The term “neofolk” was supposedly invented by a Berlin record shop to describe the sound of the band Death In June. Douglas P. liked the term and started to use it himself. In basis, neofolk needs to be nothing more than a guitar and vocals, but of course the sound and more especially the attitude/lyrics/image make neofolk neofolk. Before there was neofolk, a band called Changes already made this kind of music, including the lyrics and image. This band was first founded in 1969, but it was not before their third incarnation before material was released. This song is from the “Fire Of Life” album of 1996, but is said to be one of the old songs.
Just listen to the lyrics, it is an attitude that would later make a big part of the neofolk scene. Like I said, it was Death In June that ‘started’ the genre. DIJ was founded in 1980 and initially was more of an industrial band, but soon started to make minimalistic accoustic music (alternated with electronic experiments). In 1984 the following song was released on the album called “Burial”
After that album, Tony Wakeford left DIJ to start his own project Sol Invictus. In the UK there were other bands experimenting with folk-like music, most notably Current 93, but it would take quite a while before the third generation of neofolk artists arose.
My first (conscious) encounter with this third wave was Orplid and their brilliant 1998 album of which I cannot find the song that I am looking for on Youtube. Orplid made fairly dark and nicely heroic music with more tranquil songs and quite some electronic tracks.
The label that released Orplid’s debut found more neofolk bands and soon everything seemed to sound like this:
Much neofolk still sounds like this, I find it quite unimaginary.
In 2000 there suddenly was Ostara, a band risen from the ashes of Strength Through Joy, one of the early neofolk bands. Ostara took a much more poppy direction. Initially I did not like “Secret Homeland”, but it grew on me. After Ostara the poppy direction was taken over by a large (again too large) part of the neofolk scene.
This was also about the time that I lost interest in most neofolk material. Ostara did some nice things (before they became a poprock band), Orplid remained interesting, but the larger part of the ever increasing stream of neofolk was not for me.