FolkWorld #46 11/2011

CD & DVD Reviews

Oxalys & Els van Laethem "Tusschen de twee"
Homerecords, 2011

Kim Delcour "De Geest van Kesterheide"
Appel Rekords, 2011

Cecilia "In bad"
Appel Rekords, 2011

Jeff Caresse "Les mamelles du désur"
Appel Rekords, 2011

First an album by the Oxalys ensemble, which was founded in 1994 by students from the conservatory of music in Brussels. During the past seventeen years the group became one of Belgium’s leading ensembles for chamber music. On their ninth album called Tusschen de twee they cooperate with soprano Els van Laethem. She sings poems by the famous Belgian poet and writer Guido Gezelle (1830-1899) put to music by Koen De Cauter and Dick van der Harst. Tusschen de twee is a beautiful, powerful album with fabulous (classical) music by the Oxalys ensemble and strong vocals by soprano van Laethem. Together they create a beautiful atmosphere that fits perfectly to the impressive, sometimes philosophical lyrics of Gezelle. The booklet contains a small biography of his live in Dutch and French and his lyrics in Dutch. An impressive album with strong compositions of De Cauter and van der Harst, played and sung on the highest level by Oxalys and van Laethem.
Second CD in this Belgian bunch comes from Kim Delcour. Delcour plays bagpipes, flutes etc. and on this project album he is joined by a few known and lesser known Belgian musicians including bagpipe player Stefan Timmermans, Hurdy gurdy players Lief Verbeeck and Paul Garriau and finally on nyckelharpa and violin Rudy Velghe. Together they recorded a kind of concept album about a wonderful place in Belgium called ‘Kesterheide’. They call the album a soundtrack of a landscape and all of Delcour’s compositions are inspired by this bit mystic Heather fields. Although most tracks are original, the album breaths the Belgian tradition from first till the last second. The album starts carefully with a bit nervous played and not always balanced composition O epona / De yzerenman. It’s like the musicians have to get rid of some shyness because the music gets better and better and after track five I already forgot this bit unbalanced start. Delcour and partners recorded a very fine album with traditional orientated bagpipe music in the best Belgian tradition. Very enjoyable and nice to hear how a landscape can still inspire musicians.
Another bagpipe related album is by the Belgian trio Cecilia. Their album is called In bad and contains twelve, mostly original, compositions for bagpipe, accordion, hurdy gurdy, violin and flute. Again a nice album with acoustic folk from Belgium deeply rooted in the traditions of the lowlands and France. The band plays professionally and understands how to arrange the songs in such a way that they are both enjoyable for dancers and for people who just want to listen without moving. In most tracks one of the instruments (mostly the bagpipe, hurdy gurdy of accordion) takes the lead, backed by a combination of the other instruments that sometimes follow the melody, but often build a rhythmic pattern on which the solo instrument can build its melody-line. Another nice album with fine acoustic folk music.
The final Belgian album in this review is a totally different one. Jeff Caresse is an accordionist from the East of Belgium and together with Aurelia de Witte on accordion and Clementine van den Bergh on violin and guitar, he plays twelve original compositions. The musicians have a strong live reputation and on this album they actually manage really well to show their expressive music with audio only. Beautiful, sometimes almost romantic, accordion parts are mixed with creative outbursts of sounds and styles like in the beautiful Small dried flowers. You will find sounds from the streets of Paris, Buenos Aires, Bilbao and many other towns and villages. Again a very nice album from Belgium where several styles and tradition meet in a modern acoustic setting.
© Eelco Schilder

Gudrid Hansdóttir "Beyond the Grey"
Tutl, 2011

Gudrid Hansdóttir was born and raised at the Faroe Islands, a group of islands placed between Norway and Iceland. It intrigues me that a country with not even 50000 people, has so many great musicians and this Hansdóttir shows with her third album to be a singer with international potential. With her original music, beautiful vocals and mixture of Faroe traditional elements, Celtic, pop and rock she recorded a top album that can easily compete with international female neo-folk singers. It’s not only her voice and the strong compositions, it are also the strong musicians that are backing her that make this album a success. From mystical autoharp, sparkling mandolin and frivol recorder to dreamy guitar and nice organ and mellotron additions. It helped making this album an ice variation of songs. Hansdóttir is ready for a bit, international audience, that’s for sure.
© Eelco Schilder

Sido Martens "Drang"
Munich Records, 2011

For an international audience Sido Martens is best known for his English solo albums from the seventies and as one of the Fungus or Farmers union members. (see folkworld 15 for an interview with Martens)[15] Since 1996 he started his ‘second career’ as a musician and since then he released eleven albums and showed great creativity in finding funds for his releases. Some beautiful releases like the CD-book Schraaltroost en liefspraak and the vinyl album Zilverziel were released and with each album Martens showed progress in songwriting and as a musician and by now he can be considered as one of the hidden pearls of the many singer-songwriter The Netherlands has. With sober, pure musical arrangements he sings his personal, poetic, songs. Especially interested for the Dutch speaking part of this world. By the way, this album contains his new version of the traditional song Kaap’ren varen, which is also the most popular Fungus recording. He changes it into an almost sad ballad, very nicely done.
© Eelco Schilder

Art & Lisa "Healin Time"
Own label, 2010

Lisa Beck and Art Crawford are two Texas born musicians and with healin time they released their second album as a duo. Ten original songs, all written by Beck or Crawford, backed by a great band, all ingredients for a great album. I’m always a bit careful when I get private released singer-songwriter albums, to often it’s to amateurish or stars-wanna-bees. But this is something completely different and all big record companies must be fighting to contract this duo, as this album is great! Strong composition, beautiful musical arrangements and two heartwarming voices. The opening track Steal the heart, sung by Beck, is a strong Americana-rock track that has all the potential to become a major radio hit. Easy going, perfectly played and sung, sunny and enjoyable. The second track called Long gone is a second surprise, Crawford impresses with his deep voice in a song in the best country-rock tradition. In Mama’s prayers Beck reminds me for a few moments of the great Irish singer Dolores Keane, the same timbre and somehow the song has the same atmosphere of many of Keane’s recordings. Or hear her sing in Sands of Lubbock what a fantastic singer, she has the quality of giving each song another emotion without losing her natural sound. Great violin by the way in this track. Two great singers, both solo and in the harmony vocal parts, strong songs and a well produced album. A must have and my favorite Americana related album of this year so far.
© Eelco Schilder

Wouter Vandenabeele with Joris Vanvinckenroye, Emre
Gültekin & Ertan Tekin "Chansons pour la din d’un jour"
Homerecords, 2011

I don’t think the Belgian violist/composer Wouter Vandenabeele needs any introduction. His work with Ambrozijn, Olla vogala amongst others and his solo work is highly respected by me and many other lovers of the genre. It’s impressive how he surprises me each time again with beautiful, creative new music. On this new album he plays with one of my other Belgian favorite musicians; Joris Vanvinckenroye and two lesser known musicians; Emre Gültekin on saz and Tanbûr it’s Emre Gültekin and on duduk and mey it’s Ertan Tekin. In a fabulous way the four musician interweave their own styles and different cultures. It’s music of the silence, intimate, sometimes a bit melancholic but always of the highest quality. Vandenabeele’s violin play goes straight through your soul, beautifully accompanied by the sparkling sound of the saz and the more mystic sound of the duduk. And to complete the perfect sound, Vanvinckenroye shows his creativity and gives the music a modern, full sound. What a wonderful album which will get a special place in my music collection.
© Eelco Schilder

Leuchter & Melrose "Kein Schöner Land"
Acoustic Music Records, 2011

Article: Wassergeist am Havelstrand

Kein schöner land is the second album by the duo Manfred Leuchter on accordion and Ian Melrose on guitar and occasionally on a whistle. I’m very familiar with the work of Melrose, and many of his albums and recorded projects can be found in my CD collection. He is one of the finest (folk) guitarists and dares to try many genres and new ideas. This album is my first acquaintance with accordionist Leuchter, a real pleasure to hear him play. On this album Leuchter amazes with wonderful play. He puts his soul in the accordion and through his music he tells beautiful personal tales. In combination with Melrose his professional guitar sound, it’s top quality music. The duo is influenced by music from all over the globe. I hear Celtic sounds, Latin themes , Arabic atmospheres and Nordic myths. Two great musicians who bring out the best in each other.
© Eelco Schilder ""
Phonoplay, 2010 is a Swiss band formed around Yodel singer Nadja Räss. Together with three musicians on clarinet, guitar and bass, she sings thirteen traditional and original compositions. The album is full with traditional-jazzy sounds and Räss likes a slight avant-garde approach. The last few years I have reviewed some Yodel related albums and a few of them helped me to get over my preconceived opinion about this type of music. Unfortunately Stimmereise is not one of them. But let me be very clear that it’s not the band’s quality, a great singer, three strong musicians and well arranged music that is the problem. This album contains music on a high level. No, it’s my personal preference and lack of experience with this style that makes it hard for me to like and enjoy the music. I apologize for this, especially to the musicians, I’m 100% sure that you will love this album when you are more open minded to the Yodel music than I am.
© Eelco Schilder

Arwinda "Wandervogel"
Own label, 2011

Arwinda is a German trio on percussion, accordion vocals, didgeridoo, citer and wooden horn. The trio plays a few original compositions , two Russians traditional and the famous Italian song Bella ciao. The musicians try to create a modern- beat sound on acoustic instruments. Their predictable compositions sound nice, but it never really catches me. It’s unpolished, raw music but to uncontrolled to impress me. Nice ideas, sometimes nice melodies, a nice band for local performances but it needs much more time and work to become an international acclaimed band.
© Eelco Schilder

Ghalia Benali "Romeo & Leila"
Zimbraz/Music & Words, 2006/2011

The originally Tunisian singer Ghalia Benali became one of Belgians foremost world music artists. Both her solo work and band projects get strong critics and are loved by the audience. Last year she recorded a nice tribute to the world famous singer Om Kalthoum. The album Romeo & Leila is a reissue of the 2006 recorded and released CD. It tells the tale of princes Leila and Romeo the magician. A concept album with their story sung in eight songs/parts. The sad love story ends tragically in a beautiful arranged musical setting with a heartbreaking sadness. Backed by musicians on Oud, cello, (Arabic) percussion, double bass, Benali bewitches the listener with her beautiful voice, strong compositions and well arranged Arabic influenced music. An album that is worth the reissue and worth buying.
© Eelco Schilder

Söndörgö "Tamburising"
World Village, 2011

The Hungarian band Söndörgö started in 1995 and in the sixteen years of its existence, it became one of Hungary’s best kept secrets. The musicians want to foster and preserve the Southern Slavic tradition from their homeland. They won several prices and worked with some great names in Hungarian music. The band plays several types of the string instrument the Tambur. With a few guests they recorded fifteen beautiful songs and tunes. Known ones like Opa cupa and lesser known tunes. The energetic string work is both furious and gentle. Angry and romantic but always of high quality. With strong guest vocals, accordion, clarinet and percussion the five musicians create the world of the isolated living Southern Slavic people in a convincing, beautiful way.
© Eelco Schilder

Land über "Weitblick"
Artfull Sounds, 2011

Second album by this German duo on cello and saxophone with added soft percussion. This new album includes eight tracks or actually more a kind of soundscapes. With a minimalistic approach the musicians create a kind of dreamy, tender and sometimes almost romantic kind of music. Its melodic jazz mixed with sounds that feel like coming directly out of nature. They seem to dream away while playing, on a few moments feel haunted, but always a warm and safe feeling is nearby. Not really a folk album, but for lovers of dreamy, well played jazz in Nordic style, this is your album.
© Eelco Schilder

Eurasia "Be nowhere"
Own label, 2011

German CD Review

Eurasia is a trio from Austria playing Harp, sitar, Saxophone, flutes and electronics. This is the bands first release in a nice limited edition. The trio plays original compositions, Indian, Alp and Korean traditional tunes. The band is full of good ideas and tries to mix Asian sounds with Western music. The opening track Eurasia is a kind of ‘6 minutes introduction to the band’. I hear many nice attempts, but on this track I get the idea that three musicians are playing separately from each other instead of together. What I miss in this composition and unfortunately in some other as well, is a unity as a band. It all sounds a bit too artificial, where is the organic symbioses of the instruments? I get the idea that the music comes from the head of the musicians instead of from the heart. Occasionally I hear nice world-jazz sounds, but these are fragments only. To my personal opinion Eurasia has nice ideas, but it needs more time to develop their own, well balanced style. It needs more soul, more passion and a lot less ‘thinking’.
© Eelco Schilder

Omnia "Musick and Poetree"
Pagan Scum Records, 2011

The Dutch pagan folk band Omnia has a reputation of theatrical, mystic folk experiences on stage. I saw one of their earlier concerts at the Folkwoods festival many years ago and at that point their bombastic live experience didn’t impress me at all. Only two months ago two diehard fans convinced me that Omnia got much better and I really should listen to their recent music. Well, here is their latest release a 2 CD set, both 20 minutes long. The first CD contains five tracks, four original and a remake of a Valravn song. The songs are nice, not too complicated folk compositions with harp, flute and vocals as main ingredients. The weak point on this first CD are the lyrics. I know Omnia loves creating their own reality, but some of the lyrics and the artwork gives me more the feeling that a bunch of teachers joined together and want to educate us about nature and all disasters human kind is heading for. But at least this first album contains some nice music, which can’t be said about the second CD. According to the band it´s an ode to the essence of word combined with music. They sing cover versions of songs like Fuck her gently, Lili Marleen and Het dorp, a famous Dutch evergreen, originally a composition by Jean Ferrat. Well it doesn’t sound like an ode, but more like an attempt to copy the original artists in an almost pathetic way. Listen to Lili Marleen and you hear how Omnia tries to copy the original, but drowns in their attempt. Even worse is Het dorp, a beautiful song, but not in this attempt to copy one of the best Dutch artists from the past fifty years. Why trying to remake something in an almost exact manner when you don’t have the talent to beat the original? It would have been so much more interesting to hear Omnia’s very own interpretation of these great songs, now it’s just a collection of bad covers which even some lesser known cover bands do better. So I’m very sorry for those two diehard fans who tried to convince me that Omnia really got better throughout the years, but this album doesn’t make me change my personal opinion about Omnia’s music.
© Eelco Schilder

Snakefarm "My Halo at Half-light"
Fledg’ling records, 2011

Snakefarm waited twelve years with a second album following up their fantastic debut CD Songs for my funeral. Snakefarm is singer Anna Domino and Michel Delory on guitars, percussion, electronics etc. This new album contains ten own interpretations of traditional songs and the albums starts where the other album left us. Fine programming and electronics mixed with acoustic and electric instruments and all fronted by the great female vocals of Anna Domino, who has a kind of ‘new wave’ way of singing. Which is a bit strange way to describe a singer, but I don’t have the words to describe it differently. The album has a beautiful allover sound and is very accessible and easy going. It has the same, bit dreamy, atmosphere as the debut album, but it’s not as surprising as the first album. I would have thought that in the twelve years between the two albums the band would have developed a bit more. Now they stay in the typical late nineties electronic-folk-pop style, which sound a little bit dated at moments. It would be interesting if the duo steps into the 21st century and got into the modern electronic styles and beats. Then this would have been a renewing album. Now this second CD is a bit predictable, but at the other hand nothing wrong with the quality of it. So I got a bit mixed feelings. I still think Snakefarm is a great band, but I also expected a bit more adventurous album.
© Eelco Schilder

Aufstrich "Brot"
Extraplatte, 2008

A bit strange to write a review about this album, as it has been reviewed early 2009 by one of my Folkworld colleagues and the album is over three years old. But I always review everything the editors send me so here we go. Brot is the debut album by the Austrian band Aufstrich. The band’s main sound is influenced by the violins and other strings. Nicely accompanied by the saxophone. The repertoire is a mixture of traditional theme’s, classical sounds and original compositions. Very recognizable as music from one of the Alp countries and this violin based music sound very different than, for example, music from the Swedish violin tradition. It’s not as fluent as the known Swedish styles and has somehow a more chamber music atmosphere. A happy album with frivol, danceable music. Well played but after fourteen tracks there is a risk of a light overdose of sunny happiness.
© Eelco Schilder

Vanesa Muela "Generaçion espontanea"
Own label, 2005

I don’t know why this five year old album turns up in my pile of review albums, especially because Vanesa Muela has more recent albums. But here it is and seen the fact that the music is good, better late than never I guess. If there exists an award for the worst photo shopped sleeve, this album would be a winner. But never judge things on their looks, the music is beautiful. Coming from the Castilla region, she brings the traditional music back to live. Together with a group of traditional musicians her songs have a authentic atmosphere. With good vocals, nice musical arrangements Muela shows to be a great ambassador for the traditional styles of her region. Interesting to hear how this music has influences from the upper north regions of Spain, but also from the middle and even some southern Spanish sounds. So forget about the things I wrote about the sleeve, it’s the music that counts and this old album makes me more than curious to hear her new work.
© Eelco Schilder

Cassard "Bukalemun"
Klangwelten Records, 2011

A great duo from Germany, formed by Christoph Pelgen (La Marmotte, Adaro and many other projects) and Johannes Mayr (La Marmotte, Hölderlin Express, DÁN and many others) focusing on traditional music from several European countries, both with a big French and medieval influence. Together with four guest musicians on a few tracks, the duo surprises me with a beautiful album with a wide variation of traditional (mostly) and original compositions. Very well played on the many instruments such as accordion, nyckelharpa, bombarde, bagpipes, flutes, many strings, some vocals and so much more. The album has a light, fresh sound and is perfect from the start to the end. Often a traditional approach, but occasionally the duo takes a different route and that fits the music very well. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if they play French, Turkish, Celtic, Swedish or Bulgarian music. Their choice of repertoire is really well done, all these different tracks from the different cultures fit perfectly and make this a real ode to the European folk in general.
© Eelco Schilder

Monster Ceilidh Band "Mechanical Monster"
Own label, 2011

Second album by the UK folk band Monster Ceilidh Band. On this double album they try to take the traditional folk music into the world of modern music and they succeed quit well. All four musicians gained experience by playing with a few, almost legendary, names in UK folk like Jez Lowe and Kathryn Tickell. The first album is the acoustic one with energetic dance music played on their acoustic (more or less) instruments in an inventive and modern way. They break with the traditional rhythmic patterns and create more modern beats on their accordion, fiddles, bass, guitars and other instruments. I like this energetic album a lot. The fun of playing sparkles into the living room and it’s hard to sit still on this nice selection of dance tunes. On album number two they are joined by a fifth member which is Joe Truswell, alias ‘The touch’. A UK drum and bass producer/musician who adds electronic beats with his laptop and some drumming. Occasionally this works really well and the music gets an extra vibe, but personally I think the band doesn’t need such an extra addition seen the high quality of CD 1. Nevertheless this brings a new impulse to UK folk music and I love that this band dares to think out of the box and tries to combine styles into a new blend of tradition and 21st century possibilities. This album will make a really nice addition to your collection of (folk) albums.
© Eelco Schilder

Mor Karbasi "The Beauty and the Sea"
Own label, 2008

German CD Review

The twenty five years old singer Mor Karbasi was born in Jerusalem and has Moroccan and Persian roots. This album is her 2008 debut album full of Jewish music mixed with Persian, south European and North African influences. Strangely enough she also got a new album, so I don’t understand why she chooses to send her older one for review. On this album she mixes traditional sounds with electric instruments and is backed by a bunch of great musicians including a guest appearance by Trilok Gurtu. The album is well produced, good choice of material and as I wrote before, great musicians. But even after five times trying, I just can’t listen to the album. The sharp, high pitched doesn’t do it for me. At a few occasions It’s even too much and this airy voice makes me turn the volume a lot down. A pity, as the album is highly professional and contains beautiful musical arrangements but Karbasi just hasn’t my taste of voice. Seen the fact that she gets great reviews, it must be my bad taste in music that makes me dislike her voice. So go to the webpage, you probably will love it.
© Eelco Schilder

Faun "Eden"
Extra tours, 2011

Tanzwut "Morus et Diabolus"
T.Fell Records, 2011

Reliquiae "Avdi vide tace"
Own label, 2011

Let’s do a bunch of German dark-folk-medieval groups who have released new albums in the past months. The first one, Faun, celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. During this first decade of their existence the group became one of the best known dark-folk groups from Germany. With their mediaeval influenced music they create a very sound. Played on instruments such as the nyckelharpa, harp, bagpipes, percussion and many other instruments from all over the world. Traditional material from several countries, mixed with modern beats, sounds and samples. Wonderful Scandinavian melodies, haunting German pieces and fine Eastern European tracks. Faun shows with this new album their many possibilities, their professional attitude and the possibility of creating an intriguing fantasy world with their music. Powerful, well produced, beautifully played, strong vocals. This Eden will be loved by many for sure.
The second group is called Tanzwut. This band has two versions; a Mediaeval rock band and a kind of Tanzwut-light; acoustic Medieval music. This new album is recorded by the ‘light’ version of the band and contains four bagpipes and percussion. Although the music is acoustic, don’t think it isn’t heavy. The first track blows a wall of bagpipes and heavy beats out of the speakers and in high speed this band keeps trying to blow my head off. Don’t expect any subtlety in their music, even those few second you think they need to breath, they hunt you down your own living room. We had a small earthquake here in Nijmegen yesterday, the epicenter was in Goch, Germany. I just have to check if this band by any change was playing there at that time. You will love this, at least when you like heavy bagpipes, unstoppable beats and the feeling of being chased all the time.
Somewhere between Faun and Tanzwut you find the young and very talented band Reliquiae. Two years after the five musicians started to play together, they come with their debut album Avdi vide tace. This band plays French, Russian, Macedonian, White stripes and self composed music in a typical Mediaeval- rock band setting. Of course some bagpipes, violin, drums, flutes etc and even some heavy warriors singing. But also some strong compositions, unexpected twists and beautiful melodies. Their own composition Pista de baile is one of the best on the album, with modern sounding beats they never lose their Mediaeval atmosphere. But their version of the French traditional Tri martelod is definitely the worst one I have ever heard. This track needed more time and work, it now sounds like an uncompleted demo recording. This album shows the great potential the band has, sometimes they surprise me with fantastic music but on a few occasions it feels like they didn’t take the time to finish a song properly. Nevertheless a strong debut album and a band that has everything to become a major name in (mediaeval) folk rock.
© Eelco Schilder

Aldona "Sonnet"
Jaro, 2011

Aldona is a quartet leaded by vocalist, composer and guitarist Aldona Nowowiejska. She now lives in Paris but has Polish roots and on this album she sings in the Polish language, except for an occasional French song. Besides original material she sings lyrics by Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson amongst others. The result is a very fine blend of Polish music, folk, slight Americana influences and a good bunch of creativity. Aldona plays with sounds, styles and has an expressive voice that gives each song the right atmosphere. Sometimes powerful and overwhelming, but also fragile and almost shy. A very nice debut album with a very own sound by a passionate singer/musician.
© Eelco Schilder

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