Documentary about avant folk

Eternalchilll2 Eternalchill1
The Eternal Children is a 2006 documentary by David Kleijwegt about the contemporary freak folk scene, starring such terrific musicians as Devendra Banhart, CocoRosie, Antony & The Johnsons, and Vashti Bunyan. It's now available on YouTube in six parts. I dig this scene. Man. Link (Thanks, Howard Wuelfing!)


  1. Is there a difference between freak folk and anti-folk? I also “dig” this “scene,” “man,” but I wonder whether the lack of any distinct politics in this music is perhaps a sad testament to the nihilism and apathy of those involved and those to whom it caters.

  2. Is there a difference between freak folk and anti-folk? I also “dig” this “scene,” “man,” but I wonder whether the lack of any distinct politics in this music is perhaps a sad testament to the nihilism and apathy of those involved and those to whom it caters.

  3. @License Farm: My guess is :

    Freak folk = hippies on hallucinogens
    Antifolk = hipsters on cocaine

  4. Antifolk as far as I know is a New York thing heavily influenced by punk, or at least the punk aesthetic, Abbie Hoffman and Lenny Bruce.

    Freakfolk, not a name it’s practitioners gave itself, is not an urban thing influenced somewhat by psychedelica, if not, then imaginative literature, baba ram dass and does not have an apparent sense of humor. Unless there’s an inside joke I’m not getting.

  5. I guess you link most of these artists together because they tend to use freaky falsetto singing, but I don’t see how anyone can describe an act like Antony & the Johnstons as “folk” at all. I’d locate their (his?) roots more in cabaret and cafe jazz, with a healthy dose of melodramatic torch singing thrown in. Nothing folky, neo/freak/avant or otherwise, about it really.

  6. I think it’s the falsetto vocals, the less-polished-than-the-mainstream sound (sounds familiar), as well as the beards and the pastoral/rustic/tribal/”rootsy” motifs occurring in lyrics (and band titles; look at all the bands mentioning wolves/birds/horses/bears in their names or album titles).

    It’s not folk in the Smithsonian Folkways sense of the word, though some acts wear the symbols of yesteryear’s folk music more or less sincerely than others.

  7. Names like “freak folk” are (for the most part) invented by journalists, who also decide who gets lumped into the “new genre.” Some musicians I personally know who are often described as “freak folk” didn’t start out to create some new scene or genre– they just do what they like doing, it builds an audience of those who appreciate it, and suddenly someone says “it’s a scene.” But that’s how it’s always been in popular music, and that’s fine– it helps them get shows, and introduces their music to new listeners who will suddenly seek out anything with that genre description.

    And what is “folk” anyway? It seems to me it’s whatever people are playing to entertain themselves, outside of the professional/studied music circles; so even punk rock and hip hop are “folk” in that sense. It may not sound like Bob Dylan or the Carter Family, but then neither does Tuvan throat singing, which is also “folk.”

  8. Some of us need our music packaged to suit our demanding neo-folk lifestyles. That’s why we should only trust Freak Folk branded entertainment, or should we call it Freakertainment?

    Does that mean musicians like Alice Cooper, Grace Slick, and Elton John were really playing freak rock? ‘Cause they kinda sing in freaky ways sometimes.

    With all this confusion man I just can’t look at my dad’s Freedom Rock branded LPs the same way anymore.

  9. the cocorosie racism thing that you’re referring to, ACB, is total BS. srsly. it’s just ridic.

  10. I caught Devendra banhart’s compilation ‘golden apples of the sun’ from arthur magazine’s bastet label and have been a big fan since. I recommend Ben Chesney’s band ‘six organs of admittance’ as well.

  11. @ACB
    OMG, you nailed it!

    I’ve been to quite a few freak/avant folk fests. Though I am more partial to the New Weird America label since it covers more than folk. I gotta say, drugs and trust funds are major factor behind the “vagabond” fascia. Real folk still exists, but you won’t find it coming from the cultural hegemonies of Brooklyn and San Fran/Oakland.

    Six Organs of Admittance is the bomb, as well as, Jack Rose, Cherry Blossoms, Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice.

  12. The “folk” thing is becoming quite stylised, and is on the cusp of being thoroughly mainstreamed. We’ve been seeing hipsters with rustic-looking beards for about 5-10 years now, Threadless is full of T-shirts with woodsy motifs, quoting The Wicker Man soundtrack has become a cliché, and now adult-pop coolhunter Goldfrapp (she who went from dinner-party trip-hop to electroclash when the wind changed) has turned on a dime and released a “folk” album (titled Seventh Tree; perhaps UK fringe-folk outfit Voice Of The Seven Woods should have a word?). Goldfrapp has made her career by finding profitable trends on the fringes and repackaging them for an aspirational mainstream audience, sort of like a more yuppie Madonna. As such, quoting American/British folk-music symbolism is about to become as overexposed as “indie” and “alternative” before it.

    What could be next? Eastern European/Balkan folk is still a step ahead; whilst beards and guitars may be mainstream, the industry has yet to figure out how (or why) to sell the wild-and-oddly-melancholy jollifications of slivovitz-fuelled Balkan gypsies (or the avant-gardeists who pretend to be them); currently there’s Beirut and Final Fantasy, who are firmly ensconsed in the Pitchfork hipster ghetto. After that domino falls, perhaps there’s Tuvan throat singing?

  13. @Ill Lich:

    “Folk” is music by people in rustic drag involving acoustic guitars. Much as “indie” is music involving electric guitars, and “alternative” is music involving electric guitars with lots of distortion.

  14. need a genre generator engine… insert two terms and; “Folk Goth” or “Death Folk” (Folk Metal?)

  15. I actually write for a blog called Naturalismo that is solely covering the artists of this movement. Freak Folk and New Weird America are more media created genres than endorsed by the artists themslves. The word Naturalismo comes from an interview with Devendra Banhart lamenting the tag of Freak Folk and suggesting alternative genres names as to dissuade usage of the Freak Folk genre name.

    If you want to read more about the artists you should check out the blog:

  16. Actually, New Weird America was coined by Matthew St. Germain. He runs Freedom From Records and co-hosts the DeStijl/Freedom Fests of yore. The Wikipedia entry erroneously attributes the label to David Keenan of The Wire, but MSG coined the term in a newsgroup post around 2002.

    Oh, and co-caine!!!

  17. Folk Goth and Death Folk sound like the likes of Current 93, Angels Of Light, or perhaps even Nick Cave’s more rootsy output.

  18. Joanna Newsom is both a friend and collaborator with many of these other folk artists covered in this doc.

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