record cover for Adam Geoffrey Cole's album Fallowing with a black and white photo of a castle on a hill
The cover art for Adam Geoffrey Cole’s album Fallowing. Credit: Courtesy the artist

I’ve never understood exactly why I respond to sea shanties, jigs, and British Isles folk of yore. Maybe something in my eastern European genetic makeup makes me long for ancient traditions, whether I have any connection to them or not; maybe it stems from my childhood love of mythological sea monsters. Whatever the reason, my soul simply vibrates to the strains of Celtic folk, and I love the new album from Australian songwriter Adam Geoffrey Cole. Its title, Fallowing, is perfect for Cole’s earthy song cycle—it comes from crop rotation, where to “fallow” land is to plow and harrow it without planting, to help restore its fertility. Legit psychedelic music can transport you to a different place, and in that sense this is acid folk of the highest order. Cole’s ritualistic music sounds at once modern and ancient, and it casts a spell that feels like a religious trance. On Fallowing he solemnly ruminates on a theme while gazing to the heavens from a grassy highland that overlooks the sea of consciousness. 

With pained but austere melodies, wheezing harmonium, and several types of vibrating strings—intricate guitar, prickly dulcimer, melancholy violin—Cole invites the listener into a delirious but stately ceremony. I won’t demean his music by calling it “folk horror” (a currently trendy term) or even “pagan folk,” because Fallowing has a serene beauty not usually found in either of those—if you absolutely need a label, try “gnostic folk,” which at least honors its mystical and spiritual feel. Cole has earned accolades in the band Trappist Afterland, which has been releasing elemental albums on UK labels such as Sunstone and Sugarbush since 2012. He’s also gotten props from fellow primordial-minded bards, among them true Christian pagan David Tibet of Current 93, folk goddess Alison O’Donnell of OG Celtic proggers Mellow Candle, and elegiac Chicago tunesmith Chris Connelly. When I give myself over to this intoxicating LP, I can feel my whole life and echoes of generations past flow by. Fans of the likes of Anne Briggs, “Witchwood”-era Strawbs, Alasdair Roberts, the Watersons, and Simon Finn will find much on Fallowing into which they can submerge their being, and perhaps they’ll have their own epiphanies in the days to come.

Vinyl and CD-R editions of Fallowing are available from Cole’s Bandcamp.