I can’t remember when (if ever) I went so quickly from not knowing about a band to falling head over heels for its music. Just recently, a fellow writer recommended this album, referencing Raphael Weinroth-Browne as part of the pitch. Even though it was the first time I heard mention of Musk Ox, I was pretty much sold as I already love Worlds Within from Weinroth-Browne. I think it took mere minutes until I was practically under the spell of Inheritance. Now this album will be in casual rotation in my playlist.
I never knew I needed an album like this in my life — at least on most levels. It scratches so many kinds of musical itches it’s just crazy. It also delivers emotionally on just as many levels, if not more. As I listen to it again, while I’m writing this, I feel like I find new ways of putting it into perspectives — as opposed to the usual situation where I just unearth additional details or layers. All the layers are already there, there’s just three of them. Even so, the textures feel full as if it’s a legitimate chamber orchestra playing.
Musk Ox is made up of Nathanael Larochette on classical guitar and Evan Runge on violin, alongside the aforementioned Weinroth-Browne on cello. Together, they clearly have something special going on here. Each of them seems to be in sync with the other in a way that feels boundless in performance and composition. This in turn helps create the astonishingly organic and laminar flow of the record: so much so that the entire album feels like one extended song.
It is simply bewildering that such an expansive yet, somehow, simultaneously minimalist sound exudes from a mere three instruments with such potency. Musk Ox seem to take from orchestral qualities, while adapting them into a folk setting with a progressive heart and an open mind. The result is a genreless, nay, stylistically transcendent work which will stop at no point to deliver its poignant message to any and all listeners.
Inheritance is also a long-sought follow-up to Woodfall, which was released seven years prior. I think it is definitely worth the wait for all those who actually had to wait this long. I know that if this is the end result, I wouldn’t mind waiting another seven years for such an album. Inheritance bears rather normal physical qualities, spanning a solid 48 minutes, being divided into five songs — although I don’t really see why the title track, “Inheritance”, was split in two, but I’m just nitpicking here.
Speaking of “Inheritance”, it makes up for well over a third of the action in a lot of ways. “Inheritance (Part 1 – Premonition)” opens the journey with a sullen yet tender atmosphere, which is articulated with a wide and sweet bowing, heavily hinting that its title wasn’t accidental, warning us that right ahead lies something. “Inheritance (Part 2 – Hindsight)” kicks us into the midst of what we will be mostly experiencing. It gently takes from the footsteps of its predecessor and continues to speak in a similarly sweet tone, so as to not disrupt us. Advancing slowly, we are eased into the drama. Progressively, we are shown a turmoil, anguish, melancholy, and bitterness which are so beautifully illustrated that they almost feign the appearance of their counterparts. Around and through the thirteenth minute of our epic, we reach the thunderous climax of this segment, from which we are enigmatically led ahead.
“Memoriam” dives directly into the heartfelt part of the trip, taking us through lush places and calming textures, emanating a strong nostalgic overtone which permeates every moment of this. This kind of ties into how usually there’s always peace after difficulties and how a resolution will eventually eat its way through destitution. With a lively and ominous start, “Ritual” makes us step into unknown territories with just enough familiarity to remain unstartled. It feels as if it is literally showing us the landscape which is featured on the album art… as if trying to create a palpable bridge between what can be a wilted inner space to a real life outer space which is similarly barren. As the suspenseful delivery ties this segment up, we arrive at what is an adroit denouement.
Oozing with soft and bright colors, “Weightless” concludes our journey. Filled to the brim with hopeful overtones, it creates the physical complement to what “Rituals” has started and what the others have iterated overall. As the parallels are drawn, it is clear that what we witness is not simply redemption or salvation. It is so much more than that: it is the human essence, bare and distilled in all its glory, capable of resilience, compassion, love and so much more. I can almost see the metaphysical sparks scintillating from beneath a darkened backdrop, which stands as a visual complement.
Musk Ox’ Inheritance is a purgative monolith which speaks volumes — ineffable, anthemic volumes. The breadth and nuance of this whole affair is breathtaking to say the least, while the rich, poignant, and full-bodied string of sound which radiates outwards from it is simply awe-inspiring.