soulful debut Covered Mirrors. While we sometimes stretch our comfort zones in this space, I feel like what I need right now, with fall approaching and the air turning chill, is to vibe with something that is in my wheelhouse, and this album feels like a comfort pick for all the right reasons.
Kariti (“to mourn the dead” in Church Slavonic, of all languages) is the solo project of the wordsmith, musician and visual artist who goes only by k., who has finally begun the process of adding music to the many volumes of poetry she has written over the years with Covered Mirrors, her debut full-length release. Born in Russia, k. relocated to Italy to spend her time pursuing many different genres of art, but it was always literature and music that captivated her the most, and so she eventually turned to the guitar to help her set her words to music and blend it with her captivation with bereavement and mourning. With lyrics in both English and Russian, Covered Mirrors evokes shades of Marissa Nadler and Chelsea Wolfe’s early material, the latter especially with the gentle fingerpicked acoustic guitar, somber atmosphere and layered vocal harmonies that make up the vast majority of the songs on the record. Lyrically, Covered Mirrors draws inspiration from k.’s original writing as well as Russian folk songs and poetry and even traditional funeral singing. To top it all off, as if the mood wasn’t thick and gloomy enough, the album was recorded and produced in a secluded countryside property, which really does help solidify the funereal aesthetic running through Covered Mirrors.
The first, most prominent feature of Covered Mirrors that sticks out is k.’s voice. The base of the songs is pretty bare bones, almost exclusively made of acoustic guitar with the occasional electric or slide thrown in for mood, so it’s especially easy for her voice to be the star of the show. Light and delicate while still having power and range, the way that the various layers build on and weave in and out of each other creates something that is much greater than the sum of its parts, and feels anything but stripped down. There’s a lot of depth here, in terms of the sonic landscape as well as emotional and lyrical depth. The guitar serves to anchor the songs with a repeated, almost hypnotic pattern while the vocals trade off soaring in melody and plumbing the depths of dark, austere emotions. “Intro” opens with unsettling traditional Russian funeral singing, before “Sky Burial” takes off with an ethereal, dreamlike atmosphere running under k.’s haunting vocals. “Kybele’s Kiss” might be my favorite vocal performance on Covered Mirrors because of how simple it begins but how much becomes layered as the song goes on. “Anna (Requiem for Death)” is based on a translation of a poem by Anna Akhmatova and is surprisingly heavy thanks to the use of thick, bassy electric guitar tones. The whole album has a clear theme running through it, and it can get a tiny bit repetitive, but there’s plenty of beauty that pops out amid all the gloom to make this a memorable listen.
Folk music is just something that I naturally tend to gravitate towards. I’m quite partial these days to this particular brand of soft, haunting folk that pairs really nicely with the fact that I’ve already had Halloween decorations up for almost a month at this point. It just feels like fall, and Covered Mirrors has come to me at the perfect time for me to receive it. If you’re a fan of deep, philosophical lyrics wrapped up in a dense atmosphere and accompanied by gentle, mesmerizing guitar work then this is definitely for you too.