While The Narrow Garden would probably get dumped in the “classical” rack at a record store—if those stil existed—violinist-composer Eyvind Kang comes to his solo material from a region as far removed as you might imagine: black metal. It was with high-volume drone artists Boris and Sunn O))) that Kang really established himself, amid collaborations with Mr. Bungle, John Zorn and Animal Collective. Over 15 years, though, Kang has produced a sizable body of his own work that dabbles in a number of genres and forms, as well as unexplained esoteric concepts like the “NADE.”
There’s no mention of the NADE in The Narrow Garden but the ethereal, Eastern-influenced record is esoteric in both form and content. From the regal promenade of strings and woodwinds on “Forest Sama’i” through to closing Indian march “Invisus Natalis,” The Narrow Garden might be taken as one long “hero’s journey,” in the parlance of mythologist Joseph Campbell. Early reviewers have commented on the soundtracky feel the record puts forth, even appealing to filmmakers to consider using tracks, but the narrative is already in place. With “Forest” and “Pure Nothing,” our unnamed hero sets out in archtypal fashion from his familiar home of theme and melody. With “Usnea” and “Mineralia,” he encounters the unknown and perhaps suffers the dissolution of ego. In the titular track, the eery atonal nature of the prior tracks rematerializes in form, perhaps illustrating a type of discovery and rebirth. With the tuneful “Nobis Natalis,” there is atonement and with “Invisus” return.
Famously cryptic, Kang would never confess to this sort of scheme, but he has admitted that the record’s themes have been floating around since the mid-’90s, finally coming to fruition spontaneously (mystically?) at a pond on Washington’s Vashon Island.