Martine Kraft – Huldreblod (2017)


Alex and I both have our guilty pleasures. Bands that don’t fit the CeltCast format, but we like anyway. (I have quite a lot actually, but that’s beside the point.) 😉

One of those guilty pleasures we share together, is Martine Kraft‘s newest album ‘Huldreblod’. It made a big impression on us both. As did her performance at Castlefest, together with Kati Ran. So it’s no surprise one of her songs is the CeltCast Monthly Marker for October. And with that we can also introduce her and her music to the CeltCast community. With pleasure. 🙂

Martine Kraft (34) is a Norwegian musician, singer and composer. Her main instrument is the Hardanger fiddle (in Norse: Hardingfele), which is called the Norwegian national instrument and is named after the area it originates from, Hardanger. The first known one was made in 1615. The Hardanger fiddle is quite similar to a ‘normal’ violin with 4 strings that are played with a bow, but under the 4 strings are another 4 or 6 which are lead through the bridge under the ‘main’ strings and which resonate with the upper strings.

Traditionally the Hardanger fiddle is richly decorated with carvings, Mother of Pearl inlays and black ink decorations called Rosing. Martine’s personal Hardanger fiddle, called ‘Huldrefela’, was given to her by the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle fund, in recognition of her work to make this fiddle more widely known. It’s a 10 string Hardanger fiddle with a special tuning mechanism, making it easier to tune while on the road in challenging climates. It was made by the master violin maker Helge M. Bergnord.

Martine also plays the nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle and the Swedish national instrument), the ‘ordinary’ violin and the viola (or Bratsj as the Norwegians call it), which is a bigger violin with a deeper sound. Beside the violins she also plays several kinds of flutes. On stage as well as on her album, she is accompanied by her Martine Kraft band consisting of her life partner Nils Jørgen Nygaard Kraft on guitar and keyboards (among other things), Stig Enger on electric guitar, Jon Karlsen on bass and Freddy Wike on drums.

Her fifth album ‘Huldreblod’ was recorded in the Enger studio with Stig. He also co-produced the CD together with Nils Jørgen. Martine wrote all the music for the album and almost all the lyrics. Nils Jørgen wrote them for the tracks ‘Huldreblod’ and ‘Himmelfot’.

Track 1: Huldreblod

On the opening track of the CD, the title track ‘Huldreblod’, Martine showcases that Hardanger fiddle straight away. Huldreblod is a song about the forest nymph ‘Huldra’, a nymph that fell in love with a human. To be able to be with her lover she lost her abilities as a nymph. Every time she was treated wrong, she lost a little bit of her beauty, but her strength and wisdom stayed with her. In a touching and real personal way, Martine dedicates this whole album to Huldra and the strength we all carry inside. We all can have a bit of Huldra running through our veins. The song itself starts with the sound of a Rhombus, (Norse: Brummar) and whispered Norse lyrics, giving us the eerie feel of the dark, misty Norwegian forests where Huldra once lived. The Hardanger fiddle comes in for a fast, ear-catching Prog-rock song. The way the song is built up: the choir, the church organ, the sound of the guitar solo, the break with organ… makes me think of Mike Oldfield’s early work. And I mean that in a real complimentary way. This song grabs you and drags you into the album, leaving you with a ear-worm that will stick with you for days. 🙂




Track 2: Sølje

The second song, ‘Sølje’, is a ballad. A Sølje is a piece of Nordic jewellery, in this case left by Huldra on a path for a young man to be found. Here we hear Martine’s voice for the first time and it is a unique one. High, a wee wee bit hoarse and very young in tone, delicate and fragile, which fits the music really well. Martine uses her voice in the same way as Ágnes Tóth (The Moon and the Night Spirit), to enhance the feel of the music she makes. It starts out really gently with only piano, showing her music is about the songs. Not a violin extravaganza. The violin only comes in on the second part of the song with a powerful musical break, kicking this into a pure power-ballad.


Castlefest 2017 Ran & Kraft

Track 3: Frikar

‘Frikar’ starts out with a keyboard intro that, very shortly, reminds me a bit of Euzen. It’s a pure Prog-rock intro actually, but then the violin steps in and the music takes a 180° turn into a pure up-tempo Folk song. A tribute to the toughest Norwegian traditional dancers, the Frikar.


Track 4: Villvind

Next ‘Villvind’ starts with a jazzy, jumpy piano intro?! By now it’s getting clear that Martine’s music isn’t straight forward. She likes to tease us listeners, keep us surprised, putting us on the wrong foot, while the music stays catchy and fun at the same time. Impressive. The song goes on as an instrumental, bit jazzy violin improvisation (or at least it feels like that) again within that Prog-rock style. Especially when the music builds up beautifully from a real gentle, fragile violin improvisation into a climax, lead by Stig Enger’s electric guitar. Short, but oh so powerful (and my head suddenly goes ‘Hello, Dream Theater‘). At this point it’s also clear that the whole band excels on this album. Just listen to Jon Karlsen’s bass-line on ‘Villvind’.


Castlefest 2017 Ran & Kraft

Track 5: Nar dagen hviler

‘Nar dagen hviler’ is a second ballad. Starting with a moving, Gypsy like violin solo and Martine’s special fragile voice we are drifting away in moon filled dreams. An ambient, dream-scape kinda song.



Track 6: Himmelfot

Which brings us to our Monthly Marker, ‘Himmelfot’. Here I quote Martine from the introduction she wrote in the booklet: ”My child was born with a birthmark shaped like a cloud on his foot. This song ‘Himmelfot’ means ‘sky foot’ “. The song starts with the sound of child’s play, and a balladesque intro… but then jumps into a cool cheerful ‘Norwegian’ jig. Bring out the Balfolk dancers!




Track 7: Solefall

‘Solefall’ is a nice mid-tempo Prog-rock song featuring the violin again. With a nice vocal display from Martine to top it off.




Track 8: Mørketid

‘Mørketid’ is a beautiful ballad. It is one of the more personal songs on ‘Huldreblod’ for Martine, judging by her intro in the booklet. And you can hear it. Just read her intro in the booklet and flow with the music. A special mention to the male ‘Joik’ * on this track. Just another part of the musical diversity of this band proving how they are able to blend Norse (Nordic) traditions into modern songs.




Track 9: Djeveldans
&
Track 10: Nidhogg

‘Djeveldans’ and ‘Nidhogg’ are up-tempo instrumental Prog-rock songs again. Beautiful, with the violin taking over the role of the electric guitar solo’s. Keeping the sound really clean yet powerful. All kind of musical twists are in there again, as it should be in progressive music. Piano, choirs, breaks… it is all there. Special mention in this case to drummer Freddy Wike in ‘Nidhogg’. He gets his chance to shine with some impressive double bass drumming. Oh and did I mention the trombone in this song already?!?


Track 11: Ravn

After all this pure energy, the album ends with the ambient ballad ‘Ravn’. Again, in the booklet, Martine gets real personal in her message to us, the listener. Sharing with us her wishes for future times. Again you can hear it in the music. ‘Ravn’ becomes a beautiful ending to ‘Huldreblod’. An album I really fell in love with during the listening-sessions for this introduction.




If the idea of a unique mix of progressive Pop/Rock music, with a Hardanger fiddle as lead solo instrument (in stead of screamin’ guitars or keyboards), dipped way deep in Norwegian traditions and folklore appeals to you, then this is your CD. If in doubt, just check out our Monthly Marker ‘Himmelfot’ and be convinced. In the meantime I’m gonna go after the other four Martine Kraft albums. This one made me hungry for more! 🙂


– Cliff


* the Joik is one of the traditional ways of singing of the Sami people. As an art form, each Joik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal or place. Music researchers believe that the Joik is one of the longest-living musical traditions in Europe. (all according to Wikipedia)





– Live concert pictures courtesy of:

Kees Stravers
https://www.flickr.com/photos/case_s


L.E.A.F. – LYS (2015)

LYS


Long awaited, and now it is finally here: The new album of L.E.A.F. called Lys!
Recorded, mixed and mastered throughout the year, today is the day that Kati Ran will present her latest musical endeavour to the world.

LYS is the brainchild of Kati Ran, but there were many others involved. The album was produced by Christoffer Juul at LAVA studio in Denmark, and both Christoffer and Maria Franz of EUZEN perform on the album. Other guest musicians include Kai Uwe Faust of HEILUNG and Oliver S. Tyr of FAUN.

It is an album that is full of deeper meanings, old and ancient poetry, shamanistic rites, and it comes off as an album that was written straight from the heart! Combined with some very nice artwork by Charlotte Boer it has most certainly become a beautiful total package!

Track 1: Flamme

Right away this track opens the album with Kati’s clear and warm voice. The song sounds like an intro, a promise for the rest of the album. The lyrics of the song are by Kati, but with components from Atlamal and Gripisspa, two of the Eddic poems, immediately showing that this album is more than “just music”.




Track 2: Sol

Sol means ‘Sun’, which as the booklet explains has always been very important. The song to me is about man’s journey through time. Like the previous song the lyrics are written by Kati, but this time it contains verses of the poem ‘Let the Light Enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. The music starts off simple, but more and more layers get added as the song progresses, which to me can represent not only the seasons of the year, caused of course by the sun, but this can also symbolise life, as it starts off simple but as we grow older we add more and more complexities to life.


Track 3: Ran

The start of this song feels deeply spiritual. When the percussion comes in it provides a lot of depth in the sound and slowly but surely it grows into a song with quite a massive presence. Ran is the Goddess of the sea but also Kati’s stage name.


Track 4: Terveh

Our first ever Monthly Marker and it has been a part of our playlist ever-since. Terveh is a song in an old Finnish language from the Karelian area, and it’s an old Scandinavian rite to contact and communicate with the spirits of the neighbouring forests. As far as the music goes it does have more of a “modern” feel than what you would expect of something so ancient. The hand of Christoffer Juul (Valravn, EUZEN, LAVA studios) is clear in this song. Powerful in the low end, very melodic in the vocals.




Track 5: Harpa Toner

A traditional Norwegian song, and as we may expect from the older European fairytales, death plays a rather large part in it. The song is a story about a girl gets killed by her older sister, so that the older sister can then marry the lover of the dead sister. However, the bones and hair of the young sister are used to create a harp, which then plays at the wedding and sings the truth. Musically a very layered track, with a clear and sharply defined high end and some deep dark lows, combining to a very complete song. Highly enjoyable, if you can forget the murder and body parts 😉


Track 6: Nymanen

A remake of Under Nymanen from L.E.A.F.’s earlier EP. This was my personal favourite then, and the song that made me fall madly in love with the vocal quality of Kati Ran, and so I’m happy that this song was selected for a remake. I can say that the song hasn’t changed an awful lot fortunately, we can just hear that it has matured and has become somewhat more powerful.


Track 7: Vinda

A very laid-back type of song. Slower, with a dreamy quality, it makes you want to close your eyes and just drift off. The song was written by Maria Franz (Euzen) when she was only fourteen, and indeed Maria sings this song as a duet with Kati. I don’t speak Danish, so I can’t really attest to that, but the English translation certainly does have a very poetic feel to it!


Track 8: Fylgja

The title of this song is in Old Norse and the lyrics in German, which would then make the 4th or 5th language on the album, none of which are Kati’s native tongue. If nothing else this emphasizes the international aspect of this album. The song takes the listener deep into a dream-state, with a very nice continuous rhythm and heavy reverb on Kati’s soothing vocals.


Track 9: Suurin

Suurin is another traditional rite from Finland, and the shamanistic properties of the song are evident from the start. Strong drums and a powerful chant, and the power just keeps building up during the song. Even though the song itself doesn’t reach a clear climax, I can certainly envision people reaching a level of ecstasy from this song when performed or played in the right circumstances.


Track 10: LYS

LYS starts off as a Galdr, an ancient form of song intended to conjure magic. I have been fortunate enough to have seen this song performed live on stage at Castlefest during the combined L.E.A.F./SeeD show, and it certainly felt magical! What a sense of power coming from that stage! And I will admit, even the recorded version gives a similar power, which is not often the case. From start to finish this track speaks to the primal part in my soul with the carefully crafted Galdr text and the massive power from the rhythm.


L.E.A.F. - Lys

As a favourite track I would have to go with Harpa Toner this time. I love the music, the range between the highest highs and the lowest lows, and to be honest I love these kinds of older folk tales. Thank you Kati for breathing life into this one!

Overall the entire album merits taking the time to put on some headphones, or switch on a very high quality stereo when the neighbours aren’t around, and really experience it. Many of the tracks have poetical, lyrical qualities that deserve your undivided attention. I would say: Listen to the album in that way once. Then, if you don’t have all of the knowledge at hand, get on-line, dive into books, find out as much information as possible about all of the topics that this album holds. Find the parts of the Poetic ‘Edda’ that Kati used and bring their context into the experience. Find the poem “Let the light enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and do the same. Envision yourself a part of the Shamanistic rites. And then listen to it again several times. This album is much more than music. To be honest, while that is an amazing achievement, it is also somewhat of a curse. I don’t see LYS ever playing in my car while driving, or in my house as background music. You really want to be able to focus completely on all the layers that Kati gives you. That being said, I am ecstatic to have this album as part of my collection and I really believe that anyone who is into Nordic folk, Nordic mythology or Nordic religion should go out and buy themselves a copy!

– Arjan


Kati

L.E.A.F. is Kati Ran


Pictures courtesy of:

Kees Stravers
http://www.pbase.com/kees_s


EMIAN – AcquaTerra (2014)

Cover (750p)


This time our light shines on an amazing Italian Paganfolk band that is gaining a lot of momentum throughout Europe. We’re talking of course about EMIAN, the four person band that last weekend even came as far north as Belgium, when they played at the fantastic Celtic Night Geluwe.

We have for you a review of their first album, AcquaTerra, which was released in 2014. Lots of harp, lots of good honest musical excellence, and an obvious Omnia influence, making it especially interesting for fans of that particular Dutch pagan band.

EMIAN is an Italian band, consisting of four people, Aianna Egan, Emain Druma, Rohan and Máirtín Killian, that have lost their hearts to Irish and Celtic music. With their first album “Acquaterra” (2014) they have left their mark on the European folk scene, and their musical prowess is also shown by the many, many concerts they play throughout the year!


Track 1: A Sailor’s Tale

Right off the bat the sounds of the harp take you into a dream-world, and as the song progresses the harp starts to play with the strings and you just know that this will be a “sit back and relax” type of album. The sounds of the sea, the creaking of ships decks, the ships bell keeping time, they all create an atmosphere well befitting the music, and the warm vocals and soft harmonies only add to the feeling. A Sailor’s Tale is a tale of love lost, and how could a sailor’s tale not be? With a harp that is very reminiscent of ‘Grunde Lunden’, at least in the beginning, and vocals that have the same style and feeling as ‘The Bold Fenian Men’, it is immediately clear that EMIAN is at the very least inspired by Omnia, and that they will certainly share a fan-base.


Track 2: The Last King’s March

The song starts off like something you might have heard in an old medieval castle, gentle, with a lot of clarity. But then, after the horn sounds to signal the march, the mood changes and the same melody now becomes part of something much more powerful. Anna certainly knows how to play the harp and in this song she takes the instrument all the way! There are many different levels of intensity, many different layers throughout the song, and they all flow together naturally like a story.




Track 3: Haughs of Cromdale

A pure Irish traditional about the Battle of Cromdale. If it weren’t for the clear Italian accent in the singing one would never know that this song wasn’t recorded by a very experienced Irish band. Very well done, a pleasure to hear!


Track 4: Butterfly

Butterfly is another traditional, but an instrumental one, and with a nice spin to it. Closing my eyes I can imagine children playing in the sun, dancing around to these wonderful tunes. All is good when listening to such a beautiful song!


Track 5: Mother’s Breath

It’s hard to describe how this song starts. Maybe one could say it starts with the sounds of chaos from which everything forms. But when the chaos subsides and the main melody starts we hear some more very clear and obvious Omnia influences! It is amazing to hear how EMIAN has taken this song and made it their own, with lyrics and musical variations. A song fit for Mother Earth!




Track 6: Dúlamán

Dúlamán has been played and recorded by many a band and artist, and everyone always gives it their own spin. EMIAN’s version is a very rhythmic and powerful one, almost making it sound like a war-song instead of a song about gathering seaweed and about love. The power in the percussion does make your heart strong, and when the song is finished it leaves you wanting more.


Track 7: Dance in Circle

The sharp harp sounds that this song starts with quickly snap you out of that dark deep power, and when the melody starts you immediately know why this song is called Dance in Circle. It is a very danceable track and I can certainly see large circle dancing, preferably around a large fire. Again an epic song, telling many tales through music alone, this song needs to be shared with as many friends as possible! Let’s all dance in the circle until the sun rises again!


Track 8: Echu Eo Ar Mare

Echu Eo Ar Mare, a Breton hanter dro, is the last song on this album unfortunately. I would have liked for this album to have continued, but I know there is only so much space on a disc. This song is a perfect ending though, as it is a perfect example of a song that can be enjoyed either just sitting on the sofa listening, dancing through your home, or dancing with a hundred visitors on a festival. It leaves us with great promises for the future!


EMIAN (750p)

A quick look at the album-cover immediately shows what kind of band this is. They are Celtic oriented, and they are Pagan, and they have no intention of hiding it. The stag, the leaves, the triskele and triquetras, they all leave no doubt. The style of the artwork actually reminds a lot of the album cover from Damh the Bard’s ‘Antlered Crown and Standing Stone’. I love it, as it sure shows you what to expect!

Overall the album showed a lot of diversity while still maintaining unity. The traditionals are well played, keeping their character intact while at the same time spinning them in a way that it turns them into real EMIAN songs. ‘The Last King’s March’, their own creation, is en epic in and of itself, and I think I would choose that song as my favourite song of the album. We may have a new Monthly Marker here 😉

Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long before they start playing all the major festivals in Europe, and before they release another album, because I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of EMIAN yet!

– Arjan


Photo taken by: Claudio Del Piano


Elvya – Untold Stories (2015)

Cover (750p)


For months, if not longer, we have been teased with posts on Facebook by Elvya, showing progress on her first album. Guest musician after guest musician, all entering the well known Orchus studio of Fieke van den Hurk, or the Wisseloord Studio in Hilversum, made us very curious as to what this album would turn out to be like.
And now, shortly before the actual release of the album, we had the opportunity to review it. And what an opportunity it was!
But before I go rambling on, and give away everything I want to say about this album in the intro of the review, let’s just start with the track by track review you’ve grown accustomed to by now.

Elvya – Untold Stories (2015)

Track 1, Intro, sets a mystical atmosphere, and the listener gets invited into a new world by Arjen Lucassen, with a beautiful accent I might add. It opens up the mind of the listener to receive the Untold Stories.

Henge (750p)

The intro seamlessly moves into Nature. A very mysterious sound, opening up into an epic tribute to Mother Nature. In Dutch we have a word “filmisch” which doesn’t translate very well into English but it does definitely apply to this track. It would be a very fitting soundtrack to some grand images in a movie, birds eye views of wide open plains, massive herds of wild animals roaming free. If this is a hint of what is to come on this album I’d better make myself comfortable or else I will be blown away!

Lavor Mi Gente starts of with a very warm feeling. It is a very emotional track where elements of love resonate through the song, leading towards “love lost” at the end. Key words would be powerful, moving, touching.

Next up is Gover Si Vena. With the addition of more electronic elements and the harmonies throughout this track it not only reminds me of Era, it actually gives me the same feeling. The grandeur in the music, the power, the energy. Checking the lyrics, the translated version, gave me a very mixed feeling, but in a good way. “Mothers are grieving, Praying to the heavens, Reunited in love, One last time.” So much beauty and pain combined in one track, it’s simply amazing. This is art!

Light (750p)

The fifth track is called Socopelli. It is a track that has been rightly placed on the album to give the listener a moment to come down from all this emotion and grandeur. A beautiful song, easy to listen to, and to contemplate the Stories that have been told so far.

The next song, Remember, is a fairytale in its own right. So much is told in this story, yet so much is still left Untold, left open to the interpretation of the listener. I think that this story can, and most likely will, be different for everyone listening to it, as we will all impose our own past and imagination on it. The melodies in this song, I freely admit, gave me goosebumps the first time I listened to it, and even after hearing it several times the song actually brought me to tears!



I don’t really know how to describe the music and vocals in Try to Listen other than as “full of self control”. It is as if the music really wants to break free, but it is held back to a perfect level, because it gives the whole song a bigger impact. The depth and the layers in this song are amazing!

Track 8, Kardizam, is another instrumental track, serving as a great interlude. Almost as if this marks the beginning of a new chapter.

Twirl (750p)

Leave Me starts with some good old 12″ hiss, which will always have a special place in my heart. The song itself is like “mystery meets Euzen”, with almost spooky sounds combined with somewhat of a Drum ‘n Bass type beat. Something completely different, but in a strange way still very fitting to the album. This is definitely later-on-the-main-stage-at-a-festival, danceable material!

Daddy is an emotional plead to a father, giving some information in the lyrics, but still, as with Remember, it leaves a lot to be filled in by the listener. As for the overall feel of the song, I would say it reminds me somewhat of the beautiful ballads by some of the greatest symphonic metal bands of the past few years, without actually sounding like metal very much. There is strength in symphony.



Dulcimer (750p)

I absolutely love the hammered dulcimer, and Spring Dance shows why. It is one of very few instruments that I feel actually tells a story all by itself, with nothing more than sounds. Not a word is sung in this song, but the listener can clearly follow a storyline from beginning to end.

Ann’Vatu, in the language of Elvya, means “Celebrate”, and indeed this song is a celebration of nature, of everything around us that makes our world beautiful. Almost meditative, the lyrics are like a mantra, capturing the deep appreciation of nature. I am very certain I will be listening to this track a lot!

And then we come to the end of this album, unfortunately. The Outro has a clear warning by Arjen Lucassen that the listener has a choice to make. Head back to your own world, or stay in this world of Untold Stories forever. It’s a hard choice to make, but fortunately I still have the album, so I can always return to this enchanted land.


Tree (750p)


One of the things I usually do in a review is choose one favourite track. This way the reader can use that as a reference as to how I listened to the album and artists are often interested in it as well. Liesbeth (Elvya) actually asked me about my favourite track. But you know what? I really don’t know this time. I just can’t choose. Both Remember and Try to Listen have literally moved me to tears, and Ann’Vatu might just be a new mantra for me to repeat when I am out in nature. Those would then most likely be my top 3 tracks of the album, let’s keep it at that.

The artwork of the album, the cover and the CD, give a feel of a fairytale book, the old ones that my parents used to get from the library. The booklet is filled with pictures of beauty and mystery, and overall it all combines perfectly with the music. All lyrics are provided, and in the case of the songs that are sung in Elvyan there are also translations that read just as beautiful as the songs sound! The entire album is a complete package, from start to finish.

Owning and operating a radio-station in the Folk scene means that I get to hear some amazing music, I get to receive some amazing albums. In our scene the focus is on beauty and feeling in the music, not on making as much albums or selling as much music as possible, and that translates into the overall quality within the entire world of folk. There just aren’t many “bad” albums being released. That being said, sometimes we find a diamond in a field of pearls, and I would say that we found one today. Is it due to the musical mind of Elvya? Is it thanks to the engineering and production genius of Fieke? Could it be the star filled line-up of guest musicians that helped create this album? I don’t know, I think it’s most likely a combination of all of the above. But I do know that without Elvya this album would not exist and I am very thankful that it does! I’ve had a conversation with someone once who pointed out that being honest with reviews also meant pointing out flaws, and he was right. But tell me Mr. C, what do I do when I can’t find any? The only downside is that some of the tracks aren’t very suited to be played on CeltCast, as they don’t have the same Folk-feel as most of our music does. This is however because, in my opinion, these songs transcend the boundaries of folk, and I think that for instance fans of Era and Enya will also love this album. All I can say is: Everybody, go and buy this album as soon as it is released, and emerge yourself in these Untold Stories as I have. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

– Arjan


The music on this album was not only played by Elvya, but also by many guest musicians. Which musicians you may ask? Well, check out this awesome list:

Shroom (750p)

Arjen Lucassen: narrator
Ward De Coninck: throat singing, backing vocals, percussion
Ben Auwerx: backing vocals
Ivar de Graaf: drums, acoustic guitar
Dominique Bentvelsen: double bass
Douwe de Wilde: bass guitar
Emilien Delcour: acoustic guitar
Baz Laarakkers: acoustic guitar
Sjoerd van Ravenzwaaij: tin whistle
Coca Román van Dongen: celtic harp
Fieke van den Hurk: hurdy gurdy, accordion, piano
Jan De Weer: recorder
Sophie Zaaijer: violin, viola, cello


SeeD – Portal to Elfland (2015)

Cover (750p)


Once more we get a chance to review an album before it’s released, and this time we have the honour of listening to Portal to Elfland, the first full length album of the Dutch Paganfolk band SeeD.
As a band they are deeply rooted in nature and myth, and this resonates through the entire album.
We have also asked Koen, the lead singer and flautist of the band, to give a little background information about each track.

Track 1: The Veil

CeltCast: The first song, ‘The Veil’, sets the atmosphere for a mystical journey, which is of course very appropriate for and album which is intended to form a Portal to Elfland. During this track there is some playing going on with the stereo image of the music, which definitely gives it a very mysterious feel.

Koen: An intro that I think speaks for itself and acts as an introduction to open the listener up to the concept of the Portal to Elfland.


Track 2: Portal to Elfland

CeltCast: The second track is also the title track for the album, ‘Portal to Elfland’. The first thing to notice in this song is the very heavy bass presence. The song continues to flow in this mystical atmosphere even through the chorus. There is a depth in this track that gives it an almost shamanistic feel. As a personal preference I would have liked to have heard some more high end in this song, but there’s no accounting for taste is there?

Koen: A song in which the listener experiences the journey of stepping through the portal. You can already hear the creatures that you can encounter, and through the sounds of a creaking ship and turning sails it creates the atmosphere of being on a journey and being carried on the currents through the portal. (Mental image: Think of the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where the ship goes over the waterfall to Davy Jones’ Locker.)


Track 3: Twilight

CeltCast: Next up is the song ‘Twilight’. If I were to pick one word to describe it it would probably have to be ‘intriguing’. First there is the lightness of the flute, and then comes some deep percussive bass. This song slowly builds to completion from the start. Just over halfway in there is an energy boost that takes control of your body, almost forcing you to move.

Koen: We musically show the onset of the evening. The sky turning from blue to pink, to purple, to red. And the creatures that become active that time of day, along wit hall the mystique of the dark parts of the forest and the rest of the world.


Track 4: May’s Jig of Lunacy

CeltCast: And then comes ‘May’s Jig of Lunacy’. For a track with ‘jig’ in its name it starts of rather slow, but then comes the power! This is in my opinion the first track of the album that clearly shows a connection to the earlier work of Omnia. It’s very powerful, very musical. Heavy on the percussion, this is a very strong song!

Koen: A jig written for the creatures of the Fae world, that don’t like to play according to the rules as set by man. Something we often see in Balfolk dancing. It’s possible to dance a jig to it, but a true Balfolker, fixated on the rules of the dance, will go mad because the steps don’t fall the way he or she would want them to. Lunacy drives people crazy, think about witches that are strongest during a full moon and in the old days would have been labelled crazy and dangerous.





Track 5: Nymph Hunt

CeltCast: Whom among us doesn’t like the idea of a little ‘Nymph Hunt’? This fifth track of the album is also very reminiscent of early Omnia music. Closing your eyes, it’s easy to envision a hunt after beautiful Nymphs, that leads you across streams and through forests, with the Nymphs staying ahead of you, but only just…

Koen: An up-tempo song in which we act out the playfulness of being free in nature, especially the male and female aspects that are always teasing each other. You can see a mental image of a Nymph pretending that she doesn’t want to get caught by the horny Satyr that is chasing her.


Track 6: Torc

CeltCast: Track number six is called ‘Torc’. The intro of the song is very deep, almost as if it’s meant to bring you into a trance. Although the song does climb out if that depth the trance-like state continues. It feels as if this song, in particular the flute, is trying to tell a story. The transitions between energy levels within this song happen so naturally that you can hardly even notice your mood change. A very musical song.

Koen: A song in which we show our faith in totem animals. It starts with Omnia’s ‘Bran’ acting out a raven, but it quickly flows into the ‘Torc’ part that we wrote that symbolises the boar. I myself have already been on a journey with my totem animal the heron for years and the interconnection is becoming stronger every day.


Track 7: Aerie

CeltCast: Where ‘Torc’ starts off deep, the next track ‘Aerie’ starts off high, open, light. A feeling of magic and Fae, and a sense of urgency that this song contains an important story that needs to be told. Close your eyes and find out what that story is…

Koen: A musical representation of the story of Aerie, a character from the well know RPG game series Baldur’s Gate. A winged elf that is viciously robbed of her wings and now has to live among humans without the freedom she once knew and without ever seeing her kind in the high heavens again.





Track 8: Brave

CeltCast: The eighth song signals that we are already halfway through the album, unfortunately. The track isn’t only called ‘Brave’, it’s a song about being brave and finding your own way to change the world around you. This song has some very, very inspiring lyrics! A very powerful song, feeding the soul with feelings of strength and possibilities. I’m loving the positive vibe from this!

Koen: A song that speaks of the hard choice of staying true to ones self or to go with the flow with life and the people around you. The choice to conform yourself tot he more ‘normal’ people or to just be your happy self. In this song we encourage you to be brave, and despite the fact that it can be difficult at times, to stand strong and be yourself.


Track 9: Green Man

CeltCast: Next up is a track with a very familiar name, ‘Green Man’. An iconic figure in Celtic mythology, and very common in neo-pagan circles, the Green man has had many songs written about him, and this song is a worthy addition to that collection. The chants, with a very subtle harmony, create a very danceable ode to this figure of mythology.

Koen: A song in which we honour the Green Man. A leafy face in many shapes and sizes that symbolises the primordial power of nature and the changes that that power can affect.


Track 10: Lady of Laughter

CeltCast: ‘Lady of Laughter’ is, as the title suggests, a very cheerful song. Slightly more up-tempo than some other songs on this album it conjures up images of faeries in the forests and fields, laughing and dancing, lighting up their surroundings with mischief and happiness.

Koen: A female fae that Koen encountered, and with the inspiration that she gave him we wrote this song. In it a message to respect Nature and the Fae, because they can be unrelenting in their retribution.





Track 11: Land of Melancholy

CeltCast: Quite the opposite, the next song ‘Land of Melancholy’ is slower and more down to earth, though one shouldn’t be fooled by the title, the song certainly isn’t depressing in nature. It actually becomes rather powerful further on in the track. The song ends with quite the surprise on the lyrics. I did not expect that.

Koen: A fairytale written by Koen about two lovers who accidentally stumble into the Land of Melancholy and there fall under a spell of the rulers lament, because she has lost her lover. As long as they are enchanted they will dance on the fields of melancholy and will never return to what they left behind in the lands of man. Again a testament tot he unrelenting nature of the Fae.


Track 12: Gathering Mushrooms

CeltCast: Starting with some really nice percussion and the clear and crisp voice of Sara ‘Gathering Mushrooms’ is something different. The song has a familiar feel, even though I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint it. The combination of the strong and somewhat heavy percussion and the high and happy sounds of the vocals and flute make for a very interesting and entertaining song!

Koen: A traditional, arranged by Michael Philip McGlynn, known from Anuna. This song is about a bo that sees a beautiful young woman bent over to gather mushrooms early in the morning. He is very taken by her and this ends up in a very intimate loving ritual. (They both ‘sat down’ together, oh)


Track 13: Merry Making

CeltCast: ‘Merry Making’ starts with a similar bass sound to the percussion as ‘Gathering Mushrooms’, but the song picks up almost from the start with very enchanting flute play. Throughout the song there are several changes in rhythm that make this track very fun to listen to. A very merry track, leaving you wanting to join in the making…

Koen: A song written to capture the atmosphere of a flaming campfire, the bottles of mead and the nice music and people at a festival. Somewhere near the end a 7/8′ part, to show that sometimes alcohol can have a different, less happy effect. And also just because it can be nice to write some challenges into more straight folk music to keep the musicians in the crowd entertained.


Track 14: CPPS

CeltCast: The energy in ‘Crazy Pagan Party Song’ reminds me of the happy summer festival feeling of Virelai. Fast rhythms, fast melody, I’m definitely going to want to see this song played on a festival main-stage somewhere, with a few thousand people dancing in circles in front of it! It will wear the dancers out but will give a festival an amazing power-boost!

Koen: Well, this accurately represents the atmosphere of our rehearsals…


I usually choose one track from the album as a favourite, to give some indication, some context, as to how I listen to the album and what I’m looking for. For this album I would definitely have to go with ‘Twilight’. The variations in the song, the different levels, they all make the song very interesting and certainly entertaining!

One thing definitely worth pointing out is the artwork. The band logo, the antlers, the tree bark, everything on the cover comes together in a way that just calling it “artwork” isn’t enough. I would actually call it Art, with intentional capitalization! I do hope they will sell posters of this, because I really want my very own Portal to Elfland at home!

Something that is also very noteworthy about this album is the way in which it was recorded. As opposed to the regular way of going into a studio and recording each instrument separately SeeD had taken a very different approach. Their “studios” were the forest and in some cases a church, and they recorded the track in more of a “live” style, playing together as if they were on stage and in that way capturing the shared vibe on the album.

Overall this album is very interesting in several ways. First simply because of the music. It is music written and played out of a passion, and that is something that you can really hear in every track. The second reason that this album is interesting is because it show a lot of promise. Is it an immaculate album? No, I can’t say perfection has been accomplished. The recording and mixing of the album are good, yet not at par with the major studios in the world. I also believe that Koen’s singing will become more confident, when in time, through practice and experience, it will have improved. But you know what? Even though there are other minor things that I could point at, overall I really love the album! I think it is a gem, a must-have in the Dutch Paganfolk scene, and I am a very happy man for having a copy of it! I can’t wait to see their performance at Castlefest and I am very curious as to what the future has in store for SeeD!


SeeD are:

SeeD (750p)


Koen van Egmond: Burke whistles in F & D, Susato double whistle in C, Sallow flute in D, Xaphoon, Tombak, Offerdalspipa

Lars van Egmond: Backing vocals, guitar and percussion (davul, didge, darbuka and jaw harp)

Sara Weeda: Ashbury Irish bouzouki (open D tuning) called ‘Bronagh’, Brendan White double skin Irish bodhrán called ‘Donar’, Cort Earth acoustic 12-string steel guitar called ‘Ysis’.

Robin Dekker: Dual Cajon, Deer hide, rune infused Shaman drum, Lars’s Davul, Egg shaker, Pigma Micron Fineliners









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