By The Spirits is a relatively new one man project hailing from the Lower Silesian region in the southeast of Poland founded in 2016 by Michal Krawczuk. Visions, the album at hand, is the solo artist’s first long player, though the majority of the material on it has previously been released on a demo and an EP.

Primarily consisting of vocals and acoustic guitar, the music on Visions might be best classified and described as dark folk. Inspired by the artist’s home region’s nature, especially its mystic woods and Mount Sleza, an ancient (most likely Celtic) holy place, the album’s lyrics circle around the age-old secrets and wisdom that can be found in nature. Also, a natural form of spirituality is thematized, an alternative to the trodden paths of the world’s religions. The album’s cover shows a black-and-white photograph of a make-shift altar, set up on a meadow in the woods.

The mood is dreamy and rather dark, but not hopeless. The music is undoubtedly beautiful, although its sound is far from new and certainly nothing you haven’t heard before. However, Visions is special nevertheless, and that’s because the album is drenched in a singular brand of melancholia – the Slavic one.

What’s so special about the Slavic kind of melancholy? If you’d like to find out, there are numerous articles on the subject on the net. In short, unlike Westerners, Slavs tend to accept their plight. That is both, good and bad. It’s bad, because it means that dire conditions change very slowly, and it is good, because people don’t get worked up so much. ‘Things are looking bleak, yes, but what can we do about it? Life is what it is. Let’s find some beauty in what’s there.’ That’s the spirit I sense in Visions.

Neither the vocals nor the guitar playing on Visions offer much variation. The similarity of the compositions makes all of the album’s thirteen songs blend into one, especially after repeated listens. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because it creates a continuous, meditative, calming, yes, even spiritual listening experience. I enjoyed it.

If you need a break from the hustle and the sounds of urban life, this will offer you one – by transporting you the quiet, cool and dark woods of southeast Poland.

(7/10 Slavica)