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The Magic Door, an album that is warm, kind and full of mystery

November has become a month of stories. First, we had the beautiful myths of the Sami people and North Germanic tribes put to music by the new duo Gói, then we dived even deeper into the Germanic myths with Sowulo’s storyteller album GRIMA. And now we have one last myth. For this myth, we go to Italie. To Rome. To a magical portal that has been placed there somewhere in the 16th century and has become an inspiration for a trio formed by Athuan Rebis, Giada Colagrande and Vicenzo Zitello. Together they formed The Magic Door and they made an album that is warm, friendly and full of mystery. Click on the link and dive with me into the world of the alchemists. Poetic, beautiful….and strange.

The Magic Door – The Magic Door (2018)

This month has been a month of stories, as The Magic Door is yet another album based around a myth. But this time it’s a story from a warmer region of Europe and much later in time than the old Scandinavian and Sami myths we heard till now. It takes place in Baroque Rome. According to legend, at the end of the 17th century, a pilgrim called ‘Stibeum’ was a guest at the villa of Marquis Maximiliano Palombara, a man who had developed a passion for alchemy since he visited the alchemical laboratory in the Riario Palace, (now known as Palazzo Corsini) in 1656.
The pilgrim (most likely an alchemist called Giuseppe Francesco Borr) disappeared forever after this visit, but he left a paper with seven symbols and epigraphs corresponding with the seven planets that were known to mankind in those days. Unable to decipher them himself the Marquis engraved these symbols and epigraphs in his door hoping that someday, someone would decode them. This door, now known as Porta Alchemica or Porta Magica, is the inspiration for this album.

Fast forward 350 years and we find ourselves in October 2016. The moment that Arthuan Rebis and Giada Colagrande started work on a musical project: making an album inspired by the Porta Alchemica. Arthuan Rebis we know of course as the composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist of the Italian medieval group In Vino Veritas, and of his solo album La Primavera Del Piccolo Popolo, which we reviewed a few months ago. Giada Colagrande is an Italian film director, actress and singer. During the writing process, Vicenzo Zitello (an accomplished composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist in his own right) became part of the porject as a third bandmember. Last to join The Magic Door were special guests Glen Velez (percussion, frame drum) and Marco Cavanna (double bass). Together they recorded the album The Magic Door, which was released in November 2018.

Those of you who know Arthuan Rebis his solo album La Primavera Del Piccolo Popolo will know he has his own very unique style: warm and friendly, somewhere between ambient-, new age-, folk- and easy-listening pop music. Well, The Magic Door is just as unique. Which brings me to the impossible task of trying to describe The Magic Doors music. A problem I already had when I tried to describe Arthuan Rebis’ solo music. The honest answer. I struggled. How do you describe 5 centuries of music flowing together anyway? New age music; chamber pop; Baroc, ’50’s pop, a touch of Arabian influences, it is all there, blending together in a unique way, making the music feel refreshingly new and comfortingly old at the same time. Confused? well, join the club. My first two attempts to put this music into words became so complicated to read, that they looked like an alchemistic formula in their own right.
The basis of The Magic Door’s music is the feeling of warmth. An embrace put to music. Listen to the warm notes of the cello in Saturnine Night combined with Giada’s equally tender voice and you’ll melt away on the spot. When Arthuan then also adds his soothing voice to the music, it becomes a warm woolen blanket you can crawl into. A soft musical pillow of ease and relaxation.

The Refrain of Jupiter’s Dew is Just as Silky

The refrain of Jupiter’s Dew is just as silky. It is stunning how Arthuan’s and Giada’s voices blend together. Not only on this song but through the whole CD. Pure magic. Supported by a gentle drum rhythm, a groovy double bass, and pleasant acoustic guitar chords this whole album is a joy for the ear. Sudden surprises as the musical saw in Jupiter’s Dew and Mercury Unveiled add that special sort of mystique an alchemist inspired album should have.

But not every song is cozy and calm. Water of Mars has an enticing bass/cello line. Really catchy and slightly dark. As the song progresses it picks up speed and at the same time drags you back through the centuries into a dark Baroc sounding cello/nyckelharpa solo. Welcome mister Bach into the 21st century. A really clever use of ‘antique’ instruments in a modern arrangement. And that is the essence of the sound of The Magic Door.

Capturing The Essence of the Sound of The Magic Door

On one hand, you have the warmth of the wooden string instruments and the lovely voice of Giada that take you back to the sound of the ’50s. It was a time when you still had an orchestra or a string ensemble ready in the studio to record the music. Giada’s voice has that ‘old’ almost jazzy tone, reminiscent of singers like Marlene Dietrich, -dare I say it- Marilyn Monroe or, more recently, Mary Coughlan and Tanita Tikaram.
On the other hand, the music and arrangements sound modern and fresh. That is mainly due to the production, AND the modern, folky use of the percussion. It gives this CD its cheer, its vibrancy. It sounds folky, fun, and always upbeat. Glen Velez is a master on the frame drum and it is only fair that he has got his own solo spot on the album with the song Ancient Portal. The subtle, open sound of the guitar and harp is the thing that blends everything together. The song Vitriol is possibly the best example of this beautiful mix of old and new. It is also the folkiest song of them all.

The lyrics are just as intriguing as the music itself. The refrains of most of the songs are translations of the inscriptions left on the Porta Magica 340 years ago. On Water Of Mars, for instance, the epigraph says:
Who knows how to burn with water,
and how to wash with fire.
Can make heaven of earth
and a precious earth of heaven.

Really poetic, but I do understand why Marquis Massimiliano was never able to decipher it.
Another mysteriously beautiful one is the epigraph in Saturnine Night:
When in your house black crows give birth to white doves, then will you be called wise‘.
Pure poetry.
The most cryptic of them all goes like this:
As Latona is whitened by Azoth and lightning,
Diana comes undressed.

[Mercury Unveiled]
It inspired the band itself to equally wondrous astrological poetry of their own:
Blessed by the serpent scepter of Hermes,
the lover ascends the draft
to join his female half.
The chemical wedding starts.
The moon marries the sun,
Venus marries Mars.

[Venus the Bride]

This album is as mysterious as it is beautiful. A true tribute to Guiseppe Francesco Borri, to Maquis Massimiliano Palombara, and to all the alchemists of 16th century Rome in general. I’ll probably never unveil all the mysteries hidden in the music and the lyrics of this CD, but trust me, I will enjoy every single note of it as I keep trying.


Editor: Anna
Picture of the Porta Alchemica: Made by Sailko. The original picture can be found here on wikipedia.

Introducing the music of Brother Sea

The band Runrig had Donnie Munro, The Housemartins had Paul Heaton, Big Country had Stuart Adamson, and Brother Sea have Kris Lannen! What a voice! Irish stand-up comedian Aisling Bea once joked that all Irish people are born with a built-in tear in their voice, that they can instantly switch on when they start singing. Well, Kris must have some Irish genes in him then, because he has that same ability. Just listen to the opening lines of Triskele and you can’t help but be swept away by his beautiful, round, rich voice. As if he has the eternal emptiness of the sea embedded in his vocal cords. Amazing! But Brother Sea are more than that, much more. So it is high time to introduce the music of this stunning Celtic-folk band to you.
Brother Sea is a Cornish band, combining the talents of the folk duo Harbottle & Jonas (well known for their beautiful singer/songwriter folk, reminiscent of the German folk band Cara, with harmonies that go all the way back to the traditions of Crosby, Stills, & Nash); violinist/vocalist Richard Trethewey ( Didjan, The Rowan Tree ); the up and coming talent of violinist/vocalist and viola player Annie Baylis ( Winter Mountain, Harbottle & Jonas); and of course the aforementioned Kris Lannen.
Together they started writing music inspired by the vastness of nature, life in the Cornish countryside, and the eternal beauty of the seas that surround Cornwall on almost all sides (Kris Lannen is a keen surfer as well as a talented musician). Still working on their first full-length album the band started uploading their songs on Bandcamp, the first being the self-titled EP Brother Sea in July 2019.

I already mentioned the 4th song from that EP, Triskele, with its stunning vocal intro, the harmonies being a true balsam for your ears. Brother Sea opens the EP in the same stunning way, with just Kris’ voice singing the first lines before the band joins in to play All As One in the most lovely of ways. Everything just fits perfectly: the gentle guitar chords, the beautiful violin melodies weaving in and out, the harmonies, Freya Jonas adding her voice to the rich vocals of Kris. It all results in a truly beautiful, musical treat. Everything is in perfect balance. All parts of the music are there to serve the song, to serve the lyrics. Less is more sometimes, and in this case, less is way more!

The song Triskele performed in a home session by Brother Sea

That very high standard is kept up throughout EVERY song Bother Sea has released so far. The band introduced their first mini-album with these words: ‘A self-titled EP and introduction to the ocean drenched Celtic-folk sounds of Brother Sea.‘ Well, the second song Curious Shore has that description written all over it. This is the emptiness of the shore caught in music, the vastness of the beautiful ocean captured in words, the dance of the seagulls written in notes, and I’m loving it. The band themselves on this song: ‘A song written about wild swimming. It was inspired by a group of young mums called the Salty Sisters from Porthleven who swim together every morning.’ And that is the true magic of Brother Sea: the combination of beautiful music with the power of poetic lyrics.

Songs like the beautiful earworm Triskele from the first mini-album, or the singles Circadian (released in April 2020) and September (released in October of 2020) – they are all singer/songwriting gems. Thoughts and observations molded into poetic impressions of everyday life and deep love, crusted by the salt of the Cornish coasts. This is folk music lifted to theater standards. This is folk I want to inhale, sitting in a velvet theater seat, drowning in the beauty of it all.
There are two artists that keep popping up while listening to Brother Sea: Runrig and Milow. Brother Sea’s songs sit just at the crossroads of those two artists. Melodious gentle ballads with a delicious folk sauce poured all over it, arranged and produced in such a lovely way. Listen to that cool ‘ Bob GeldofThis Is The World Calling‘ choir suddenly piping up on Circadian, or the jig suddenly popping up halfway through the song. This is like candy for the ears.

The latest single September

Oll’ Vel Onen and Trodhydhyek are the songs All As One and Circadian but then sang in Kernewek, the Celtic language of Cornwall. The last song you’ll find on Bandcamp is Brother Sea’s latest single September and well, what can I say? Only that I hope a full-length album is going to come out really soon. For me, Brother Sea is one of the best bands I have heard this year. I truly hope this band will follow the path of success already walked by Amy Macdonald and Rachel Croft as their music deserves to be heard by a broad audience, starting with us, lucky listeners here at CeltCast. Hop over to the band’s Bandcamp page and dwell with me on the waves of this melancholic ocean-bound Celtic-folk band. And to those of you who are planning to go to Keltfest 2021, Brother Sea has been confirmed as one of the bands playing there, so you’re gonna be in for a treat! Guess where you will find me?!


Editor: Iris
Picture: Brother Sea

Sowulo releases Grima!
A storybook put to music

Alex isn’t that much of a writer. But sometimes, when he feels something deeply, the words just pour out of his fingers. That is exactly what happened when he listened to Fæcele, one of the two songs featured on the Grima, the newest album of Sowulo that is now available as a digipack:

‘Every time Fæcele passes on our music stream, I feel so proud that we are allowed to play this beautiful song as our Monthly Marker. The build-up, the emotion, the depth of the song. Hearing all this I am so looking forward to the release of the grima Digipack (and to a campfire somewhere deep in the Nordic woods, but that is another story). I just feel that Grima will give us a chance to (in our minds at least) return to the world before Corona, where we all felt safe.
This song touches the extacy I felt hearing Heilung for the first time and I cannot wait to see Sowulo perform this live!’

High praise indeed! Want to know more about Sowulo’s latest release in a review written by our Cliff, as always just follow the link: LINK

Introducing the Nordic folk band Gói.

In today’s review, we introduce the music of Gói, a young historical folk project Ilona discovered while roaming Bandcamp. Gói, a band from South Ostrobothnia – a region in the southwest of Finland – combine the well known Nordic legends with the much less known Sami mythology in their lyrics and music, translating it into wonderful Nordic style soundscapes with-a-punch. Now it would be easy to say Gói are jumping on a style that is becoming more and more popular, but that would be highly unjust to these talented young musicians.
If there’s one thing I found while digging a bit deeper into the subject before writing this review, is that Gói are really interested in the history of their homeland. Just read the liner notes accompanying their single Saivo on Bandcamp, and you will find their genuine passion for the Sami history right there.

I had so much fun talking to Rauni Hautamäki, founder, composer, musician and singer of Gói, about the Sami traditions, their place in history, and the relationship between the early Scandinavian people and the Sami culture. Through it all, I found a huge interest in the subject matter, but also a huge respect for the cultures involved.

The music of Gói got me really involved in a part of Nordic history I didn’t know up till now, and I’m hoping that, by introducing this lovely band to you all, more people will get as interested in the subject as I got. Did I make you curious? Good, then just follow the link right here! You won’t regret it.


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