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Iztok Koren – Lonely Hymns and Pillars of Emptiness

Pre-order: Estimated arrival Nov. 10, 2020

The debut release by Slovenian musical polymath Iztok Koren, best known for his work in avantefolk outfits Širom, Škm banda and Hexenbrutal. Made in the heat of 2020’s lockdown, Iztok transmutes the intensity of the period into 6 pieces that sensitively unfurl over time. With various stringed instruments and field recordings in hand, he weaves his interests in Slovenian mysticism, ancient Chinese divination texts, his family and his new found love of nature, revealing an intimate snapshot of life up-close.

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All compositions by Iztok Koren: banjo, prepared 3-string banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, field recordings

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Recorded and mixed by Chris Eckman, 15th august 2020
Mastered by Dejan Lapanja

Cover art by Tina Konec
Design Oli Barrett
November, 2020
Iztok Koren website 
Iztok Koren Facebook 

Tracklisting:

1. Sometimes My Heart Bleeds For No Reason
2. Fire Is Armor
3. The Plain Does Not Give Way
4. Banal And Evil, Corroded By Hope
5. The Euphoria of The End
6. Eternal Autumn

Iztok Koren's introduction to ’Lonely Hymns and Pillars of Emptiness’:


Since 2000 i've been active in several bands and projects (Širom, Škm banda, Hexenbrutal etc.), but this is the first time i’ve released any solo material.

During spring lockdown 2020 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, I created six compositions for banjo, prepared 3-string banjo, acoustic guitar and field recordings. I carved material at home in my bathroom. That was the only place where I didn't bother my partner and two years old daughter during their sleep. Luckily the acoustics were great.

The idea for a solo project matured over several years, but the final push to bring it into fruition was courtesy of my friend Raphael Roginski. His encouragement to take this step gave me faith and boosted my motivation. 

The initial inspiration for the music came from contemplating the possibilities of overcoming my feelings of selfishness, stubbornness, anger, guilt, regret and envy, and reading ancient Chinese text Yi Jing. A big inspiration also came from the melancholic mysticism of flatland Prekmurje (northeast part of Slovenia, close to Hungary) where I was born and spent my childhood: a place which has always aroused feelings of nostalgia, homesickness and splitness for me.

Lockdown in spring was crucial for finalizing my album. That period was very strange. I had a feeling that my life was shrinking into a small bubble. Different aspects of daily living started to coexist and influence one another. Feelings and moods shifted very fast: Job, family life, intimate partner life, free time, time to relax, time for music etc. All these different parts of daily life could take place in a period of just a half an hour. That was very new for me.

With the creation process of this album I tried to grasp and hold onto feelings of being present, to be "here and now", to accept my new reality, but also to be away from the everyday pressure of bad news, worries about the future, and heaviness of emerging existential questions. I thought a lot about the insignificance of human existence and tried to inhabit a more non anthropocentric and holistic view on nature. Everything is part of nature - which will always find its balance - but this balance may not be good for humans. And perhaps it’s ok like this. When I learned this, I felt humility and humbleness emerge within me.

When living space and movement is shrunken, one can start to see new life emerged in what before might have seemed rather boring or insignificant. For example, how daylight changes and paints different color shades on the wall at different time of the day. Or how certain weather influences on how plants in the garden and soil smell. Or how sounds of neighbours children playing resonates in some places differently depending also on the wind blowing and air pressure. Or seeing beauty in geometrical patterns in constellations of electric wires. Or echoing sound of lonely train in empty city, or smell of hair after long walk, or dissonant music of creaking stairs, or the special sound of a daughter's voice when she's just woken up. All those new sensations built for me new mental images, which filled my mind during the creation process, and also became material for the songs.

As part of the album I included field recordings which were all taken during the spring and summer of 2020, except the excerpt of an interview with my uncle included in The Plain Does Not Give Way. My uncle lives in a small village in Prekmurje region, living a very ascetic life full of sacrifice, renunciation and deep faith. I talked with him about local folklore, myths and stories about witches and ghosts. During the conversation there was one very interesting part where he was talking about 10 signs which will announce forthcoming apocalypse. One of those signs started to appear recently in his dreams. That interview took place in beggining of 2019.

Then spring lockdown in Slovenia was over and I was able to go into the studio. With Chris Eckman as a producer I recorded in one day (15th august 2020) six partly improvised compositions. That recording process was very intense for me. I felt a big emptiness after the session and I didn't touch my instruments for a month. Luckily my energy now came back and I'm looking forward to seeing how this material will shape itselves during live performances.

November, 2020

Iztok Koren

Multi-instrumentalist. Feels existential emptiness. Stepmother Ljubljana, mother Beltinci, both from Slovenia. Likes sweet taste of sadness. Musical path started in 2000. Moves between intimate-minimalistic-zen solo project, imaginary-dreamy-"worldy" Širom, dynamic-playfully-melancholic Škm banda, loud-expressive-chaotic Hexenbrutal and other occasional musical projects. This is his getaway and weapon. His adopted musical children are banjo, guitar, percussion and many more.