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Jyoti Verhoeff – The Sky of You (2021) review

At CeltCast HQ we have two guilty pleasures. One of them of course is Euzen, the other one is an equally talented performer: Jyoti Verhoeff. Ever since her debut EP Phoenix (2012), her unique style of singer-songwriter lyrics on a piano-laden mix of dream folk, avant-garde/artpop, and chamber music-ish dreamscapes has filled our office on a regular basis. Although it’s not really folk music if we’re being honest, Jyoti creates a musical world that fits so snugly with the spiritual, meditative, nature-loving and classical (hello Cesair ) side of pagan folk, that we gladly turn a blind eye and review her newest CD regardless. Speaking for myself I’m really happy we made that decision. This is a stunning album and with station favorites like Meidi Goh ( AmmA, Imbue, Meidi Goh ), Philip Xander Steenbergen ( Withershins, Saffron Sun, former Omnia), and Kalin Yordanov (Irfan) among the guest musicians, it would have been a shame to miss out on this wonderful piece of art. Because that is what you need to call this CD: A beautiful piece of art!
Jyoti Verhoeff made her debut as a piano-playing singer/songwriter with the EP Phoenix in 2012. She recorded five songs with cello player Maya Fridman, who we know from many guest appearances with Cesair and Sowulo. From this first EP, Jyoti defined her musical style. An exquisite mix of intricate piano chords and vocals, weaving from soundscapes, through avant-garde dream pop, contemporary chamber music into soft and poetic dream folk making me think of the Dutch band Rosemary & Garlic. Also clear from that first EP was Jyoti’s connection with the natural world, as if Mother Earth herself whispered her favorite melodies into Jyoti’s ears.
Her first full album Riven: Dark Moon Full Moon (2014) is an absolute masterpiece that brought together three giants of contemporary artpop: Jyoti and Maya Fridman of course, and….third but definitely not least… Fieke van der Hurk. The 4-part music piece Dark Moon ending this CD is absolutely beautiful. It combines the power of artpop, the grandeur of epic folk (Cesair), with elements of Nordic folk, classical music, and ambient music.
On “Touches” – I speak with my mouth shut (2018) the collaboration with Fieke continued. Jyoti even deepened her musical connection with Mother Earth on this CD, contrasting it with the ever-stronger automated and industrialized human civilization. A message that was so powerful it didn’t need words anymore. The music itself became the voice telling the message Jyoti wanted to express. A message filled with questions. Is this the way we need to go? Is this the right future for us to go to? For the world to end in?

Now we have The Sky of You. Soundwise it sits snugly between the albums Riven and Touches. In theme, it is a logical follow-up on the latter CD. Where Jyoti was raising questions on “Touches” – I speak with my mouth shut; where she was confronting us with the contrasts between our inner emotional being and the material outer shell we created to protect that, The Sky of You is created to be a safe haven. A shelter for those who don’t belong in this ever-rushing, digitalized, dare I say clinical computer world. That musical shelter instantly emerges when you turn on the opening song Vision. Soft clouds of meditative cello, electronic keyboard notes, and grand tape loop effects are woven together in a comforting ambient folk setting. Jyoti’s piano strokes bring structure within those misty clouds. Intricate, delicate, soothing. Her vocals bringing an eerie beauty to it all. A bass clarinet cuts through it all like a shadow would claw through the mist. It all sounds spiritual, ghostly, warm, comforting, and slightly eerie at the same time. But not scary, no-no. It is beautifully soothing in a mysterious way. As the song progresses it builds up in strength. First, it is done with an improvised percussion segment, and then by masterfully arranging it like the soundtrack of an epic fantasy movie would. almost up to a full symphony. Only to fall back to a single piano note. A delicate melody line born from silence. every note has a sense of silence hidden in itself, even while it is played. All of this makes Vision an intriguing start to this CD.

As Daylight Wanes begins as another soundscape. Actually, on every single song, Jyoti creates that mystique ambient folk ‘cloud’. She uses it to set the stage. They are portals leading us towards the deepest, most stunning corners of her creative mind. Just as stars are born within the swirling and turning of a nebula, Jyoti’s songs are born within that ambient mist. Shards of piano cut through the mist and mark out the tone the music piece will have.
As I said As Daylight Wanes starts small, as an ambient folk cloud, but slowly builds up. Electronic keyboard sounds coming in halfway through the song give me fond memories of the beauty I found on Touches. It is funny how listening to this new album also makes me understand the previous albums better. It seems that certain elements hidden inside these previous songs, I could only open with keys Jyoti is giving me on this new album.

The third song Come is one of my favorites. It has this lovely ambient, dream folk feel again with beautiful shards of piano, cello, clarinet, and tape loop effects cutting through this nebula of sound Can you envision yourself walking through a forest in the early morning on a lovely but cold October day, with the sky above a deep blue still studded with stars, and the morning haze slowly growing into a fog, gently encasing all the shapes and softening them to beautiful abstract figures? Can you imagine, hidden in that misty haze, that you find the golden glow of autumn water flowing by; the green shadow of mosses on ancient trees; the wet pearls of the morning fog caught in the spiderweb’s threats; the golden voice of the robin’s song. Just before you spot him diving away from the lowest branch? Thát is what Come sounds like. A song blessed by Mother Earth herself. At this point, I should mention Erwin Tuijl, whose tape loops and effects have an immensely important part in creating that overall sound.
He does that again on the fourth song, The Sky of You. Working in close harmony with cello player The Wong Janice to create those stunning soundscapes over and over again. This is one of the few songs where Jyoti actually sings words and there is a sense of lyrics. But even here it isn’t about words. Her voice is just another instrument adding even more emotion to the overall artpop sound. I LOVE this song. Readers who love the latest albums of Kate Bush will, just like me, get goosebumps when they hear The Sky of You, the title song of this album. It is a stunning piece of music. Truly stunning!

If you read the biography of The Wong Janice you’ll see that she describes herself as a deep ambient meditative cello player. And that describes her role in the songs Solace and Build Me A Sea exactly. It perfectly describes the songs themselves as well. Especially the latter one, Build Me A Sea, is a gem. It starts out as a dreamscape with an ever-so-slight African feel. (But that could be a personal thing. It is because the sound of Jyoti’s voice reminds me very much of Peter Gabriel‘s song Across The River, from his Secret World Live CD, which contains a beautiful African violin solo.) After that, Build Me A Sea hovers between beautiful Asian meditative music, shards of Kate Bush, and that haunting violin sound of Peter Gabriel’s Across The River, but then created by Erwin’s loops and Jyoti’s voice. My personal favorite song of the whole album.

The last song I’m going to mention is Ogulena. It brings together two other giants of contemporary folk music, Jyoti and Kalin Yordanov. It is stunning how these two voices, these two styles merge together into something even more magical. Alex Sealgare, I think we need to indulge our guilty pleasure and bring those two giants together in concert one day. Jyoti Verhoeff and Irfan together on the stage of the P60. Now THAT, dear readers, would be a night to remember. Until that moment I’ll just cherish this CD. Thank you, Jyoti, this album is truly beautiful. An honor to review.


Editor: Iris
Album photography: Mirthe Beerling
album cover design: Sander van der Berg, Jyoti Verhoeff
Pictures: Mirthe Beerling (1), Jyoti Verhoeff (2)

HIMLA – Himla (2020) review

I love Scandinavian music. Not only the Nordic folk bands like Trolska Polska, Heilung or Martine Kraft. No also the more alternative artists like Björk, Eivør, Euzen en Valravn. All these bands bring something special to the table. A quirkiness that I don’t hear in regular British or American alternative music. Quite often Scandinavian music feels unique, the melody lines they use are intriguingly unexpected, and their energy is extremely addictive.
The Norwegian/Danish band HIMLA is no exception. This singer/songwriter trio shares the same free-spirited sound with all the bands I just mentioned. Especially fans of Eivør and Valravn should give these three ladies a chance. Although mostly acoustic, HIMLA’s music is just as intense as those two last acts. Maybe even more so because of their ingenious use of instruments. IThe fact that 7 out of the 10 songs on HIMLA’s debut album made it into my personal CeltCast folk music Spotify list speaks for itself. But as always I am getting waaay ahead of myself. Let’s introduce these three talented ladies in a proper way…
HIMLA is a new Nordic collaboration between singer and songwriter Adine Fliid (DK / NO), cellist Oda Dyrnes (NO), and clarinettist Siri Iversen (DK). Together, the trio creates a space for immersion and perdition in the joys and sorrows of everyday life and lets the audience get up close and personal in their intimate concerts. The three women draw their primary inspiration from pop, but also add elements from folk music, avant-garde and chamber music to it. They let the acoustic sound be the centre of their sonic experiments.
Around a strong lyrical vocal and a text universe, sung in both Danish and Norwegian, sonorous rugs are woven of dancing bow strokes and warm crackling air currents. Those sounds open a window to the open Nordic plains. HIMLA is found where melancholy meets the energy of life and tells about the landscape of emotions and dreams that lies just below the surface of everyday life.’
That is the way HIMLA describes themselves on their Facebook page, and actually… …it sums them up perfectly.

So what does this musical landscape of emotions and dreams sound like? Well, Flo Og Fjaere starts, as you would expect from a singer/songwriter act, with a warm and gentle acoustic guitar line, followed by a single voice. Adine’s voice immediately grabs you. It has a lovely warmth to it, but it easily cuts through the melody as well. From the first few notes, she manages to express so much emotion with it. Although I don’t speak Norwegian or Danish I never felt the urge to look up the lyrics. Her voice alone connects with me in a way that makes words redundant. A truly unique feature. The acoustic guitar and cello are a perfect accompaniment to Adine’s voice, adding even more to the fragile, warm but also intense sound of HIMLA. You have to hear this to realize how powerful a fragile sound can be. There is one other finishing ingredient to Himla’s unique sound. I have to admit it took me a wee bit of time before I realized what it was. The low notes in Flo Og Fjaere came from a bass clarinet. When I finally realized the unique instrumental setup of this band I was stunned. How magical. How original. And how wonderful it all fits together. Their music is a soft touch to your skin, sending out unexpected shivers that travel deep into the musical core of your being. With sudden bursts of emotion that work like nails temptingly scratching over your soul. And this is only the first song.

The full potential of this guitar/vocal, cello and bass clarinet combination is revealed in the second song Jeg Savner Et Eller Andet. Again the music starts very small, very intimate and quiet. A bit like an acoustic version of Valravn. The deep sound of the clarinet creates the perfect cradle for Adine’s voice to snuggle into. As the song builds the music grows from a ‘simple’ singer/songwriter song towards modern chamber music before it gets all distorted and avant-garde. Think of the magical sound that Jyoti Verhoeff and Fieke van den Hurk created on the 2018 Touches… album. It’s only a short moment, but it is so powerful.

De store Skibe is another wonderful song. Just listen to that beautiful combination of Oda Dyrnes’cello wrapping around Adine’s carefully pronounced words. For a second the guitar melody reminds me of the theme song from the movie MASH (Suicide Is Painless), and I realise that HIMLA have that same calming quality in their music as this famous song does.
Four songs in and my mind is already made up. This is an amazing album. No question about it. If you love artistic singer-songwriter/folk music then this album is a must-have!

I could pick up on so many more things, like the gentle pop feel of Fra Den Grønne Port; he intensely beautiful ballad Uten Røtter; The avant-garde/folk song Hjertet Er Stengt (Beautiful harmony singing in there as well); the almost Rachel Croft like arrangements on Jeg Kalder Ham Min and Sort Kul, but what I notice the most is the simplicity of it all. The amount of space left for every single instrument to breathe. For every single note to resonate inside of you. ‘Less is more’ they say. Well, less is way more in this case. Just like a good book, it leaves so much room for your own thoughts, your own interpretation, and emotions.

There is SOO much intent in Himla’s music. You find it in every note played, in every word sung, in every silence they add in between the notes. HIMLA truly makes the most of the use of classical instruments. Played by skillful musicians a cello or bass clarinet can weep, they can sing, they can be melancholic, they can sound out of this world. Well trust me, Oda Dyrnes and Siri Iversen ARE skilled musicians. And Adine Fliid is an equally accomplished singer-songwriter. So this album oozes emotion. It oozes melancholic tenderness. It oozes pure quality, note after note after note! If you ever wondered what a combination of Anna Katrin Egilstrod (Valravn), Eivør, Jyoti Verhoeff and Björk would sound like? Well here is your answer. The alternative folk scene has a new gem here. What a way to pick up a new season of writing reviews again.


Editor: Sara
Pictures: Himla

Daj Ognia – Wykrot (2020)

In recent decades there have been many projects that have invited us to travel through the land of our ancestors: through its forests and cliffs, through its villages and traditions. It’s great that we have more and more artists working with pieces of what we were to understand what we are and appreciate what we have. When I decided to review the first studio album by Daj Ognia (Poland) I expected to find folk music that would tell me about their land and their stories. However, by immersing myself in the project, I discovered a powerful narrative developed in both music and design/photography. The artists present a direct and forceful visual art, combining tradition and modernity. An invitation to start a fire today with the tools of our ancestors.
Before I get to pick apart the album, I would like to talk a little about the band. Daj Ognia (regressive dark folk) is an independent band originally from Krakow, Poland. Since 2018 they have been cooperating with the Museum of Krakow and taking part in the Wolin historical recreation festival of Slavs and Vikings with their music. On December 9 (2020), they released the video clip for Kir, a single from their first LP Wykrot, which they released on the 13th of the same month in a digital version through Bandcamp. With remarkable art direction, Kir builds Daj Ognia‘s imagery with wedding crowns, old wood, shadows and bones. Without intending to analyze the band’s videos, I find it very interesting to see how cinematic their work is, recalling the Horror Folk films by Robert Eggers, Ari Aster, or the classic of the genre, The Wicker Man. This spirit is also visually present in the art made by Belanorqua for the physical edition of the album.

And it was not until August 2021 that, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, they managed to fund this physical edition. I could dedicate another long paragraph to talk about the rewards of crowdfunding (which are incredible) but we have come to talk about music, so I proceed with the review.

Wykrot (2020) is Daj Ognia‘s first studio work, and includes 10 songs. The album presents a journey across borders through the traditional music of Poland and Scandinavia, with some melodies and writings of traditional origin and others created entirely by the band. The origin of all the traditional material is well referenced on the album. The name Wykrot describes the exposed roots of a fallen tree, reflecting the cycle of life and death as these roots become the new home for numerous life forms; just as it speaks about natural as well as supernatural forces. The old gives way to the new, and absence gives way to fullness.

Daj Ognia builds a bridge between neighbouring peoples, embracing cultural exchange and showing their love for different musical traditions. The sound of the album is raw, without much ornamentation, direct and full. Through bowed string, percussion and voice (and occasionally bagpipe and plucked string) they create a rural, humble, honest, dark and, at times, very funny atmosphere. While some songs invite us to dance and celebrate, others lead us to reflection and contemplation. After numerous listenings, we can say that Wykrot is tree bark, bare feet on grass, broken bones and old wives’ tales.

The album opens with Midsommar, a song that quickly takes us to Scandinavia with the sound of Michał Górka and Wit Rzepecki‘s bow harps (tagelharpa and strakharpa) and their beautiful multi-string harmonies. The melody is traditional, as well as its lyrics, sung in Swedish by Anna Sitko. Agnieszka Oramus and Michał Biel perform the percussion with the tambourine / frame drum (bęben obręczowy) and the small percussion made with bones. The song grows brighter as it progresses, creating a contrast between the sweetness of Anna’s voice and the rustic, dry instruments.

In the next song, Halling efter Berglund, we continue the Swedish musical tradition by adding Wit‘s bagpipes to the set of instruments. They remind us a lot of the sound of Kaunan in their debut Forn, but even though this music is danceable, Daj Ognia brings a calmer and more primal sound. We continue with Kir, the song chosen as a single for the album. It is a song guided by the double strings of Michał and Wit, with the brilliance provided by Agnieszka‘s tambourine. This is a darker, more Polish song in which Anna tells the harsh story of a young woman who comes across a wedding crown.

Wykrot, the fourth song and eponymous to the album, is an instrumental theme with a very Pagan Folk soul within the rustic sound proposed by the band. It is a quite lively and danceable song, with the presence of syncopated rhythms and numerous changes throughout the song that invite us to go wild, reminding us of the versatile Żywiołak. In Oj nie pójdę we find another piece with a strong Polish essence also in the danceable line of the previous one. Here we highlight Michal Biel, who surprises by playing percussion in a truly organic way.

We move on to Andro de Wit, a song that may be more familiar to ears used to Breton or Galician music (from the Spanish region, not from the homonymous Polish-Ukrainian one). Daj Ognia merges some ingredients present in Pagan Folk, such as fast melodies of bagpipes accompanied by plucked strings (mandola) and percussion, creating a lively and funny song to dance to. The trip through Atlantic France and Spain is brief, because in the following song we dive again into the traditional music of Sweden through the polskas. Polska efter Pekkos Hanssen surprises when listening to Wit‘s bagpipes playing the role of a hurdy-gurdy or nyckelharpa in these traditional songs, maintaining the drone note throughout the song and exchanging the leading role with Michal‘s mandola.

The eighth theme is Radio Drakkar, a more casual song to party and dance to. It has a very Eastern European vibe with the mandola that, adding the main voice of the bagpipes, would delight fans of bands such as Corvus Corax or Prima Nocta. It is impossible not to laugh when the kazoos sound!

Trupietany, the penultimate song on the album, is one of the most interesting offerings of the group. It is a musical piece built from numerous sounds of small percussion that, along with the bagpipe and the voice, invites us to a dark dance between bell chimes and bones. This mixture of popular tunes with ambient elements results in a rather dark and cinematic song, and it is surprising to find out that the lyrics of the song come from a baroque painting about the “Dance of Death” exhibited in St. Bernardine’s church, in Krakow.

Finally, the Poles stylishly finish the album with Po mojej woli, a fast, fun and highly danceable song that would easily make us all dance if it was played at our beloved summer festivals. An ending full of good vibes to an entire album, with plenty of shadow and light.

After listening intensively to the album we can say that Wykrot is an album of contrasts and cycles, of lights and shadows, about life and death, from dance to calm. Its sound doesn’t need many instruments or complicated arrangements to work. It embraces simplicity and scarcity, resulting as organic and authentic as the traditions of our peoples. Daj Ognia picks up these humble roots and weaves songs to talk about common and timeless topics, whether we are in Poland, Scandinavia or anywhere else on the globe.

You can listen to the album on their Bandcamp page and follow them through their Facebook and Instagram pages.

– Dani

Editor: Iris
Photos 1,2: Belanorqua.

Monthly Marker July 2021: Linde Nijland

It is the first of July! So that means….a NEW Monthly Marker! And this one is just as beautiful as they always are!

Recently, we received the beautiful new album of Linde Nijland called: “Ten Years”. It contains 12 songs, mostly written by Linde herself. The song we have voted Monthly Marker and which we are going to play five to six times a day will be: As I Lay Here In My Silence. With the Dutch festival Castlefest in our mind, this was THE song to choose! Listen to the lyrics and you will feel the wicker send his strength.

This is not a party song. The whole album is filled with beautiful little stories as a matter of fact. They are all lovely ballads where life and nature are never far away. So, enjoy Linde’s beautifully clear voice, guitar, and compositions. The whole record is well worth it in our opinion.

The album contains a booklet with fourteen pages, including photographs, the lyrics of all the songs recorded, and sweet little drawings.

People who contributed to the album, (besides Linde herself), are: Bert Ridderbos, Gilbert Terpstra, Joost van Es and Kirsty McGee.

Album design & illustrations: Sam Chegini of Sam Pictures Productions.

Photography: Kirsty Mc Gee and Bert Ridderbos

Musical greetings, Ilona CeltCast 🎻

You can find Linde here:

Katja Moslehner – Am Weltenrand (2021)
Review & Give-Away

Katja review & give-away !!

Last month, Katja’s first solo album ‘Am Weltenrand’ was released, featuring a dozen multi-faceted tracks and many guest musicians. And to tell you more about the album, our new-joining crew member Dani (yes, from the Spanish Folk band Vael) has written a beautiful review we would like you to share across the globe. Not only because we feel the world should hear Katja’s music, but also because she has made two copies available for us to give away to you! So, please read the review, and publicly share our original post on Facebook before midnight CET on Saturday the 12th of June, and we will draw the lucky winners on the day after!

Katja Moslehner – Am Weltenrand (2021)


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