First thing's first, the name. Apparently the Huldra is a seductive, mythological Norwegian forest creature. Not quite sure how to relate that (wittily of course) to the album, other than this too is a thing of mysterious beauty. Anyway, if you enjoyed Bottle Of Evil's eponymous debut last year, then you're bound to enjoy Huldra. It has the same combination of "acoustic strangeness", sublime shoegaze, some bits in between, and two or three perfectly-placed instrumental pieces seamlessly added to the mix.
It kicks off with the acoustic gem Garmin, which combines the lot with snare drum loops and screeching, acoustic guitars to great effect. Then there's one of the many standout newbies, Returned In Time, which Derek kindly gave us a sneaky preview of last year. For the next half-a-dozen-or-so tracks, Derek takes us on a journey through some highlights from his impressive back catalogue. None more impressive than the outstanding, atmospheric piece, Ent.
New tracks The Kelpie and the instrumental Largo, No are two of the many belters after that, with the latter showing a slightly different side to Evil Hand, a more upbeat, synthy one which would hear no complaints from me if he went down this road again in future.
It's Returned In Time though that steals the show. I loved it when I first heard it, and now, after the umpteenth listen, it still blows me away. Have a wee listen for the distant drum mini-solo about 1 minute and 52 seconds in. It's the small things that make this album what it is. Just brilliant!
Once again, I'm left with nothing but praise for Mr. Bates. Huldra is a breathtaking, seductive mixture of old and new. Get your free download over here, and while you're at it, check out his back catalogue over on Amazon MP3. Fans of Bottle of Evil's album can also get their hands on a free instrumental version over here.