Manchester-based ambient folk artist Black Brunswicker signs to Nettwerk; Shares new track ‘The Frolic”
January 26, 2024 BY Emma Orland
Manchester, UK-based ambient folk artist Ethan Helfrich, who releases under the moniker Black Brunswicker, announces their signing to Nettwerk and shares their first official single for the label, titled “The Frolic”.
Black Brunswicker creates rich ground for reflection with roaming instrumentals closely rooted in nature, casting a restful spell. The Bloomington, Indiana-born artist grew up in the Midwest and brings the sweeping plains of the landscape into their expansive guitar-led sound, drawing you closer to something primordial, vast, and earthy. Around 2019 saw a shift in Black Brunswicker’s musical style, as they found themselves delving deeper into the fingerstyle technique of John Fahey, Jack Rose, and Robbie Basho — a catalysed love affair with folk and the American primitive canon that is now at the heart of their craft.
Listen to the dreamy and mystical “The Frolic” here and below:
A cathartic, optimistic track, “The Frolic represents finding the feeling of euphoria in being your authentic self,” Helfrich explained. “I hope the feelings that this track evokes can help listeners see the good in things, even during tough times.”
“ The Frolic” is taken from Black Brunswicker’s debut Nettwerk EP, due out this year.
Stream/Buy “The Frolic” here:
More on Black Brunswicker:
Accordingly bound up with a sense of adventure and wanderlust, much of Helfrich’s output has been shaped by the experience of travel, from the small trips taken around their new UK home on Wanderers in the North (2020) and the pastel-hued snapshot of the Czech Republic on Age of Aristocracy (2019) to the daydreaming that propelled the 2020 lockdown release Wilder Paths. 2022’s High Peaks surfaced following a trip to the Peak District. Their upcoming new EP for Nettwerk (due out this year), locates itself in cold, windy, beautiful Norway where Helfrich recently spent some time.
Improvisation has played a key role in Helfrich’s musical trajectory, a practice they first fell into back home in Indiana. Helfrich started making music while they were in college, originally involving “a lot of very cringy black metal.” This soon evolved into atmospheric and ambient black metal. “And then I just started buying a lot of delay and reverb pedals,” they recall.
“I’ve always been a bit of an experimental weirdo. I used to get lumped in with some of the harsh noise and, you know, experimental crowds. But I’ve always just really been into improvising stuff,” offers Helfrich. “My brain just doesn’t really work the way some people write songs.”
It was during the 2010s that they began experimenting with a more ambient-leaning sound, composing transfixing dronescapes under the moniker Rest You Sleeping Giant, whose first release, Frost, arrived in 2014 and last, Night Heron, in 2022, released as a Ukraine fundraiser for the British Red Cross. Recorded during the summer of 2018 in the village of Winnetka, Illinois, the record pays titular tribute to one of their “favourite birds”, a regular sight on walks through the Skokie Lagoons. Later that same year, Black Brunswicker was brought into being.
Emerging in 2019, the album Hidden Amongst the Trees and Foothills marked a shift in Black Brunswicker’s musical style, as they found themselves delving deeper into the fingerstyle technique. The record wore its influences on its sleeve—John Fahey, Jack Rose, and Robbie Basho—and catalysed a love affair with folk and the American primitive canon that is now at the heart of their craft.
During the pandemic in 2020, Helfrich moved from Chicago to Manchester, UK for their wife’s master’s program at the University of Manchester. “We didn’t really have any friends in the beginning so the only friends that my wife had were other American students … I always used to joke that the most British experiences we would get were going to Tesco and watching Gogglebox, until the lockdowns were lifted.”
“Since then we’ve absolutely fallen in love with it,” they gush of the rainy British city famed for its moody musical legacy. “I have a great community here in Manchester musically,” they add, reeling off the upcoming collaborative projects they have in store. In 2023, Helfrich teamed up with Lancashire singer-songwriter Tom Welsh to form the indie-folk project Old Sun, New Moon, working with vocals once again.