Meidi Goh – Heartstrings (2018)



The autumn queen came home again,
she flew with geese by starlight.
Acorn and chestnut called her name,
as did rain and flame and twilight.


This is part of the poem The Autumn Queen which opens Meidi Goh‘s first solo EP Heartstrings. Meidi wrote the poem herself and to her it is a portal into her work, her music. After some years studying classical and baroque violin, Meidi started playing with the baroque ensemble Kolibrie. After that she joined the Dutch jazzy folk band AmmA. The last year Meidi devided her attention between the Dutch historic folk band Imbue and her first solo album.
“After many years in bands I wanted to share my own musical ideas and my own personal stories.” Meidi told me: “This is how Heartstrings was born. I wanted to make music that was a bridge between Elisabethan baroque music and folk. I wanted it to have as pure a sound as possible. I wanted the listener to hear every stroke of the bow over the strings we played. I also wanted the music and my voice to sound as honest as possible. With my perfections but also imperfections, everything as pure as possible. The lyrics straight from my heart, hence the title Heartstrings.” Well I can tell you, she absolutely achieved that.
Heartstrings contains 7 tracks, one poem, one traditional, two covers and 3 original compositions written by herself.
Lovelorn is the first of Meidi’s own compositions and it’s a beautiful ballad. It is, obviously, a love song, a bit melancholic in text and music as most of the songs on Heartstrings. It tells about a love that is not to be. The string section in this song is already lovely, but what really jumps out are the voices. Meidi has a wonderful skilled soprano. When she goes into the heights of her voice she hits the notes perfectly in what I would call ‘classic’ soprano style, but in the lower regions she returns to her ‘normal’ voice, giving the song so much more personality. Her voice has this youthful fragility and purity that make the hairs stand up. So beautiful. From the beginning I had to think of some of the top young boy sopranos, hearing her voice. And I mean that in the most complimentary of ways.
Everybody who has seen the musical Oliver Twist for instance, will remember young Oliver singing Who Will Buy This Beautiful Morning. There is this youthful innocence when he sings that song, one we all know will disappear when he gets older that makes it so touching. Somehow Meidi managed to keep that young and pure quality in her voice, although she is an accomplished singer. And somehow Jacco de Wijs-van Gorcum has managed to capture that while recording the vocals. Of course we know him as one of the frontmen of the Dutch folk metalband Heidevolk, but here he proves he is just as talented behind the mixer. Especially in the chorus, where Hanna van Gorcum joins Meidi in a call and answer that is as pure as crystal. Stunning.

After I asked Meidi about her singing style, she explained more about it:’ When I was young I grew up with ‘old’ music. Music from the renaissance and baroque era. One of the stand out features of these periods is the different use of vibrato in the music and in the singing. A lot milder and totally different in intensity from how we use it today. In those days people were more interested in purity of sound. And indeed that is just how the boy sopranos sing. That style actually originates from this early period. the heavier use of vibrato started to appear in the 18th century, with the first operas from the classical time period which followed the baroque, and even more so in the romantic period. Hanna van Gorcum is much more classically trained. You could call my voice an ‘old’ or baroque music voice.’

Jacco is not the only talented musician involved in Heartstrings. I already mentioned Hanna van Gorcum (TDW & Dreamwalker inc, former AmmA) on voice and nyckelharpa. There is also Coca Román (Kelten Zonder Grenzen, Violet) on harp, Hester de Boer (Violet) on cello and quinton, -a 5 stringed violin that was build and played between early 18th century and the French revolution, you could call it a viola and a violin in one instrument-, and Imbue colleague Tim Elfring on davul. All but Tim join Meidi on the next song, Waltz For The Little Mermaid, written and partly arranged by Meidi. The other musicians where all given room to arrange their own parts on this song, giving them all a chance to shine.
Meidi insisted that all the songs would be recorded as an ensemble, in one take, keeping with the pure natural feel that she was after, only the vocals were recorded separately. And I can only say, it worked. The songs just sparkle. Jacco did wonders catching it all on tape, and after that, mixing engineer Fieke van den Hurk and mastering engineer Sander van der Heide made the most of all the quality that they were given.

My favourite track on Heartstrings is another original composition, Foxskin. Balfolk people will love this song, I’m sure of it. This cheerful fun song brings together all the elements that define Meidi Goh’s classical folk style. It’s the perfect blend between the baroque music that she started out with and the English folk she fell in love with later on in her musical career. English because of the pronunciation of the lyrics. It is as if Loreena McKennitt and Johann Sebastian Bach did a baroque minuet / folk CD together. Sounds odd? Maybe but believe me it so makes sense when you hear the songs. The two worlds just blend naturally together in Meidi’s compositions. The song itself is about a young lady who, at night, turns into a fox to dance with the elves and other magical creatures in the dark woods

My Love Came To Dublin is the first cover I want to mention. It’s a song originally co-written and recorded by June Tabor. And it fits perfectly within Meidi’s own songs. I once called Gwendolyn Snowdon a storyteller, well Meidi is a poet. And her songs are poetry in music form. The Lyrics of My Love came To Dublin fit right in, with that slight old English feel. It’s a melancholic song full of longing for an absent lover. The deep sound of the seven stringed bass viol enhances that sad autumn feel and is a lovely contrast to Meidi’s angelic voice. Coca’s harp then enhances the purity of it. Again a lovely song. Recorded and mixed so well.

Konungen Och Trollkvinnan, is another cover. It was originally recorded by the Finnish folkband Gjallarhorn. As Gjallarhorn hail from the only part of Finland where Swedish is the main language Trollkvinnan is a Swedish song, based around the sound of violin and nyckelharpa, this in contrast to the other songs on Heartstrings. This reminds me more of Kaunan ‘s music or that of the Swiss duo Knep on Bestioles. A CD I reviewed a few months ago.

The last song on Heartstrings is a traditional that goes by the name, Once I Had A Sweetheart. Hanna starts this song with a lovely nyckelharpa solo. And Meidi once again pours out her melancholic heart on the low tones of her bass viol. She sometimes affectionately calls her bass viol ‘my muse’. This Viola da gamba -the Dutch name for it- was specially made for Meidi’s mother many years ago. -Meidi herself even drew the design of the head- and her mother asked Meidi:’You will play her after I’m gone won’t you? And needless to say Meidi did just that to this very day.
This is a mini CD that will appeal to open minded classical people as much as it will people that enjoy the lovely folk ballads of bands like AmmA, Anuna, and Rosemary & Garlic or the more traditional songs from Loreena McKennitt, Altan and the German band Cara, (whose new live CD I’ll be reviewing later this year) . Don’t expect fast dancing songs on Heartstrings, they are all slow to mid tempo ballads. But there are some nice balfolk dances on it. Trollkvinnan can be used for a Swedish halling, Waltz For The Little Mermaid off course is a waltz, My Love Came To Dublin is a muzarka and the most complicated one is Foxskin, this song combines a scottish with a waltz.

Meidi, together with all the talented friends that she invited to help her, has made a wonderful CD, that she can be really proud of. I have only one complaint with it. For such beautiful music, it ends way too soon. So here’s hoping that the next album will come soon, and that it will be a full length one. ‘Till then Heartstrings shall make many a turn more in my CD player.



Cliff

Editor: Diane

Picture credit:
– CD sleeve picture by Alexander Holwerda
– CD artwork by Meidi Goh
– studio photo by Meidi Goh
– live pictures by Cliff de Booy


Brisinga – Vísa Nornir (2017)



-”We musically fell in love.” That’s the heart warming way Brisinga‘s Fabi described meeting Fanny for the first time. It is also the best way to describe what happened to me while reviewing Brisinga’s debut CD Vísa Nornir. I musically fell in love with these talented ladies.
Brisinga bring together the best in pagan- , Nordic- and dream folk, and blend it into beautiful songs. They call it psychedelic folk. I think minimal Nordic folk is a better description, but either way Vísa Nornir is a lovely CD that I gladly recommend! But before I get into the music let ‘s give Fabi some time to introduce Brisinga a bit more.


“At this point in time Brisinga is a duo. Myself on hurdy-gurdy, recorders, flutes and vocals and Fanny, who also sings and plays the harp. Brisinga started out as a fire and music show founded by Fanny and Johanna. Because of the fire element they chose a name coming from the Edda. It means something like fire, flame or light. Maybe you know that Freya had an amber necklace called Brísingamen, which she got from four dwarvs. How she got it is a intresting story in itself. Anyway the name Brisinga is based on that.
In the end the fire thing didn’t work out so Johanna, -who played Bodhrán and percussion and sang backing vocals,- and Fanny decided to only focus on playing music. In the meantime I met Fanny in another project and we musically fell in love. We tried building a repertoire with folk covers, but we wrote so much music together that after a short while we left the covers behind us and focussed on our own songs instead.

We first visited the Dearworld studio in December 2015 to record an EP. But we got so inspired recording the EP that we wrote even more songs so we could make a whole CD. In winter 2016 we returned to the Dearworld studio once more and Vísa Nornir came out on April 11th 2017. In the summer of last year Johanna chose another path and now it’s only Fanny and me. Although sometimes we perform with a guest cello player, which complements our music really nicely we think.
Fanny and me both studied music at the same university in Germany, a fun fact is that Fanny studied in the Netherlands before that. Why did we choose folk music? Well we listened to very different music before it all began, but we both were fascinated by the sound of folk instruments. We wanted to play folk in a kind of minimalistic way as you can hear on the CD. Our newer songs are a bit more complex and have a different intention.”
Fabi ends her introduction of Brisinga with a YouTube link you find below in which the Brisingirls introduce themselves even more.



Vísa Nornir opens with Einsemd (solitude) And that’s exactly how it sounds. Fabi’s beautiful voice ringing out into the air as she is standing on a Nordic fjord. It can be seen as an intro, calming, preparing your mind for the music yet to come. The next song Cernunnos picks up as it was still part of Einsemd. It’s a dance based on a dream according to the booklet. And it starts with a lovely gentle harp piece, reminiscent of Omnia‘s The Naked Harp CD. Now with Brisinga making nature influenced pagan folk, using harp, hurdy-gurdy, bodhrán and overtone flutes, it’s really easy to make the Omnia connection and there are moments when they use the same musical techniques Stenny also use to create a mood. But there is a big difference in sound. The difference between day and… ….evening. Summer and Autumn. Where Omnia and other Dutch pagan bands enrich the music, add details in it to make it as cheerful and bright as a summer’s day, Brisinga tone the music down. Less is more. Just as the setting sun turns the sky into an orange flame and all things are turned down to their essential forms. Silhouettes against the warm orange sky. If you think of Dutch/German pagan bands like Omnia and Waldkauz as storytellers, then Brisinga’s music is poetry. It’s autumn, it’s red. Yellow. Tactile and Brown. Warm yet gentle. Calming yet strong. It’s beautiful.

I have to say here that Brisinga found the perfect person,in Fieke van den Hurk, to record Vísa Nornir in the way they envisioned it. After the lovely gentle harp intro in Cernunnos, Fanny raises the speed into almost an Irish jig. The bodhrán joins in but in a very subtle way. It’s played ever so gently. The last to join in is Fabi. And the song becomes a beautiful duet between harp and hurdy-gurdy. Fabi plays her hurdy gurdy so gently, it sounds more like a cello than the normal loud almost’shouting’, medieval market instrument I’m used to hear.
Listen to Cernunnos with headphones and you can clearly hear every key being touched. I never thought I would say it but those ‘clicks’ sound beautiful. It becomes a bit of extra percussion in the music. So cleverly recorded by Fieke. Well done!

Vapaa Ja Villi is a Finnish song. The lyrics, as in most of the songs, are written by Fabi, and it is a duet of voices this time. Fanny and Fabi have beautiful voices that blend so well together. Vapaa Ja Villi is themed as a dance song again; three witches dancing in a forest. And those voices really dance. They dance around each other, high and low, up and down the Nordic night, around the treetops and into your ears.

The Ones That Look Up To The Oaktrees is a medley of songs with an Irish feel. The first part Copper And Ocean features Fanny on harp and vocals. She has this deep warm, a bit hoarse voice that everybody would wish to have next to their bed to sing them to sleep. This first part reminds me of Sinead O’Connor‘s Last Day Of Our Acquaintance, especially with Fanny’s voice. Definitely a favourite part of Vísa Nornir for me.

Which takes me straight to the most beautiful song on Vísa Nornir, Sinä Ja Minä. It’s a tribal song in the good tradition of Kati Ran‘s Suurin or Eivor‘s Trollabundin, and a stunning one.
According to the booklet it’s a hunting song inspired by Finnish mythology and it does have this hunting, daunting feel over it. Again the basis is really simple. Two voices in harmony together and a single drum. Beauty doesn’t need more. It’s the harp and the overtone flute that then take you deep into the Nordic night. Running with the wolves as the northern light expand into their full grandeur over the dark sky. Really, a stunner of a song!

Sol øg Rog brings you right down again. So small, so tender. If you want to understand what Brisinga ment when they said they want to bring a minimalistic feel to their folk music, this is it. This is Nordic pagan folk meets dreamfolk. This is what makes Brisinga stand out from the other pagan folk bands. It’s their signature upon the genre,
The following song Samhain starts equally beautifully. It’s a word I use a lot in this review, beautiful, but it’s the only way I can describe Brisinga’s music. It’s beautiful how the song doesn’t really start, no the harp just appears out of the silence.

Módir Min is an Icelandic ghost story about abandoned children in the freezing cold, dedicated to Brisinga’s beloved mothers. With the piano-like harp and angelic voice of Fabi it reminds me a lot of Martine Kraft‘s Sølje intro. And, here comes that word again, it’s just beautiful.
As Fanny’s harp gently leads me into the very last song, I realise I don’t want to talk about the music anymore.
I just want to listen to it.
Feel it.
Absorb it.

The sentences stop,
they become words,
single words,

voices,
harmonic,
soothing.

As they whisper,
softly,
calm,
is my mind



Cliff

Editor: Diane
picture credits:
Brisinga promo picture by Brisinga,
Fanny live picture by Kees Stravers,
Fabi live picture by Ralph de Gaël.

The Sidh – Another Way To Fly (2018)



Every now and again Alex and Arjan, the founding fathers of CeltCast, like to throw a curveball at me. But when Alex pushed the Sidh‘s Another Way To Fly CD in my hands, saying he would love me to write a review on it, I felt seriously out of my comfort zone. Not that I suspected the music to be bad, 5000 plus people going nuts while watching the Sidh turn Castlefest into one big dance party can’t be wrong. No, it’s more that I’m a hardrock/metalhead at heart and when I was young, you either where ‘metal’ or ‘gabber’. The two didn’t mix that well. Only occasionally did I pick up on some dance acts, the latest ones being The KLF, Daft Punk, Dance 2 Trance and Faithless, all ’90’s Eurodance/trance acts. You can safely say the whole electronic dance scene passed by, without me paying attention to it. To get a dubstep album pushed into my hands, even if it has folk elements in it,…well…Let’s say I needed some convincing.
And boy did the Sidh convince me, did they ever!
But first I had to figure out what that was, dubstep??? So I spent a nice couple of hours on Wikipedia and YouTube doing research.
Dubstep started in London’s underground dance scene around 1998. UK Garage deejays started mixing their dance music with reggae style rhythms and percussion. First it was dub remixes that went on B-sides of singles, (versions of the songs without the vocals.), later it became a style of its own. The early UK style dubstep was relatively slow and really reggae like in feel. Just as in reggae the bass lines and percussion rhythms were inregular and broken, with the emphasis on the uneven beats, especially the third, although you almost won’t hear that on Another Way To Fly. What you will hear, is another feature of early dubstep, a real low, pumping sub-bass sound, or as a early flyer once said: ‘A bass sound to make your chest cavity shudder.’
In 2005 dubstep was getting mainstream, being picked up by two BBC DJ’s. Around that time some dubstep producers started to work less with sub-bass and more with mid-range sounds. One of them, Rusko, was influenced by Swedish and Finnish producers who had a dance style with simple synthesizer leads and basslines with funk, r&b or soul rhythms, a sound that has become known as Skweeee (yep, really, no kidding.)
American producers picked up on this new style of dubstep and added robotic vocal effects and metal-like riffs, producing a way more aggressive sort of dubstep, normally called brostep. Skrillex is one of the best known producers of this style of dance music. Listening to the music on Another Way To Fly I would say it is mostly influenced by this later UK and American style.

Getting back to the Sidh, they are an Italian band, with an interesting line up for a dance act. It starts with Federico Melato. As it is to be expected he plays the synthesizer, but also piano and percussion. Michael Subet plays the bass, also not that weird in a dance act. But then we have Salvatore Pagliaro on guitar and Iain Marr on whistles, bagpipes (?!) and guitar. That is what makes the Sidh stand out. They are as much a live band as they are a dance-act, and you can hear that in their music.
In 2012 their first CD Follow The Flow came out. A nice album where the Sidh first introduced their own unique style of dance music. You can hear the band experiment with the energetic Irish folk music on one side, and the English style dubstep beats on the other. Despite the electronics used, it has an open, in parts acoustic-, sometimes even a rock feel. It’s as if Soar patrol‘s guitarist Steve Legget and piper Chick Allen stepped in the studio with Harmony Glen‘s flutist/piper Gilian Hettinga and they would have Rusko as a producer.
The second album Nitro came out in 2014. On this album the Sidh managed to further blend the two different styles together, leaving us with eight upbeat folk/dance songs and one lovely instrumental ballad called Believe. (you have to look up that song, it is beautiful) Compared to Another Way To Fly, Nitro still sounds really open, Mostly because Iain uses the flute as his main solo instrument, just occasionally the bagpipe comes out.

Now there is the third CD, Another Way To Fly. And where Nitro sounded happy this CD really kicks you in the butt. The folk influences are just as Irish and cheerful as on previous albums, but the dubstep beats pack a real punch this time, taking the best of the heavy American brostep style and the old skool UK sub-bass beats.
Those beats are immediately apparent in the opening song Shake That Bagpipe. It starts with a pumping baseline, followed by Iain’s whistle kicking off the first Irish tune. After that the Sidh throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, flute, bagpipe, breaks, slow dubstep sections, cool percussion, fast pumping basslines, catchy hooks, and all that in just 3:48 minutes. This is a wake-up call, as strong as two litres of Italian expresso. No way you are gonna sit still on this song!

Now that we are awake The Silk Road ‘eases’ us into the album. It starts in a way that is reminiscent of the Sidh’s first CD. A calm intro with acoustic guitar and a friendly flute tune, the bassline doesn’t ‘kick in’ this time but blends in and the string section helps to make this a mellow midtempo song, getting you in the flow of the album after the mindboggling start of it. It is, aside from the beats, a really lovely Irish tune. The Sidh carefully build layer upon layer to tell a musical story, proving that electronic dance music isn’t always a bunch of beats thrown together, but can be beautiful and touching as well. It’s also one of the few songs that are only leaning on the flute. The Sidh have discovered the raw power of the bagpipe and are using it to its full potential on Another Way To Fly. It’s the leading melodic instrument in almost all of the 14 songs.

The third song, Khan, picks up on The Silk Road‘s theme with Marcin Ruminski doing some impressive, Mongolian style throat singing. Marcin is the founder, vocalist and whistler of the Polish folk band Shannon. Again it’s a catchy tune telling a story, the sound of the melody reminding me of an old Italian space synth band I used to like called Koto. It is a nice upbeat song, although I have to say, after the really strong intro with the big drums and the throat singing, I was hoping for a wee bit more adventurous middle section with more of a Mongolian feel and instruments. Now the Sidh drop back to ‘just’ bagpipe and flute. Why not go all the way? It would make the album more varied and therefore even stronger.

By the time we get to the fourth song Alba, it’s clear what the recipe for a good the Sidh composition is. It starts with nice catchy intro, mostly with flute, then the beats kick in. The intro becomes the hook where the song is built around. One or two breaks are build in to open up the music and make the beats sound stronger. And under it all there is always that powerful combination of sub low bass and bagpipe. It may sound a bit dull written out like this, but not to worry, the Sidh do this so well. The power of this this recipe is in the quality of the melodies used. They are well composed, full-on Irish folk tunes. Iain is a gifted flute and bagpipe player and he is fast, seriously fast. Quite often he equals Perkelt‘s Paya Lehane in speed. Impressive stuff. Where the American brostep style focusses on aggression, the Sidh bring something new to it, positive vibes. You hear the heritage of the old Italo-disco sound in there, and the folk tunes are the perfect way to carry that through.
Alba is a good example of how cool a dancetrack can be, played the Sidh way, a mellow upbeat Italo-disco/trance melody on flute or synth, with the low bassline and bagpipe under it to give it some oomph. One of my favourite songs on the album.

And so we come to my favourite song on Another Way To Fly. The best song of the Sidh in general I think. One of my favourite songs of the last few months actually, IRIDIUM!
It starts with an impressive synthesizer organ creating a wall of chords. When, in the second bar, the bagpipe and bass join in, this wall of chords just blow you away. The song is built around a cool bagpipe hook, catchy as anything. I just love that hook and, oh joy (!), they keep repeating it! again and again! it’s just magic! When the electric guitar kicks in, shooting off fast metal riffs I’m already gone..No stopping me getting to that dancefloor. What a song. Haven’t heard such a strong dancefloor filler since the KLF’s Last Train To Trancentral. Love it!



After this wall of sound we get our first breather. I Can’t Let Go is a ballad sung by the second guest musician Tim Chaisson. He is a Canadian folk/pop singer songwriter. I Can’t Let Go shows the sensitive side of The Sidh. Two suggestions came up while listening to this song. First I would have loved the song to be a bit longer. It stops rather unexpectedly and abrupt. Secondly, after the adrelin rush caused by Iridium, I personally would have loved to dance a bit more, before having this breather. Around song nine I would say. But i’m nitpicking now, I Can’t Let Go is a lovely song with a quality singer, no question about it.

The pace is picked up again with Sileadh and Vault. More cool bagpipe folk hooks with upbeat flute solo’s cutting through the wall of sound. The feel of folk- and trance chords cheering you up, as the dubstep bass makes sure you don’t stop dancing for a second.
I have to say, I love this album. I really do. My only wish for the next album is that the band go a bit bolder with the production. With a sound as orchestral as Another Way To Fly, I would have loved to have had more surprises in the production to keep me on my toes. The ultra heavy metal-guitar-with-low-bass-break in Vault for instance. How cool would it have been if those riffs had been shooting in my ears from left to right . I think I would have gone mental if they had done that. Don’t get me wrong. It is a heavy song as it is and on a brilliant album but treats like that would have been the icing on the cake.

Well there is nothing more to say really, besides that the Scottish piper and folk composer Ross Ainslie joins the Sidh on Heroes and that Goldie’s Goldie seems to be a homage the flute builder Colin Goldie. He makes the flutes Iain Marr plays on and is featured on this song.
Another Way To Fly is the Sidh’s strongest album till now in my opinion. The band has found the perfect blend between all the different influences, making it their own in a style I would call Sidh-step! If you are just as much at home on the dancefloor, as you are on the Castlefest fields, then this is the CD for you. The ‘Sidhstep’ dance they play will get you going time and time again. If big beats are not your thing, you might want to check their first album Follow The Flow. It’s a ‘lighter’ dance album. More flute, more folk orientated with less of the heavy powerbeats. More the old skool dubstep and therefore easier to listen to.
And what about me, the old metalhead? Well I’m converted. I’m so glad Alex put this CD in my hands and pushed me out of my comfort zone. The Sidh definitely got me hooked on the dubstep sound. Thanks guys for opening up another musical world to me.



Cliff

editor:
Diane

photo Credits:
Photographer Ruben Meuwese.
First picture taken at Keltfest 2018, other pictures taken at Castlefest 2018.
All pictures posted with kind permission of Vana Events.

Paya Lehane – Oppidamus (2018)



-‘OK, I didn’t see that one coming.’These words were the first I wrote down while listening to Paya Lehane ‘s first solo album. And I really didn’t. I did expect the CD to be different from the music Paya makes with Perkelt. What sense would there be in doing a solo album if you are gonna play exactly the same music again. I imagined it to be a lot slower, but still pagan folk, still with the flute as a main instrument. How wrong I was.
The first notes of Bohemia reveal a synthesiser combined with harp and Paya’s voice doubled into a choir. The music is calm, soothing, a real mix between Celtic pop and pagan folk. Then we hear real percussion mixed with programmed drums. As the song continues the sound becomes more and more complex, carefully build layer upon layer, a sound we know so well from Enya ‘s music. It’s grand, orchestral yet soothing. Wonderful music, and not a recorder or flute in sight! As I said, I did not expect that! But what a pleasant surprise.

In the second song, Oppidamus, Paya’s trademark instrument, the recorder, makes its entrance, but again the electronic synth sound comes to the foreground. The flute is recorded clean though and sounds Native American, electronic drums give a nice dance feel to the song and the doubled vocals glide through it all on a blanket of sythesiser. Overall Oppidamus sounds like the perfect marriage between Enya, Adiemus, acoustic pagan folk and the beats of Deep forest, and I can’t help myself but dance to it.
Another thing that I’m starting to notice is an unknown language. At first I though it to be Czech, (Paya was born in the Czech Republic), but no. It’s a fictional language that she uses in the same way that Adiemus composer Karl Jenkins does, creating a new world. In her own words: ‘You might come across a few songs with a language you are not able to place, that is because it is a unique fictional language created to evoke an ancient world which can be found only in your imagination.’ And it works. The voice becomes an instrument that carries a mood, that carries emotions. And as a listener you flow with it.
Sometimes Paya gives a small clue where to go, as she does with the title of Waiting For Dawn, the third song on the album. The sound of the ocean is the second clue she gives here and this sound pulls you into the music. In your mind you can feel yourself standing on that beach, the waiting, the anticipation, then the warmth reaching your face and your body, the wind stroking your hair. It’s all captured in the music and those enchanting vocals.



Betrothal is the first wake-up call on the CD. A strong medieval/Adiemus style choir gets you alert and then the drum and bass (!) rhythms programmed by Paya’s husband Rick Lehane get you dancing for sure. The song itself has a real Moorish/medieval feel to it, it makes me think of Irfan. The way Betrothal is recorded is really clever, the vocals and melody sound old, ancient in a way, a real contrast to the modern dance beats under it, and it works, it just works. I love it.

Memento keeps that Moorish feel going, the song is pure pagan folk, tribal, enchanting and such a contrast to the dancebeats of Betrothal just before it. The beauty of Oppidamus as an album is, that it has this perfect balance between the dreamy soundscapes that are so important for new age music and the pure raw energy of acoustic pagan folk. It can be a flute cutting through a mist of vocals and synthesiser or it can be a whole pagan folk song with a sprinkle of new age, as Memento is, but in both ways it keeps the music fresh and crisp. It makes me feel not only comforted like a new age album should, but also happy to be alive. This is happy music. And as I am writing this alinea the first English spoken song, Winter Nights, weaves its way through my ears, as a warm bath of music. Just to prove my point.

Pan’s Delirium is the next surprise. We have a genuine dance song here. The Sidh meets Robert Miles. Compared to the Sidh, Paya and Rick could even have been a bit braver with the beats maybe, creating even more contrast but hey, I’m dancing, so why am I even nitpicking?

Normally when I prepare for a review I listen to an album many times, trying to reveal all the small surprises hidden within the music to share them with you. This time I won’t. It would just spoil Oppidamus. It would also spoil the whole idea Paya had while writing this beautiful CD. It’s a musical treasure trove of emotions there to be discovered by you, the listener. A whole new world of music to be found. And with the last song, the beautiful ballad Raven’s Tale playing as I write these lines, I am going to stop talking, I will put the CD player on repeat and step into Paya’s world again to explore it even more. Don’t wait to long too get this album and join us. Oppidamus is so worth it.

– Cliff

– pictures by Paya Lehane
– editor Diane

P.S. Normally I weave the technical info into a review, but in this case the music just would not let me! It felt totally out of place, so here we go.
Paya Lehane was born in the Czech Republic and has been playing the recorder from the age of four. She graduated from the academy of music in Brno ánd the Conservatory Pardubice in wind instruments and history of music. She is a founding member and lead composer of the pagan folk band Perkelt, known for her fast yet enchanting flute solos. On Oppidamus she not only played her trusty recorder and whistle, but also harp, synth and several percussion instruments. Besides her musical career she is also a gifted Modern artist
Her husband Rick also had a big part in the realisation of Oppidamus. Not only did he play bass, mandoline, synth and percussion, he also did all the drum programming and mixed the album. The production of Oppidamus was shared between Paya and Rick. As on any solo Cd there are musical friends that are quiet willing to help out. In this case we can hear Gwendolyn Snowdon on Bouzouki in the song Bohemia.
Sophia Kinston from the Australian electro/neo folk band Tailor Birds on electric violin and Perkelt friend David Maurette on drums, both in the song Waiting For Dawn.
Last is London composer and cellist Matt Constantine who can be heard on Winter Nights.

Waldkauz – Mythos (2017)



Some albums deserve a special treatment. And Mythos, the second CD of the German band Waldkauz, is one of them. When it arrives, and believe me you’re missing out on a nice pagan folk album if you don’t get it, so when it arrives, do NOT put it in the CD player straight away! Trust me on this! Be patient, do your normal things, let the day pass, maybe look into the booklet a bit, (impressive sleeve art and booklet by the way) but leave the CD until the dark of the evening. Then, and only then, when the kids are in bed, the pets fed and the dishes done, light a candle. Only one. You want the flickering light to play with the shadows on the wall. Now turn on your best stereo system, go sit in the middle of the room for maximum stereo effect (or use headphones), crank up the volume and finally press play… Zwielicht, or ‘Twilight’ in English, is probably the best intro to a Pagan Folk album I have ever heard. It pulls you right into the world of the Fae, of witches and dwarfs or the dark ancient woods of the Balkan. It is a stunning beginning to a CD that has lots more to give.

Their second album Mythos already came out in April 2017, but now that Waldkauz will perform at Castlefest for the very first time, we at CeltCast thought it was about time to finally introduce the band and their music to you.
The story of this band begins in 2010, with Gina and Lennart Klause working out the first musical ideas for what would become Waldkauz. They were soon joined by Gina’s brother Peter on percussion. The band’s official starting point is in 2013 with their first public performance, making 2018 the year of their 5th anniversary. Something they are going to celebrate with a special performance in October.
After meeting Gina, Lennart and Peter at Castlefest(!) in 2014, Nina and Niklas (old friends themselves) joined the band. The following year saw the birth of their first album Komm mit. It earned them performances on the stages of MPS, das Mittelalterlich Phantasie Spectaculum (Medieval Fantasy Spectacle) that tours Germany every year.

When you start reading the booklet of Mythos, it soon becomes clear that it isn’t just a name. The CD really is a collection of myths and fairy-tales put to music. From the old king of the dwarfs to the witches of Eastern Europe and the old gods of ancient times, they all find their place in Waldkauz’ music. Most of the lyrics are by either Nina or Gina, with Niklas adding two texts as well. All the music is written and arranged by the whole band. Guest musicians on Mythos are Fieke van der Hurk ( Dearworld studio), on hammered dulcimer, Sophie Zaaijer (Cesair, Shireen, Sunfire) on cello, Jule Bauer (Triskilian) on nyckelharpa, Shawn Hellmann (Killkenny band) on acoustic guitar, Niel Mitra (Faun) doing a remix version of Waldlandreich, one of the bonus tracks on the album, and the public of Minden, Germany hand-clapping and in frenetic jubilation.

I already mentioned the stunning start of the CD with Zwielicht, taking you straight into a mystical world of myths and legends. It effortlessly flows into Mati Syra Zemlya, a song celebrating the Slavic ‘mother of the moist earth’, the oldest of the Slavic deities. The song itself is best described as Irfan meets Omnia‘s Steve Evans -van Harten. It shows the first of the pillars that make Waldkauz’ sound so special: Nina’s flute playing. She plays the recorder, tin whistle, low whistle and the seljefloyte or overtune flute, made famous in the Pagan Folk world by Omnia. One moment she sounds like Steve Sic, the next it reminds you of Faun, but she can just as easily sound like Perkelt‘s Paya Lehane. Just listen to her eerie elvish flute solo on Ringaloo Ya Merry-o, the instrumental Raigan Dannsa or the beautiful solo on Leshy, with Triskilian’s Jule Bauer joining her halfway through on nyckelharpa. I could name almost every song, the nice Perkelt style solo in Vom Wassermann for example, but I won’t. I’ll just mention one more: Baba Jaga. It starts with a wonderful flute solo which Nina picks up on again later in the song.

Baba Jaga also features another quality of the Waldkauz sound, the percussion. It is strong, fast and keeps driving the songs on. I cannot sit still when I listen to Peter playing the combination of drums and djembe. Not only in this song, his percussion skills in Mati Syra Zemlya, Am Wegesrand, Ringaloo Ya Merry-o, Mond Und Sonne and the mighty drum-rolls on Raigan Dannsa, even the ‘basic’ rhythm of Dimna Juda, all stand out because they are fast, varied and rhythmical. And it’s not only on drums. Xylophone, glockenspiel, finger cymbals, he throws everything but the kitchen sink at it, even an anvil!



The third pillar of the Waldkauz sound are their vocals. The band is blessed with three strong vocalists, Nina, Gina and Niklas, and they are equally good. Separate or in harmony, their voices just work beautifully. Just listen to their voices blend in Dimna Juda, Ringaloo Ya Merry-o or Father Of Stone, a more orchestral choral song where Niklas takes the lead. Leshy with some cool spoken word sections reminding me of the late Robert MilesDreamworld album. Mond Und Sonne has some quality polyphonic singing, even ending in a cool canon. But the best song on the CD has to be Waldlandreich. Beautifully sung, both by Nina solo and the three of them together. I also have to mention those spoken word sections again. In this case in the dark Cuélebre style. Such a beautiful song. With the flute solo, the build-up from fragile ballad to a powerful Pagan Folk song, even with distorted bouzouki riffs in the end almost giving it a Folk Metal feel, my personal favourite.

By now it must be clear what the fourth pillar under the Waldkauz sound is, its variation. Waldkauz’ sound is found somewhere in the middle of Faun, Emian and Irfan, with touches of Omnia and a bit of Cuélebre to add flavour. As said earlier Mati Syra Zemlya is Irfan meets Omnia. A bit in the style of Dil gaya. Am Wegesrand is more Omnia’s Prayer CD meets Faun’s newer work. A catchy up-tempo Pagan Folk song with real hit-potential. Ringaloo Ya Merry-O cheerful, almost commercial start takes us to the British Folk scene but soon mixes into a darker sound, fitting with the text itself. Father of stone then goes much darker, Wagnerian. It is almost a traditional Metal ballad turned acoustic. It has this strong powerful arrangement, the choral low singing of Niklas and the ladies, I could easily see Epica or Therion use this on one of their albums.

Mythos keeps giving like that. Waldkauz have the ability to give every song that special flavour, that special sauce it needs. A staccato guitar in Leshy to make it darker. A ‘displeased’ banjo to create a Ennio Morricone kind of feel for Hinter Der Brombeerhecke. Distorted instruments or a brass section to put in little accents in the music? Waldkauz will do it. That’s the real power of Mythos. The songs are all catchy ear-worms with the right arrangements to get the best out of those songs. With the percussion and vocals as the real strong points. At first you have the impression the album is just filled with danceable cheerful songs. There is nothing bad about that, but when you start to listen more closely you hear this dark undertone hidden in the lyrics and the music. Just as there always is a dark note in the myths and fairy tales that Mythos is inspired by.

Reading back I notice that I didn’t mention Niklas and Gina that much. As if they are not that important in the overall Waldkauz sound, which of course isn’t true. Quite often they take the supporting role, an underestimated part, but oh-so important. The flute solo starting Mati Syra Zemlya for example, wouldn’t really work without Niklas and Gina supporting it.



Not to worry, Gina and Niklas get plenty of room to shine too. Just listen to the beautiful intro Niklas plays on Waldlandreich or the duet between Gina’s Celtic harp and Nina’s recorder starting Am Wegesrand. The song Ringaloo Ya Merry-O is of course built around a cool harp riff from Gina and last but not least, Woods Of Ukraine, the intro song to Baba Jaga is a beautiful duet between Niklas on bouzouki and Gina on Celtic harp.

All in all I am left with just one conclusion: Mythos is a really nice album. Well worth having for everyone who loves quality Pagan Folk music.

-Cliff

-pictures by Marielle Groot Obbink
-editor Diane








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