An introduction to Denovali Records Part 1

Updated: Jun 21, 2019

Denovali 001 was released on the 12th May 2006. To celebrate 13 years of existence, going from a small imprint to a world leader in underground music, our founder has selected thirteen (out of the 300+ titles in their catalog) of his favorite releases that are still in print and available from the Quiet Calm Records store. The first six are featured below with the second set of six to be released on the 13th to commemorate the anniversary.

Denovali has been our favorite label here at Quiet Calm Records ever since we first discovered it's treasure trove of releases way back in 2010. Our first foray into their extensive catalog came via the self-titled album by Bersarin Quartet (an album that still to this day is one of our all-time favorites and is on constant rotation). The label was started in 2005 and has, over the past decade, cemented itself as the gold standard. Their dedication to presenting not just amazing works of music but also profoundly beautiful sleeves and inserts make every release a true work of art without compare.

If you are not familiar to the label we highly recommend you dive in with these titles and add them to your collection they will be on constant rotation and will become the titles against which all others are measured.

Denovali 039 Blueneck - The Fallen Host

2019 will mark the 10th anniversary of Blueneck's second LP that was beautifully pressed on double gatefold 10' before being repressed on clear 12' in 2011. Hailing from the UK, to me they represent the finest post-rock around utilizing Slide Guitar, Cello, Piano and Strings in often 9 min+ long epics. Released originally in 2009 on 2x10' before being repressed in 2011 The Fallen Host contains what is jokingly referred to as the bands one hit wonder. The track 'Lilitu' boasts over 4 million plays on youtube and comment streams devoted to arguing about the meaning of the lyrics (very interesting reading). The popularity is for good reason, the piece is a monument to post-rock. It soars to the highest heights and just keeps going, the flow of all the sounds is seamless. It is quite simply – Epic from start to finish. I listened to 'Lilitu' about 200 times in the space of about three weeks, it was pre Denovali Swingfest 2012 and I was unfamiliar with the bands sound. I grabbed a vinyl of The Fallen Host and was just blown away.

I became obsessed with Blueneck, just destroying 'The Fallen Host' with so so so many listens. I remember reading the artist Kreng say in an interview with Headphone Commute: "I’ve been listening to too much music in a manner that is way too intense for anyone to cope with” that's how I handled Blueneck. I was living in Toronto at the time & I can't help but have memories of that city flood back to me whenever I spin the crystal vinyl on my turntable. Seeing them live was just incredible, during the performance of 'Low' fellow label mate and Pianist extraordinaire Carlos Cipa came out and smashed away on the ivory enhancing the song beyond its already immense state. Purchase The Fallen Host on vinyl here.

Denovali 115 Birds of Passage - Winter Lady

Hailing from the same end of the world as yours truly, New Zealander Alicia Merz creates haunting dark drone infused folk with the repertoire of five albums, all of which are on Denovali. Originally released in 2011 repressed in 2018 (along with with the rest of her back catalog) Winter Lady is a deep and dark world that evokes early Grouper. Each piece has a fragility and minimalism to it that is hard to compare or emulate. Winter Lady stands as my favorite from her but by no means is it here standout album. Her most recent effort 'The Death of our Invention' showed that almost a decade on from her debut she can still tear at the heart. Of course, the reason I pick 'Winter Lady' from her very epic discography is the two tracks I feature above and below. 'Highwaymen in Midnight Masks' is an almost 10 min long drone wrapped ballad recalling the long-form epic poems of old. The track was also beautifully packaged in 10' from Denovali. 'Hollow' is one of the most desolate lyrical numbers you are ever to hear and I always include in mixes that have reached a point of absolute minimalism. Both pieces are cemented in my mind as the gold standard of Dark Folk and the ones that I always show off to impress my friends who indulge that genre. Purchase Winter Lady on vinyl here.

Denovali 118 Subheim - Approach

A work that pushed the dark downtempo & deep bass genre immensely forward when it first dropped 'Approach' still to this day pulls you in with its massive gravity. Originally released on the now sadly defunct Tympanik imprint Denovali resurrected this masterwork by pressing it in glorious gatefold vinyl in 2011. Subheim has been living in Berlin for the last few years but was residing in his home city of Athens when 'Approach' was created. It is a dark downtempo tome with sporadic vocal interludes from Katja. The reworks that close the wax out are in the form of what some would refer to as death dub (from Mobthrow) and psy-downtempo from Flaque. Combining string works and deep bass Subheim succeeded in creating a masterful debut that has since been followed by four follow-ups on wax (the latest three being on Denovali). He has a very highly anticipated new album set for release on the label later this year. Purchase Approach on vinyl here.

Denovali 132 Saffronkeira - s/t

Saffronkeira's s/t'd 10' was the first of many releases on Denovali and one that foretold of what was to come. Split over two sides of a 10 inch are two long-form drone and dark ambient tracks with titles about as dark as they come. 'Endless agony of being sick' is a tense slow burning haunting story of the journey one goes through when illness grips. I will always remember driving darkened roads through Switzerland when I rotate that side of the wax. The sparse hammering drum beats the punctuate the flowing atmospherics are like waves of illness flowing through a sick body. Slowly what seems like the sounds of a hospital ward loop into the ears before female chanting pulls the listener the rest of the journey. A tight sense of dread is inherent throughout solidifying the piece as a masterwork of dark ambiance and one that could be used as a great introductory piece to someone unfamiliar with the genre. Requiem for a dream brings to mind some of the darker scenes of the film of the same name and, whilst starting slowly the piece builds to a reduced piano atmosphere which always leaves me wanting more. Fortunately, the great folks at Denovali didn't stop at just releasing this 10' from the maestro and a quick scroll down to the end of this post will find Saffronkeira's latest release. Still, after a decade the Sardinian master of electronic research is showing everyone else how to put together epic soundscapes. Purchase Saffronkeira's debut 10' on vinyl here.

Denovali 157 The Alvaret Ensemble - s/t

The Alvaret Ensemble are Greg Haines, Jan & Romke Kleefstra, and Sytze Pruiksma. Together they produce experimentally focused classical music with an infusion of poetic spoken word in the Frisian language. When The Alvaret Ensemble gathered together in the Grunewald church in Berlin and spent some time improvising the pieces that would eventually end up on their self-titled debut on Denovali Neo-Classical music as a genre was still in its infancy. I remember listening to the LP and thinking, here was a example of the genre that for once could be found outside of the hallowed halls of Erased Tapes. Interestingly Nils Frahm was at the improv sessions yet all his pieces were cut from the final LP (although true fans will never forget when he joined them on stage during their performance at the Denovali Swingfest in Essen and started smashing the Ivory with Greg Haines). Originally released in 2012 and subsequently followed by a second LP a few years later the LP really has complexity and fullness that makes me think that it will never sound dated or lose its cavernous wonder, Each piece has a life of its own (as with all works by the Kleefstra Bros). Moving from immensely minimal soft piano-driven numbers to the whirlwind noisy string wrapped pieces the LP sits firmly as one of my top three favorite releases on Denovalis catalog and rumors of another LP from the ensemble are very welcome and exciting to my ears