The gift of music; Introducing Zonnewachter, the new album of Wouter en de Draak

With Christmas fast approaching we also meet that final big challenge of the year: ‘What to give to your loved one who already has everything??’ May I suggest the gift of music? And while I am at it, may I then suggest the newest album of Wouter en de Draak.
Three years after their debut album Wouter en de Draak; an album filled with lovely instrumental balfolk tunes bursting with influences from Celtic Brittany, Wouter Kuyper, and Joris Alblas return with their second full-length CD: Zonnewachter. And just as their debut CD, this new album makes a perfect gift to both the balfolk dancers and the instrumental folk lovers amongst you. I think it says enough that I added 5 songs to my personal CeltCast Spotify list!
Do you want to know more about this lovely CD? Then follow the link and dance with me. Let’s celebrate Yule and/or Christmas as it should be done, balfolking through the living room. Shove your furniture to one side, press play, and dance until spring returns again. Let’s celebrate life together with Wouter, Joris and their musical friends. Let’s celebrate it with the sound of their new album Zonnewachter.

Merry Christmas and a blessed Yule
Cliff

New Wave Paganfolk! Waldkauz Style!

Mythos, the second album by the German pagan folk band Waldkauz made a huge impact on me when I reviewed it a couple of years ago. It still is one of my favourite pagan folk albums ever! Since then I saw many a show of these beautiful souls, and loved them even more because of it. So it was with high expectations I put Labyrinth in my CD player. And???? Well, they delivered! Well, they delivered! I still find myself spontaneously humming songs from Labyrinth, even weeks after finishing my review. And I will probably do so for many more months to come, I am quite sure of that!
But Waldkauz didn’t do it the easy way. They could have just made a Mythos part 2 and harvest on the success of that album. But they choose not to. Labyrinth shows a band developing themselves; a band showing an open-minded approach to their music; adding new elements into their sound; making them a truly unique band.
When you Google Waldkauz you will see that they open their website with: ‘Waldkauz – new Wave Paganfolk’. So what does new wave paganfolk sound like? Well full of energy and extremely danceable! I can tell you that much. But you want to know more? Well you can! The whole story is just one click away. Follow the link and dance into the world of New Wave Paganfolk! Im Waldkauz stil selbstverstandlich!

Cliff

Reconnecting with my passion: Jyoti Verhoeff’s new album The Sky of You

Music has been a passion of mine since my teens. The nights I’ve spent in my candlelight room, sitting on my bed, record player on my right, sound boxes on both sides for maximum effect. Playing records like Dire Straits Alchemy Live , Mike Oldfield’s Incantations, The Door’s Absolutely live album, or Jeff Wayne’s War of the worlds. I still cherish those nights. Somehow I’ve always felt a deep emotional connection with music. With a good song, I can feel every note played. Not that I can play myself or that I can sing, no I just connect with it. In a deeply emotional way. A good song makes me cry, shiver, smile, dance or feel deeply, deeply happy. It makes me let go of all the things that bother me at that specific point in time. Music has always been my means of escape, my way of coping with the world. A world that for a large part of my younger years was a big, scary, frightening thing.
I also always wanted to share that passion. I wanted to share the music that meant so much to me. I still do. Working for CeltCast gave me the platform to do that. To reach out to you all and share the beautiful music that I am allowed to hear. So I did. With all my heart.
The downside of it is: there is this risk of a passion becoming ‘a job’. That you feel you are obliged to write with the same passion about every album you are asked to listen to. Which is impossible. One is bound to fail if one tries. So I failed, big time. So much so I almost wanted to stop writing reviews altogether.
And then Jyoti Verhoeff released this album. The Sky of You. As I listened to it Jyoti opened every single door to my heart. Her music took me on a much-needed journey. Deep into my soul. Hitting every nerve it found on its way. And as happened so many times before the music became the answer I needed. While listening I found my passion back. I wanted to write about this. I HAD to write about it! Not only about this CD, but also about some other lovely albums I had listened to during my absence the last months.
…..But first The Sky of You. And I sincerely hope you will enjoy this beautiful record just as much as I did. Here it is.

Cliff

Presenting the music of HIMLA

A band that combines Scandinavian folk with singer-songwriter skills, artpop and chamber music, using the unique combination of vocals, guitar, cello and…..Bass Clarinet. It was an interesting mix I saw when I got my hands on HIMLA‘s debut album called Himla. I was intrigued, to say the least.
Well, it ended up being a brilliant mix! One that is right up my sleeve. And it will be up the sleeves of everybody that loves the alternative Scandinavian folk scene, trust me! So follow the link and dive into the world of HIMLA. A world that is as intriguing as it is beautiful.
Ha det gøy med oppdagelsesreisen!

Cliff

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.








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