Author Archives: Dani Iturriaga

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.


Katja Moslehner – Am Weltenrand (2021)


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 Cuélebre‘s performance, accompanied by the rest of FAUN, 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 Corvus Corax, In Extremo, Santiano or 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 Darcy Proper 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 Loreena McKennitt. 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 Valentina Bellanova’s 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 Efrén López‘s 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 Hermann Hesse, 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 Eric Manouz 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 Taliesin.

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 (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 Shir-Ran Yinon (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 Daniela Heiderich 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.

– Dani

Editor: Sara
Photos 1,2: Heiko Roith








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