Reviews of recent Medieval, Dead Can Dance inspired products,
and Heavenly Voices.
And some female voices with world music touches
* SYLVI ALLI
Vertical Pool Prod Sylvi Alli : Too near the ghosts (US,2001)***' (VG)
Angelic voice, piano and keyboard arrangements, some nice cello improvisation. Most tracks are very dreamy, with slightly darker heavenly atmospheres. Comparable to the Changelings, and somewhat to Vishnu's Secret. Only the second track I like less with its more guitar easy chords and text, the only song written by the guitarist, her husband. Just a few tracks have a slight Celtic feeling in the singing, being at its most sad, some give also a slight Gothic feeling in the keyboards without using too obvious ideas. Mostly the instrumentation is in a balanced way somewhat dreamy flowing, uplifting darker colours. The compositions are less imortant as the mood they create. This mood is on the edge of Gothic but still with some distant from it. Very recommended to lovers of DCD.
Vertical PoolSylvi Alli : Dream of the blue moth (rec.1990-2003)***
While "Too near the ghost" had a Dead Can Dance like melancholy (voice with suiting cello, piano and guitar), this CD seems somewhat like a side project with theatre-and filmmusic. Sylvi Alli worked for twelve years with Antero Alli for his films and theatre pieces. In one of these films Sylvi played a wandering soul captured in her own circle of a one-being world. The tension in this CD starts much darker than before. When a theatre play starts and the light goes out, we expect a direction where from the spotlight we are about to be taken to an experience. Here we are left in the tension of the surrounding darkness. Voices echo around, with occasional dark ritualistic handpercussion accompaniment. It's only a bit later on that the mood slowly opens up and the curtain really opens up.. The voice and arrangements become clearer, and something builds up with more clarified moods. When an accordion accompanies it sounds like the story finally begins. Harpischord like keyboards and a few times an almost Gregorian voice arrangement bring us to some higher spheres. If only the last piece, "Annamundi" with its dark text story didn't bring down the mood again. This is a world close to a certain complacent desperation that seems to have an according self-developing beauty as well.
* KARIN HÖGHIELM
Särart Prod. Karin Höghielm : Apocryphal (SW,1999)***°
exp voice/new music
Karin studied voice, piano, percussion, composition and dance. Her music became a combination of sometimes slightly (mostly Scandinavian) ethnic harmony voice compositions with composed chamber like music. Her music has been and can always be used for dance, theatre, short films and poetry recitals. The instrumental part of compositions is classical slightly minimal chamber music with a touch between medieval, ethnic folk and contemporary music, always with harmonious chords and compositions, with a beautiful balance between a variety of instruments (including various brass and wind instruments, chamber orchestra) and harmonious voices. People interested in serious DCD like music with chamber music instrumentation and a bit more Scandinavian folk flavoured contemporary voices will find a very nice CD here. It was not easy for the radio program to pick out tracks. The artist has a good portion of individuality to blend various styles and make it her own kind of variety of music. Only from one track ("Sordo") I don't understand the use of the disturbing droning of a glass not being solvable in harmony with its music. The few arrangements with choir fit nicely. Also some extra mention for the beautiful slightly Celtic medieval "Ave Maria". Even the a capello "Lame'nto" in slightly changed Chinese singing style is very beautifully done, an adaptation rarely done so skilled and convincing it's interpretation. Karin succeeds to create a certain area of contemplation within this blend of various musical sources involved. Her music is balanced and gentle. Very recommended.
* RHEA'S OBSESSION :
Metropolis Records Rhea's Obsession : Re : Initation (2001)***
This products lays out of this category a bit but should interest persons who look for items within this category and mood. The music has the emanation of such a product without taking this as inspiration. The elements from their music does contain some industrial rock pop elements (like early Cocteau Twins). (-Sometimes there's some distortion used on the electric guitar-). Some rhythms are associated with Ethnic World music as inspiration, but never so adaptated like in Fusion. The female voice is beautiful and does reflect completely the definite atmosphere in which this item is categorised here. I won't recommend this to people who search for progressive fusions, but I think this item will be liked by many looking within this field because it has been made so professionally.
Mystic Records Melbourne : Night Sky (UK,2001)*
Described as "World rhythms and sounds combined with electronica and dark melodic pop sensibility" and as being "both intelligent and accessible" I can say the accessibility uses good contrasts, a three dimensional sound. The easy feeling pop mode is a tricky pose of the performance itself, open to contact, in a gentle way, more than coming forth from a reaction from a key/fire from an inner creation. In the area of easy approach it works nicely, fluently, would fit with MTV hits. It makes itself different with nice instrumentation colours, often world music references, used as textured ideas mostly. First two tracks seem to refer to some English sounding Indi-Pop. But more than one song does not really work. The inner inspirations transforming into music are somewhat poor in maintaining the 'nice and easy' approach. Track 5 for instance "end of the line" crosses a line, with repetitive boring bass and keyboards. The groups' sound with Carrie's voice works best with the textured world music colours.
PS. This release has no Dead Can Dance reference !
Hitch-Hyke Rec.Kristi Stassinopoulou : the secrets of the rocks (GR,2002)***°
Kristi started of in highschool with rock and folkrock adaptations, later, in 1989 she formed Selana with composer and multi-instrumentalist Stathis Kalyviotis, a group that combined garage with traditional Greek folk. Later she started her solo carreer with an interest in making Balkan ethno trance Music. This fifth album by Kristi was described as being her most promising and mature work so far. It has been written and inspired by listening to sounds on a beach in a natural environment. It has been said, recorded sounds of waves, boats, bells and birds were transformed into musical instruments. The style of the music is very rich "World Folk Pop", songs, made with an emphasis on World Music. Kristi has at least some senses and roots in Balkan Folk traditions, but uses more exotic moods and rhythms with the modern sounds of electronica and lots of programming arrangements combined with exotic instruments. She also claims another inspiration is psychedelic rock, with touches of inspiration making the sound even richer. This so called psychedelic touch with folk is comparable with what Martha Sebestyen did before. It's mostly the interest in ambient ethno trance that gives the music more dimensions. The singing also reminds me sometimes of some of more experimental world music singers in the Indian World music tradition. The programming (and music in general by Stathis Kalyviotis) is done extremely well compared with almost all music from that area. In this way this cd has a very acclaimed, professional, always moving sound. It's especially beautiful on headphones or with the best equipment. Only track 7, "Whirlpool", is different and not with electronica, but is more ethno psych pop rock. Also the last track, "Summer Moon" is in a more rock style, sung with a harmonious clear voice. A CD which might surprise and please many.
To be played in radio show : Tr.1-3,7(or 13).
3 related products with medieval music (tracks or whole abums) :
Fl.Gl.M. Avalon Rising (US,1995)*** Broceliande (US,2000)*** Margaret Davis : Princess of Flowers (US,1998)***°
Although this release is already some years old, I remembered it as having strong capacities, which I liked so much I believe it deserves some extra attention for a small review. I really like the full group's sound with Margaret Davis, female crystal clear medieval vocals, harp & flute and Kristoph Klover, male vocals, guitars, mandolin on the lead, with Deirdre McCarthy, backing vocals and additional instruments texturing the music, with Peter Gascoyne, drums and backing vocals, Beth Milne, bass & French horne arrangements, and Mike Pooler some additional keyboards. This 'full' sound is a strong folkrock sound with medieval touches, and originally arranged songs (like "The Great Selkie"). In "Where the Sunset is Golden" I like especially the melodic touches of the combination of flute and French horn on the folkrock sound with 12string and electric guitars drums and keyboards with romantic singing. "Andrey Soulet", for instance, a 15th century song by Matteao da Perugia, has also a fine interpretation, and has been transformed into prog folk through the extra drums, electric bass and guitar (by Kristoph) driving the rhythm on medieval flute and outstanding multilyered vocals (by Margaret), and with a slightly exotic touch of doumbek & riq (by Deirdre). The group has the luck to have the professional vocals by Margaret to perfom songs like "Contre le Tens / Toda Cousa" two French medieval troubadour songs. Two tracks fit less in the musical concept : "To the sea" (by Deirdre), which is the only rock track, which has in the first part not such finely arranged instrumentation, and altough the band improvises a bit in between the chorus parts, it falls off the record as a more forgettable track. Also "Reborn" (by Pete Gescoyne) has a different starting point, and despite it's textured folk and electric guitar arrangements that uplift it, it remains a mainstream poprock track. Also the last track "Black Davie's Ride" (by Cynthia Mc Quillin) misses some refinement of the more outstanding tracks on the album. Songs like "God walks among us" has a much more romantic folkrock feel, with just enough openness for the fine textures of the harp, a vocal arrangements part, and an electric guitar solo with harp and additional textured percussion and keyboards. "Dark Moon Circle" is a Pagan tribal song that sounds like a folkrock medieval traditional.
The album has very strong moments, with a group's sound that is just perfect for it, with a good balance of folkrock and refined textures, making this album worth to discover. The few more rock tracks did not have the same perfectionism. From Avalon Rising evolved the medieval music group Brocceliande. Margaret Davis did also some solo projects. Electric instruments were left out there.
Hearing Broceliande after Avalon Rising, after a few years, I recognise even more how Broceliande is a group with a more constant sound with all unnecessary elements left out. Basically we hear medieval, old music, and traditional music. The sound of the group has a foundation in both medieval music and folk, and the members had some experience in improvising and living through the genres with enough free sound to create fresh and spontaneous songs, that sound as if they had been composed by the group itself. Various tracks however are still close to more obvious arrangements. This is a group I would like to see and perform their (medieval) music live. Margaret Davis also had a fine solo album, called "Princess of Flowers" (1998) with much more attention to medieval songs and harp play. An album which is just perfect as it should be in a relaxed and enjoyable mode, arranged medieval folk with a consistent and well balanced sound, with the cooperation of various additional musicians. Another, older, related product from Flowing Glass Music with one of the members from Broceliande / Avalon Rising is by First of May, which is reviewed at the Wicca / Pagan Folk review WebPages. Quixote-MusicCinnamonia : the scarlet sea (D,2002)***
Cinnamonia is a project by Sandra Werner, singer before from Madrigal (1993-1999) and Thomas Köhler, founder of Operating Strategies, an electronic music wave band. The band was recommended to me by a friend in Norway who knows what kind of music I usually play in my radioshow saying it could fit on my review page for Dead Can Dance related products. It's true. It is a another good example of this style. As it often is with such styled groups it's performed by another duo. On a few tracks some other musicians participated. Basically it's performed and originally composed with keyboard arrangements with some other instruments (percussion, ambient electric guitars,..) added. The vocals are mostly solo, here and there or with a second voice. The instrumentation varies from gentle ambient wave to wave pop. The mood is, also like most Dead Can Dance related releases that of a call for beauty in a limited individual space. The feeling of loneliness still is present, although in a very light form. It presents itself with only sparse variations, in music, and it takes a more introverted way of listening to the music, to connect with a certain sadness more clearly. Like Loreena McKennit does with her music, two traditionals were adapted. Here they were transformed completely into this band's light melancholy mood.
PrivateMercey Machine : complete works (1997-2003)**°
In the follow-up of Vishnu's Secret, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, & The Changeling's this is another release with mostly cello foundations, here with a often more low voice female vocals, in a mood on the edge of dark wave & gothic music, with Dead Can Dance reference, with additional percussion, bass and piano. In mood it also reminded me at Autumn Tears, for it is pretty dark & repetitive in its musical inspiration. I have to ask my colleague to judge about the texts.
Review will be completed soon.
Prikosnovenie Various Artists : Fairy World n°1 (var,2003)***°
This book / CD can be a real discovery and treasure as introduction to a lot of more unknown but interesting Dead Can Dance like groups. A must for any Dead Can Dance lovers. This compilation and introduction CD not only gives an overview of various of the releases from the label, -a label that calls itself the label of a fairy world- with additional introduction in French and English, with a CD that introduces each group with a track, it also has beautiful artwork, compiled in the (17 pages) book(let) a pleasure to see. Various other tracks featured are unreleased tracks. What annoys me is usually lots of groups making their own reflective interpretations of a Dead Can Dance like world, but with a lack of dynamism, boring production and instrumentations and uninteresting rhythms. This label however succeeds in having groups with a much more attractive production. All groups here have a perfect and dynamic production, various groups have much more interesting percussion than is usual with such style. The combinations of orchestration, dynamic percussion, electronica with acoustic elements combined with heavenly voices is optimal with lots of the groups with groups like Faraway as a perfect example. Every track is good or very good. Only one track near the end is a bit different in style, namely, Ringe Ringe Raja, which is a more traditional ethnofolk track with a (jazz)fusion electric guitar. Favourite tracks were by Russian group Caprice, freshly arranged chamber neo-classical music with heavenly voice of Brejestovskaya, and Flëur, from Ukraine, with sweet vocals & chamber music like arrangements & some keyboards. A few groups sound like replacements for Dead Can Dance, like Irfan or Jack or Jive & Gor. Surprising was also Phil von & The Gwana Musicians of Fes with again very dynamic interesting modern rhythms & an ethnic touch. Much more interesting music, and more modern rhythmically than what I usually heard before compared to other similar examples I heard before, from for instance Northern Africa. Browse the label and discover more treasures. Many more groups were included in the booklet, but not on the CD. I am sure there are more interesting groups to discover, like Klimperei, somewhat different, more experimental in style, a group which I will check out later.
Other suggestions for airplay (on radio Centraal in Antwerpen) and / or review ? please E-mail me