I perfectly remember the first time I saw Katja live. It was on April 17th, 2016, in Madrid (Spain). In our country, we aren’t very used to having neofolk and pagan folk musicians from the rest of Europe visiting our cities (luckily this is changing bit by bit), but we have been following these artists for a long time. It was after
performance, accompanied by the rest of
that we were able to enjoy her voice and her songs, and finally reach a world that we had only been able to touch through literature and the internet. Katja Moslehner‘s work with FAUN was the inspiration for many of us, who are encouraged to write music while observing the beauty that surrounds us, so it has been a pleasure to write a few lines about the new chapter of her career: solo this time, but accompanied very well by artists of international prestige.
I’ll start off by talking about the album in general lines. Am Weltenrand (At the world’s border) is the first solo work by the German artist after a long career with our beloved FAUN and after numerous collaborations with other renowned artists in the scene, such as
Subway to Sally.
Released on April 2nd, 2021, it features 12 songs through which Katja launches a personal declaration of love. In her lyrics, we find love for nature, folk tales, swans and the cultures that coexist in our world. Her songs travel from very emotional and intimate moments to joyful celebrations in which we breathe friendship and perceive the ties that unite us.
Moslehner also reflects this love through music, bridging our well-known Central Europe (with some hints of the British Isles) and the Middle East. This cultural journey is present in most of Am Weltenrand‘s songs in the form of ethnic instruments and traditional metrics of their peoples. Near the end of the album, we can also hear ethnic voices that remind us of the Native American tribes and shamanic communities of Northern Europe, who keep their connection with the land and with their ancestors alive. All this united by the soft voice of the artist, who gently invites us to accompany her on this journey.
The album is a smooth and pleasant work to listen to, with a graceful voice accompanied by a well studied and worked out atmosphere. It evokes the image of a feather elegantly perched on the surface of the water. It is also important to highlight the technical aspect of the album, where
manages to unite all the instruments in a clean way, balancing their frequencies and giving simplicity to instrumentally complex songs. Am Weltenrand is a measured, careful and polished work, as well as intimate, warm and gentle.
Let’s talk about the songs on the album. The path is opened by the homonymous song ‘Am Weltenrand‘ with a great festive energy that transports us to a joyous popular dance. It truly is a folk song, easy to sing, which already displays the union between East and West that reminds us of the initiatives of other artists such as
The German artist invites us to discover traditional musical instruments such as Wim B. Dobbrisch’s shawm (which in the song reminds us of the hurdy-gurdy dog) or
ney (the oldest wind instrument), both originally from the Middle East. Katja celebrates the union between cultures, in this case using a traditional Bulgarian melody called ‘Sharena Gaida‘.
The next song, ‘Blätter Rauschen‘, introduces an ethereal atmosphere created by the strings of the dulcimer, the cello and various wind instruments. The voice invites us to enter this vivid landscape of leaves in the wind and precious harmonies, adorned in the final section with kulning-like chanting: a vocal technique typical of Northern Europe. The song travels from an initial softness to an intense ending, where
Maya Fridman‘s cello and
percussion take centre stage.
‘So frei‘ is a simple and intimate track: it sets aside the complex instrumentation to tell us about the inner world of the artist. At the beginning, we find the voice of
Joachim Witt reciting
followed by a soft piano that accompanies Katja in this sensitive and personal song that, in the artist’s words, describes “following our own compass” through the flight of swans.
In ‘Der König weint‘ we find a more traditional song structure, reminiscent of a story sung by a bard or a storyteller. His melody, conducted on a smaller scale by the guitars of
and Ben Aschenbach, conveys melancholic but hopeful emotions. Mick Loos adds his uilleann pipes to the mix, painting green a narrative landscape that we quickly associate with one of Moslehner’s inspirations for the record: the Welsh bard
One of the great cultural exchanges on the album is found on the fifth track: ‘Valkyrie‘. By reading its name we easily evoke the Asgardian guards who cradle the fallen in battle, and the song itself speaks of these maidens of purity, traditionally associated with swans. However, after an introduction, the musical dimension of the song takes us back to the Middle East and Sephardic melodies. Built in ⅞ (a rhythm widely used in these regions) and led by Efrén López‘s hurdy-gurdy, Moslehner unites Norse mythology with the sounds of the East, bringing two seemingly distant cultures closer together.
With ‘Noah‘ and ‘Perlen im Sand‘ we reach the middle of the album: a quiet valley that offers us peace and rest. With the first song, Katja tells a personal story about a refugee child, sung on an instrumental basis in which the ney by Valentina Bellanova and the Afghan lutes by Efrén López stand out. The second theme surprises with a more varied instrumental formation, where we find a lot of plucked and plucked strings accompanied by modern percussion.
‘Mit Dir‘ is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic songs on the album. It opens with a friendly Irish set led by the fiddle of
(Eluveitie) and Valentina Bellanova’s flutes, accompanied by guitar and backing vocals of
Satria B. Karsono
which surprisingly brings Native American -like colors to the mix . A very positive song that invites you to dance. It is followed by ‘Hexenlied‘, a traditional German song that Moslehner internationalizes by adding ethnic voices and the sounds of Eric Manouz‘s hang and Jean Walther‘s santur. These ethnic voices are once again heard in ‘Reich’mir die Hände‘, the tenth song on the album, with a positive spirit and a pleasant flow reminiscent of pop music.
In the final stretch of the album Katja presents ‘Schwerelos‘, a tender ballad accompanied by the harp of
and the string trio of Shir-Ran Yinon. Finally, the German artist surprises us with ‘Caritas Abundat‘, the last song of her debut. It is a piece of sacred music accompanied by an electronic environment and Efrén López’s instruments. Moslehner manages to transport us inside a cathedral to dedicate one of the musical works of
Hildegard of Bingen,
a famous 12th-century saint whose invaluable legacy continues to be the subject of study.
In Am Weltenrand, Katja Moslehner offers us a very multifaceted and personal first solo album, full of emotion and love for the cultures of the world. With a sound between Medieval European music and traditional Middle Eastern modes, she shows us the importance of building bridges between us and coming together in a great community at a time when we couldn’t be more apart.
– DaniEditor: SaraPhotos 1,2: Heiko Roith
Daily Disc The Guinness Brothers – Live Craic (2019)
Since I heard this band play, I’m dreaming of a big Castlefest party where the whole festival is jumping and dancing!!!!! I couldn’t sit still on my chair listening to this album and the singles! It is one big party surprise! I won’t give away the details, because that would be considered ‘spoiling’. Just listen, dance, and feel that festival vibe coming back to you!
I can reveal a bit more on the origins of The Guinness Brothers though. Two men came together to form this band ass you can read on their website: ‘Colm Kelly, an Irish man living in the south of Portugal, and Rodrigo Carreira, a Portuguese man who is often mistaken for an Irish man himself, combine vocal harmonies with an acoustic guitar and a mandolin to bring you everything from Irish music to rock, pop, reggae and even the latest hits! They found that adding comedy to music, not just Irish, is tantamount to Craic. And follow the formula ever since.‘
Don’t miss this album, it’s really fun! I can’t pick my favourite songs, they’re all very effervescent!
cheerful greetings, Ilona CeltCast
Daily Disc Shane Ó Fearghail – Born from Tradition (2020)
At first, we received this beautiful album in digital form, but after I told Shane in a chat how much I loved his work, I didn’t have to wait long before the hard copies of two albums of his albums – Born From Tradition (2020) and They Might See Dolphins (2016) – arrived at CeltCast HQ. And yes, both of them are wonderful!
Shane is an Irish singer-songwriter who now lives in Vienna. His latest album Born From Tradition gives you the feel of the summer sun on your skin…, warm and soothing. It features songs about love, roots and musings about life. Both new and traditional folk songs are on it, sung either in English or Irish. The songs are presented in a modern style of folk music, which is quite refreshing! The booklet, consisting of eight pages, contains the lyrics of the tracks which is something we always appreciate. The album was recorded at Craic Haus Studios 32 and the artwork was designed by Sabine Mann. My favourite songs on this album are: Trasna Na gCianta (Across the Ages) and Na Bi Buartha (Don’t be worried).
Musical greeting Ilona CeltCast
A couple of months ago we received the brand new album of the balfolk band
called Ge vindt wel een taal (thy will find a language). Because the release date is today, we had to keep the music on this album to ourselves at first. That didn’t stop us listening though and from the moment we started listening, we fell in love with this beautiful, narrative, danceable, balfolk album! And that’s why we are going to play every song of this lovely album on CeltCast Radio. There are instrumental songs, songs sung in Dutch/Flemish, one in French and one in English (together with Niki van der Schuren).
BmB will be a new band for most of you so this is how they introduced themselves:
– ‘We are BmB, three guys who love folk. We bring songs to make you bounce and swoon, sway, laugh and cry.‘
This band is formed by Luc Plompen (vocals, guitar), Wouter Kuyper (bagpipes, flutes, chalumeau) and Niek van Uden-Luteijn (accordion). They met each other through the international (bal)folk scene. These guys are already famous in the folk scene in The Netherlands and Belgium, and that’s not without reason! So we are sure the rest of the folk world will follow soon!
In these odd times we are living in, it is good to know that some things just don’t change. The first spring sun still heralds the start of the year, the morning chorus of birds still greets us when we wake up, the evening fire still warms our bones and the sound of
Trobar de Morte
still soothes our souls, no matter if you put on their first record Nocturnal Dance Of The Dragonfly or their latest one called The Book Of Shadows. It feels really reassuring to hear that typical Trobar de Morte sound ringing in my headphones. Those layered, slightly melancholic vocals of lady Morte, those calming, wall-to-wall ambient pagan folk melodies, those mythical lyrics filling the room with a peaceful ease that only this Spanish band has mastered. Once inspired by
Dead Can Dance,
Trobar de Morte are now a pagan folk phenomenon in their own right, with their very own unique sound and I love them for that. The intro Introilus Libris Tenebris, and songs like Mandragora Autumnalis, Melusine Cantus or Plenilunio are all a joy of recognition. Trobar de Morte have a new album out and after just a few notes I feel right at home. It seems nothing has changed at all, with an emphasis on seems!
But, as always, I’m getting way ahead of myself now. So let’s ‘open’ The Book of Shadows and dive into the unique world of Trobar de Morte once more.
the Intro, Introitus Libris Tenebris, is all you’ve come to expect from Trobar de Morte. Impressive ambient pagan folk soundscapes that could well work as a film score for any self-respecting epic fantasy movie. Be it Lord of the Rings, Elfquest, Journey to the Center of the Earth, or the Dark Crystal, they could all do with a touch of Trobar de Morte magic. Come to think of it, this intro indeed feels like you are gliding into something deep and mysterious. Into a portal deep down into the center of the earth. As if you walk down into a dark cave, torches casting long shadows over the crystal walls, the echoes of your footsteps ringing loudly through your ears, betraying every gentle step you take. The silence loud and eerie, the atmosphere tense as if you could cut it with a knife. At the end of it, a cave, beautiful, grand, torch-lit, with stalactites in all shapes and colours. The whole sight of it is breathtaking. Unearthly. Elflike. And in the middle of it, floating above an enchanted lake – its water reflecting the orange colour of the torches burning in all corners of this fast cavern- you’ll find the Book of Shadows hidden deep inside this secret entrance to Middle Earth. (This is what happens when your imagination meets Trobar’s music, it will drift off to wherever it wants to lead you and I happily will let it.)
The second song, Sacrifice, continues with this same enchanting feel. At the start of the song, the sound of water droplets seems to follow you closely as whispered voices lure you deeper into this mysterious world. The song itself seems to be Middle Eastern (Persian perhaps), and has a warm feel to it. The layered vocals, as always, are impressive. The music, as always, feels like a soothing blanket that you instantly want to snuggle in. The dramatic arrangements of the music, as always, seem to lure you away into those dark shadows of comfort only Lady Morte can provide. Yes, this is Trobar at is very, very best. A solid musical mix of
and Dead Can Dance, and I am preparing myself for a lovely journey into familiar musical grounds.
Well, the musical journey is indeed lovely, but not into those familiar grounds I was expecting. On the contrary! The next song, The Unquiet Grave sounds way more open, much more Celtic than I am used from Trobar de Morte. It is far more towards Cesair’s epic folk sound than the usual carpet-like Dead Can Dance style I am used to hearing from Lady Morte. Looking at the booklet, The Unquiet Grave is credited as a traditional English folk song and indeed it shares its DNA with another English classic: Over The Hills And Far Away. So definitely NOT what I was expecting! When Uri Bokskog throws in a lovely Celtic tin whistle solo, the sound seemingly flowing in from the distant fields of Ireland, my surprise is complete.
Anxiously I await the start of Mandragora Autumnalis: will it be a continuation of this ‘new’ Celtic sound? Yes, it is! A single harp melody follows you as you walk through a thick and ancient forest. There is the sound of birds, both ancient and exotic, eerie and muffled, dampened by the mist of the forest. It sets the mood perfectly for what is to come. As always Oscar David (Axstudio, responsible for the mix and mastering) and Lady Morte (co-producer) managed to put down an awesome, unique sound. The drums are dark and spiritual, drawing you deep into ancient woods. Woods that are created in your imagination, born out of the tantalizing music of Trobar de Morte It’s the green forests hidden deep within the pages of The Book of Shadows. Right there, between the dark shadows of the immaculate handwriting that covers the pages of this ancient book of wisdom. It is filled with the power of long-forgotten druids, their spells luring you in. This, dear friends, is powerful magic. The Mandragora is calling you in, deeper and deeper, do you dare and follow its call?
Going into the fifth song, Fuga Maleficis, I’m starting to understand what is so different about Trobar’s sound on this album. The music is still layered, it is still created by stacking melody upon melody, but where on previous albums the layers were mostly glued together with keyboard carpets and voice effects, in this case, the layers are filled in with the instruments themselves, which gives the overall sound more space to breathe. It gives the individual instruments more
room to fill, making you hear much more of the nuances played by the musicians than you normally would. Even on Fuga Maleficis, – which is a typical grand Trobar de Morte song with all those multi-layered choir vocals and magnificent orchestral arrangements of strings, percussion, and folk instruments- you can hear ALL the subtle details as well. You can easily hear the cheerful tin whistle solo playing around the Celtic choir for instance. Or the viola sound quickly ‘rushing’ away into the shadow of the woods, as it finds itself captured in a musical break, just seconds before the enchanting power of lady Morte’s vocals is unleashed again. It are two small details hidden within an impressive orchestra of sound, but it are those details take make this CD extra special.
The same goes for the vocals. On this album Oscar and Lady Morte managed to make it sound like a true, full-on, mighty impressive choir. What a sound. What a stunning song this is. Possibly my favourite one on this album. This more open natural sound also makes The Book of Shadows sound rather cheerful and positive despite its dark title. It is almost in contrast with its title actually. Melusine Cantus is another good example of this. Yes, it is solemn in style, the Latin texts even enhance the spiritual feel of the song, but the open, ‘natural’ sound of the song gives it a pleasant feel. We celebrate the power of the Book of Shadows on this album, we do not fear it. We hear the music through the ears of the Druids and Wiccans of this world, past and present. Those who are one with nature, not in fear of them as some people would be.
Pleninulio sounds like a reprise of Sister Of The Night (found on the 2018 album Witchcraft) and is another one of my highlights on this great album. I loved the song in its original form, dark and daunting. I also love it in this more open, instrumental, Persian reprise. Hearing all those details in the music is a treat. The percussion (well done throughout the whole CD); the grand string arrangements; the subtle organ-like keyboard support; the beautiful cello/ viola solo starting around 50 seconds, answered by the whole string section; the enchanting vocal solo of lady Morte; the hurdy-gurdy seemingly calling from the edge of the woods; and the Spanish sounding guitar solo taking you to a musical version of Alhambra, holding its own against a virtual castle wall of orchestral sound. This is one of the best songs Trobar de Morte ever recorded. But not the only wonderful song on The Book of Shadows. Just listen to Land of Sorcery, how positive that feels, what an enchanting mix between Celtic folk and spiritual pagan folk it is. Listen to Luna Cornula and the dark male vocals of Uri catching me off guard yet again. Darn, this is all SOOO good!!!
My conclusion can be short and sweet. I love the pagan folk/Dead Can Dance sound Trobar de Morte have created over the years. I would not have minded another album in that style, not at all. But I ADORE this version of their music, this open orchestral version of lady Morte’s unique style. Trobar de Morte have recorded another musical masterpiece. One that will spread joy and positivity as much as it will spread awe amongst their fans, including myself. A positivity that is much needed in these odd times, and I thank Trobar de Morte for that, with all my heart!
cover art:artdrómeda photography
Pictures: Cliff de Booy