Finvarra – Lanterne (2020) review

cover Finvarra-Lanterne

Always quit while you’re ahead! Well, the Dutch folk band Finvarra took this old saying literally, announcing that the band would stop playing together in the very same message in which they talked about the release of their latest mini-CD. That is one way to get my attention. In the words of the band:
“- We are and will remain good friends but in the last two years we all went our own (musical) ways and we are happy with that. We had a very nice time with the band and are proud of all we have achieved, the great concerts we gave, all the nice people we’ve met and of the two CD’s we have released. We would like to thank the bookers who put their faith in us and made concerts possible on the most adventurous locations. And of course we thank the photographers who captured these concerts so we could share them with the world. Last but not least, we would very much like to thank YOU, our loyal fans, for your support, love, and for dancing to our off-count songs 😉. Here’s to friendship and music!!”
So Lanterne is not only Finvarra latest CD, no it is also the last album the band will make together. And yes just as you, I secretly – as secret as you can be writing it out right here- hope there will be a reunion somewhere in the future. Listening to the quality of music on the record, I am left craving for more. A lot more!

But let me introduce the band first. Finvarra are the Dutch musicians Dieke Elfring (vocals, bodhrán, percussion); Gwendolyn Snowdon (vocals, Indian harmonium, bouzouki); Patrick Broekema (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, low whistle, backing vocals); Corné van Woerdekom (violin, backing vocals, percussion) and Evert Willemstijn (double bass). Their origins go way back to 2010 when Dieke and Corne, both studying at Leiden University, met Patrick and Gwendolyn at folk sessions held every two weeks in Cafe the Tregter in Leiden at the time. (Sessions that owner Marius van der Ploeg kept organizing until 2017 when he finally retired after 25 years.) The four band members found each other in their love of Celtic folk, but from the very start were not afraid to incorporate new styles and instruments.
You could say the band was an instant hit in the folk scene, playing on the Folk Battle finals and at the Midwinter Fair both in 2011, only a year after their first official band picture was published. Followed by Summer Darkness in 2012 and 2013, the Gothic & Fantasy Fair in Rijswijk 2013 (now known as the Fantasy Fest) , Keltfest and Elfia, Arcen in 2014 and to top it all off their first Castlefest in 2015!

In 2013 Finvarra released their first album, simply called Finvarra, filled with eleven lovely European folk songs. European, because the band combined well known Celtic folk traditionals like The Well Below The Valley and The Cliffs Of Moher, with more Balkan influenced songs like The Wind That Shakes The Barley or Jovano Jovanke/Ciuleanda, and even their own interpretation of that famous Led Zeppelin song: The Battle Of Evermore.
In 2017 the band announced they would be back in the studio, and then it went rather quiet around Finvarra. A silence that was suddenly broken early this year with the message I quoted above, announcing both the birth of the new album and the end of Finvarra as a band.

Lanterne starts as a warm blanket. The first song Banks of The Edisto is a touching ballad, featuring not only Dieke’s warm, slightly jazzy vocals, but also Patrick’s pleasant guitar and Corné’s lovely violin solos. The original is by the American folk singer-songwriter Dayna Kurtz, recorded on her 2006 album Another Black Feather…For The Wings Of A Sinner. (An album well worth listening to if you love American folk music, with touches of jazz, Americana, and the occasional influences of raw 60’s protest songs, but I digress.) Dayna Kurtz recorded Banks Of The Edisto as a ‘small’ banjo and vocal ballad, Finvarra made it sound much richer, more orchestral and gave the song a real Celtic folk feel. Both, I have to say, are lovely versions.

With Finvarra’s Song, we keep that strong Celtic orchestral feel. Finvarra, together with Alain Labrie (also known for his flamenco band Labryénco), who recorded and produced the album, really managed to give Lanterne an overall wonderful and rich sound, very cleverly working with stereo effects and delicate touches of musical decorations at unexpected places to achieve that. Gwendolyn’s powerful welsh folk voice cuts right through all this richness, creating a wonderful contrast within the song that makes it even more powerful. Listening carefully I can’t help spotting the slightly Spanish sounding acoustic guitar chords, some Mediterranean flavours crawling in or the clear Eastern European violin solos spicing up this Celtic folk song. Something that clearly continues on the instrumental A Bruxa/Flatbush Waltz. The guitar and violin melodies lead my mind to a place somewhere between northern France and Andalusia. On a warm evening under a star-filled sky.

This is actually the main difference between this record and Finvarra’s first album. On the first CD, the different influences were clearly divided over single songs Some sounding Celtic, some French, and some clearly eastern orientated. On Finvarra’s latest record all those influences have gelled together into one single sound, making Lanterne sound much more coherent. Another difference is the lead role Dieke took as a singer. Besides Banks Of The Edisto she also sings the lead on the Spanish sounding True Unfaithful Love and the absolutely beautiful ballad Motherland, a true gemstone in my opinion. Easily one of my favourite songs on Lanterne. Dieke’s low, warm and jazzy voice works SO well with the European folk style Finvarra is now playing. listening to this I can’t help but hope that somewhere in the future Finvarra will come together one more time, either to play live for us all or even to record new music. The way the musicians fit together in these songs is pure magic.

The instrumental Whiskey & Ouzo tells it all actually. On Lanterne Finvarra successfully blends the Celtic world with the Mediterranean, giving true meaning to the term European folk.
I have nothing more to say really, this is a must-have album for all who love folk music. It is as simple as that. Still hesitating? Put on the title song Lanterne and let Gwendolyn win you over herself. Another wonderful song on a wonderful record of a wonderful band.
It is so sad to see them go, but I am so happy they leave us while they are ahead. Best giving away present I have had in a loooooong time.

– Cliff

editor:
– Anna Schürmann
pictures:
Eline spek, early band picture (2010)
Duane Teske, official band photo (2013)
– Finvarra studio picture
– Finvarra

In Vino Veritas – Grimorium Magi (2019)



I came into the magical world of Castlefest, Elfia, MPS, and all the music that comes with it through medieval re-enactors. Even before I met my German girlfriend I already had a love for the Mittelalter metal of In Extremo and the medieval rock of Schandmaul, so it was a no-brainer that Anna took me to a Mittelalter market as soon as she had the chance.
It was on those markets that I discovered the cheerful sound of bands like Wirrwahr and Dopo Domani. Medieval street musicians playing jaunty songs on big drums, shepherd’s pipes, hurdy-gurdy, and violin, quite often with funny stories in between, entertaining the crowd and the re-enactors alike. Since then I have discovered that every re-enactment scene in every country has those bands. I’m thinking of bands like Datura in the Netherlands, Virelai in Denmark, or In Vino Veritas in Italy. And it is the latter band that this review focuses on. Their 2014 album Baccabundi is a pure celebration of medieval fun, filled with classics like Ai Vist A Lo Lop, Tourdion, Bache Bene Venies, and Saltarello, but also original material such as my personal favourite Dracodanza. So when I received my copy of Grimorium Magi, I was getting myself ready for another bit of fun medieval time travelling. Well, not this time, not quite.




Ai Vist A Lo Lop by In Vino Veritas from their third album Baccabundi

In Vino Veritas are a medieval pagan folk band from Carrara, Italy. The band formed in 2010 and since then they have recorded 3 albums and a DVD: the sold-out debut album Ludicantigas, the also sold out DVD Bestiarium, the 2014 record Baccabundi and the new CD Grimorium Mari. The band calls themselves a medieval pagan folk band and indeed, on those early albums you will find original compositions as well as medieval traditionals, focusing on pagan themes and the goliardic tradition *).
On their DVD and live show Bestiarium, In Vino Veritas push their concept one step further, stating themselves that: ‘Bestiarium is our new show about beasts and mythological animals, inspired by the medieval bestiaries and by the tradition of the itinerant masked bards, reminding of the traits of gargoyles sculptures.
While introducing the new album In Vino Veritas already warned their fans that it would be something different. ‘A new sound, both ancient and modern, psy folk, trance folk, pagan folk, world fusion, and much more!’
Well, you can’t say they didn’t warn you. 🙂

The first bars of Serpens Mundi are what we are used to: a cool violin riff, hurdy-gurdy, and ‘normal’, although modern-sounding, drums. But then comes a modern bass guitar and odd spacey keyboard effects, giving the song a totally different vibe. Still cheerful and fun, but modern, very modern. As I’m listening Serpens Mundi is drifting between medieval music and Eastern European / Arabian world music, with a very strong dance vibe.
Precatio Terrae continues in that style: a strong bass guitar riff, modern drums, mixed with a traditional melody reminiscent of the Renaissance played on the nyckelharpa, and Latin lyrics. You could call it Renaissance disco music and, although it sounds so wrong, it works. I never knew it, but the energy of medieval dance music and that of modern Italo disco fits like a glove. The Alain Stivell-like harp solo halfway through the song is just the icing on the cake.

This band mix the two worlds together so very cleverly. In Danza Del Troll for instance: a lovely nyckelharpa and flute melody, again totally Renaissance in feel, where the sound of the keys of the nyckelharpa become part of the rhythm section under it. So clever. A trick the group uses again in Benandanti. In Vino Veritas does with medieval music what The Sidh did with Celtic folk, or Instinkt did with Scandinavian folk, fusing it in a very clever way with modern dance music. It might be a shock to the system for the purists, but let them headline at any pagan folk or medieval festival and you’ve got a huge party on your hands.

I am not gonna pick up every song on this album, that is up to you, but I can guarantee that you won’t sit still listening to songs like Taranis (medieval folk meets 70’s disco), or Mabinogi (Swedish folk meets Italo disco), the slightly jazzy Mezunemusus (hello Shakatak jazz saxophone), or my favourite on this CD Gargoyle (medieval folk meets dance classics).



With Grimorium Magi, In Vino Veritas did exactly what they promised they would: create a musical adventure ride, a unique balance between old and modern dance music. The songs are catchy and fun, inviting you to dance and sing. Renaissance Italo disco made to party. And as I party on I invite you all to do the same thing. Get this album, open up your windows and doors and let this music fill the warm summer air. If we can’t have a festival season this year, why not create our very own all together? Let this record be the soundtrack under it.

– Cliff

Editor: Iris de Wolf



*) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica Goliards were: “wandering students and clerics in medieval England, France, and Germany, remembered for their satirical verses and poems in praise of drinking and debauchery. The goliards described themselves as followers of the legendary Bishop Golias: renegade clerics of no fixed abode who had more interest in rioting and gambling than in the life of a responsible citizen.

Rachel Croft – Hours Awake (2019) review

Album cover Hours Awake

Every week Ilona gives me an update of the music that she has added to the CeltCast radio stream, and every week I listen to what’s new, and which records I personally would love to put a spotlight on. It only took a few seconds of listening to the opening track Old Climbing Tree of Rachel Croft’s debut CD Hours Awake for me to decide that yes, this most definitely will be on the review list. What an A-MA-ZING voice. What a song. I simply love it!! That was the easy part, but then came the harder bit: writing a review.
And so the adventure started. First listening to the album a couple of times, having a look at the booklet for some more info, and last but not least going to Rachel’s website for the last details that I needed to write a nice introduction – or so I thought. Because if you really want to write something about Rachel Croft’s background you have to dig deep. I found no biography, no interview, no Wikipedia entry, nothing. It didn’t matter which angle I tried, I drew a blank. Until I desperately started searching for videos I could use on YouTube. That’s where I finally managed to puzzle a wee bit of her story together. With a big thank you to early fan Martin Waring, who recorded several of the earliest performances that Rachel did in her hometown of York.
As far as I have been able to find out, Rachel Croft is a young singer-songwriter from York. She started her career in her hometown doing open mic performances, gigs in local establishments, in the University of York – where she also studied- and busking on the streets of her hometown. It was in 2014 that Martin Waring, a local photographer, spotted Rachel performing in the streets of York, something he had hoped for after seeing her at an open mic performance. And he recorded her playing the song Songbird, a cover of American blues and jazz singer Eva Cassidy.



Rachel Croft performing Songbird in York, 2014. Recorded by Martin Waring

In the following year he kept track of her and recorded some lovely street performances of her doing classic pop songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine, Sting’s Fields of Gold, Taylor Swift’s Dear John and a really powerful version of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me. But she also sings a beautiful version of Mary Black’s folk anthem Song for Ireland and the Irish classic The Fields of Athenry. In a studio performance she did for the Pear Tree Sessions in 2015 she also recorded two folk classics: The Fields of Athenry again and also The Wild Mountain Thyme. Look them up, they are stunning performances.
In 2016 videos of Rachel’s singer-songwriter street performances kept popping up on YouTube, but also a video of The Croft Mullen Band, where she is performing the Duke Ellington classic It Don’t Mean a Thing together with pianist Karl Mullen : a jazzy song she also nails!

In November 2017 Rachel’s very first single, Only Dreams (a song that luckily also found its way on Hours Awake) came out. She wrote it herself and recorded it with the help of Rachel Brown on cello, Emlyn Vaughan on double bass, bandmate Karl Mullen on piano and synth and Dan Webster on electric guitar. The latter also responsible for recording, mixing and co-producing it. (Most of them also helped out recording Hours Awake, but I’m getting ahead of myself now.)
Only Dreams is a stunning, stunning song, that takes the best of her pop, singer-songwriter and jazz background. It is a beautiful guitar ballad. It reminds me of Chris Isaac’s Wicked Games, also a fragile yet powerful ballad.
When you only listen to the melody and instruments, Only Dreams is already beautiful, the subtle cello, piano and keys with over it this deep-cutting, soul-jerking, yet still fragile slide guitar notes. But the biggest selling point of Only Dreams is Rachel’s voice. Her vocals are stunning. Plain and simple! Her voice is deep, rich, oozing with soul, and she has perfect control over it. It is hard to describe her voice. Take the deep, rich sound of Vaya Con Dios‘ Dani Klein, the soul voice of Joss Stone, the singer-songwriter qualities of the early Adele (at the time of her debut 19) and the rich seventies feel of 70’s stars like Karen Carpenter or Helen ‘I am Woman’ Reddy.



Then YouTube went quiet, so I had to go on Facebook. In December 2017 Rachel announced that she had started recording new material with Dan Webster for a full-length album. 95% made possible through crowdfunding, according to a grateful Rachel in the booklet of Hours Awake. On January 8th, 2018, she performed on BBC Radio York in the Introduction Show hosted by Jericho Keys, and in November 2018 she toured The Netherlands for the first time – and if I’m not mistaken that could well have been her first tour outside of Britain.
In February of 2019, Hours Awake finally came out. This was followed by more and more performances in AND outside of Great Britain. One of them was another short tour in The Netherlands that also brought her to Elfia Arcen on September the 22nd, where Ilona and Alex saw her perform falling in love with her music on the spot. A love they happily passed on to me, hence this review.

Hours Awake, a wonderful album

It is not hard to fall in love with Rachel’s music, though. As I said, it already starts with the first notes of Old Climbing Tree. Rachel Croft A deep and powerful string intro makes this song come closest to the music we normally play at CeltCast. Together with the tribal drums, it could be the intro to a Cesair song if it wasn’t for those warm soulful vocals of Rachel coming in, somewhere between Joss Stone, Dani Klein and Tanita Tikaram. Old Climbing Tree is the most Celtic of the songs on Hours Awake: most of the songs hover somewhere between singer-songwriter material, American folk and the contemporary pop music made by artists like Adele – they are jazzy, deeply rooted in musical history, and yet sound modern, contemporary.
It is almost impossible to name one highlight. Hear Me, the 70’s style In Blue or Rainier Day, the jazzy Don’t Feel like Holding On with its lovely violin melody weaving through it, 6,000 miles, they are all equally beautiful singer-songwriter ballads.

If I had to choose my favourites I would pick Can’t Replace Your Perfect, a soulful gospel ballad that wouldn’t look out of place on a Joss Stone or a Croft Mullen band album (yes, Rachel and Karl Mullen still perform together), the powerful opener Old Climbing Tree and of course the wonderful first single Only Dreams. Rachel is on her very VERY best in that song, with a voice so rich and warm that it is capable of melting the chocolate ice cream in your refrigerator.
This young lady has a great career ahead of her. Trust me, in a few year’s time she will be huge, so go see her next time she is performing at Elfia, you won’t regret it. Not at all!

– Cliff

Editor: Iris de Wolf
sleeve art: D. Somme
picture: Rachel Croft
Video of Songbird posted with kind permission of Martin Waring

Priscilla Hernandez – The Underliving (2011) review



I usually don’t start a review talking about the artwork of it, but in the case of Priscilla Hernandez’s second album, The Underliving it is the only obvious thing to do. The fantasy folk scene is known for the beautiful artwork with one being even more stunning than the other. You probably remember the beautiful booklet that covers Mythos, the second Waldkauz album, or the equally impressive booklet accompanying Eden, that famous concept album Faun released in 2011, The double-sided picture book illustrating the Riven double CD by Jyoti Verhoeff is another example, not to mention the illustrated fairy tale that was added to Omnia‘s Pagan Folk Lore DVD. Well, I can tell you that the casing that Priscilla Hernandez designed for her The Underliving album can hold its own with all the aforementioned books.
Not only is it 3 centimetrers longer than a normal CD casing, it also filled with lovely fantasy drawings in Priscilla’s own slightly eerie, slightly gothic, slightly fairy tale style. Blended between them are photographs edited and coloured in the same blue-greyish hue as the drawings that fit the theme of The Underliving so well.
Priscilla Hernandez is not only a composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer AND poet, she is also an illustrator and writer. On her website, she tells us that even before she started making music at a young age, she was already making drawings to illustrate her own stories. One of those stories is an unpublished graphic comic called Yidneth.
Yidneth started as a horror/fantasy novel that Priscilla then illustrated to turn into a comic.
– “It consists of a 74 coloured page gothic-fantasy comic graphic novel I scripted when a child and that took shape as a graphic novel done through the ’80s until ’90s.’ Priscilla tells us on her webpage. On the fact that it was never published she says the following:
– “Yidneth is my trademark and the name of my company and record label but also name that I invented for my personal project, and not my artistic name (though after using it so long it’s almost like my alter-ego). When I was younger I was more focused in my works as an illustrator and then somehow music got more successful and carried away some of my projects that remained then on hold.”
Parts of that artwork did make it into her CD booklets though, and also songs like Ancient Shadows or Lament, found on Priscilla’s first album Ancient Shadows – the Ghost and the Fairy, are directly inspired by pages of that unpublished Yidneth story.

The Underliving is one of the worlds Priscilla created in her novel. To quote her again:
-‘The Underliving is a world of reveries in the mist, lost veiled memories concealed in an alluring grey and white realm…. …Dormant in the corner of your eyes, always there but hidden from your sight, The underliving creatures sway over the living without our awareness. They observe us. They play with us. They inspire us…. … The album portrays the story of a chosen child that can perceive this “Otherworld” and longs to be part of it.’
So that’s the story behind The Underliving and that’s also the reason why I hope modern song downloads and Spotify will never fully replace a CD. Especially in our scene the music (almost) always has a story, a reason why it is made. And the artwork made for those albums reflects that. They are not random pictures, but an intricate part of the whole theme a musician wants to express. With us buying complete albums we keep that alive. And by diving into the artwork we also come so much closer to the essence of the music we are hearing. We understand more why it is created, what it means to the one creating it, what the artist wanted to say to us. In my eyes, The Underliving‘s artwork conclusively proves that point.

OK, it’s time to climb off my soapbox and finally get that CD in my Discman. From the first notes of In The Mist you notice the beautiful cello melody played by Biel Fiol and Svetlana Tovstukha Both part of Priscilla’s band at the time, (rightside photo) giving the ambient/new age music a more earthy feel than I knew from Ancient Shadows. More classical. The beat under it is also different, less triphop, more pagan folk. As this delicate new age ballad develops into a full song it’s an orchestra I hear, not a keyboard generated sound. That may be the biggest difference between Ancient Shadows and The Underliving. Where on Ancient Shadows Priscilla ‘only’played piano and keyboards, on The Underliving she also plays harp, mountain-, baritone-, and hammered dulcimer, psaltery, Koshi chimes, kantele, jouhikko, double ocarina, glass harp, singing bowls, flute, Irish tin- and low whistle, bansuri, and chalumeau. It’s mesmerizing only reading the list. It makes the music much richer, much fuller, quite different from the keyboard sound of Ancient Shadows.

The rich earthy sound continues with the cello in the title song The Underliving. Strong strokes straight away pull you into the song and Priscilla’s opening vocals captivate you even more. With the power of the cello, I have to think of an ambient version of Amy Lee (Evanescence) straight away, but Priscilla has her own style of singing, dreamy, warm and soothing, but also sharp and eerie when needed.
When I hear the electric guitar creeping in towards the end, I’m even more convinced Priscilla is the ambient/new age sister of Amy Lee, or of a young Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), or should I say all three are the adopted daughters of that most famous fantasy pop singer of all: Kate Bush. It’s all concealed in the mists of time I guess.



Talking of Kate: Feel the Thrill is the first song with the ambient pop feel that I know from Ancient Shadows. Where the previous song The Underliving is more a classical, acoustic version of a gothic rock song, Feel The Thrill takes me back to Madonna‘s Frozen. The keyboard sound underneath it takes me even further back, all the way to the ’80s and the synthpop sound of bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. It’s also a really catchy song, and could have been an instant hit if it had been picked up by radio stations.
It sounds like a mellow, ambient version of Robert Miles music actually. The same goes for Through The Long way. If you’re into ambient fantasy music, this album is definitely for you. Good beat, beautiful orchestral arrangements, a catchy melody, and Priscilla’s beautiful vocals, you don’t need much more than this.

The cool thing with Priscilla’s music is that she doesn’t believe in the boundaries of a style. She just wants to make beautiful dreamscape type music and will add whatever instrument or influence needed, as is clear from the list of instruments featured on this album. So at one moment, I hear a tune or a cello reminding me of Sophie Zaaijer and Cesair, the next moment I’m thinking Dark Crystal, the original movie soundtrack and seconds after that I’m rushing to get Jyoti Verhoeff‘s Bare EP out. For me that is the power of Priscilla’s music, it is pure and genuine, and as you probably have gathered by now, I find it extremely beautiful.

The dreamy, slightly eerie In My Mind’s Eye, the spooky piano ballad Off The Lane, the Native American/Cesair-like pagan folk song Northern Lights, the piano/string ballad Morning light or the stunning ballad At the Dream’s Door, the experimental pop-art of The Aftermath, they are all equally beautiful.
My personal, favourite part of the cd is not one song, but the sequence of The Wind Song and Ode To The silence following each other. Both strong pop-art songs they are just arranged masterfully together, combining the best bits of Jyoti Verhoeff, or an acoustic Within Temptation together.



Somehow I constantly come up with these gothic rock/female-fronted metal comparisons although I actually don’t want to. I know it would mislead you, reader, into thinking this is a rock CD, but it most definitely is not! Although it also isn’t a sugar-coated new age/ambient/fairy record. It just happens that Priscilla’s singing style, in its lyrics and the wat she performs them, how she plays with the melody lines, reminds me of singers like Amy Lee. A thing Priscilla herself also mentioned in a note she wrote to me while we were discussing the details around these reviews. Priscilla has her own unique style. Something that hovers somewhere between new age music, ambient dance, pagan folk, and gothic fantasy.

Something else also becomes very clear as you wander deeper into the music and artwork of The Underliving, this is a really, really personal CD. Yidneth may not be Priscilla’s alter Ego, but it surely is an integrated part of her being. Yidneth is Priscilla’s gateway into the dream world she herself has created. It is also the gateway she needed to get to terms with her childhood’s sleep paralysis and nightmare experiences. It’s those lyrics that keep pushing me towards those gothic references. They are not sweet and sugarcoated, they are deep, fairytale-like but with those dark shadows that make movies like Underworld and The Dark Crystal so beautiful. It’s also the lyrics that make the music of bands like Evanescence, Within Temptation or Leave’s Eyes so powerful. Priscilla’s music lives there, right on the edge of acoustic gothic music and ambient dance. Unique and beautiful.
I’ve talked long enough, put this record in your CD player, put on your headphones and close your eyes. Start dreaming. See that small child waiting in the shadows? Don’t be afraid. Grab her hand and let her lead you into the beautiful world of The Underliving. The world of Yidneth.



– Cliff-

Editor: Sara Weeda
Sleeve art: Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth
Art & Photo’s: Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth

CeltCast Classic
Priscilla Hernández – Ancient Shadows (2006)



Where did this pearl hide all this time??? At Celtcast HQ we knew about the lovely music of Trobar de Morte ; we danced many a time on the dark Pagan folk of Cuélebre, who have a new album out called Dijara; we were in awe by the beautiful pagan world folk that Vael was making, and we were blown away by the debut of Ritual Duir. So we already knew there was amazing talent in Spain, but none of us knew about another Spanish artist who was recording beautiful – and I do mean beautiful – ethereal poetic triphop fairytale folk since her debut album Ancient Shadows, the ghost and the fairy, way back in 2006. It was Rastaban ‘s Mich Rozek who eventually connected Priscilla Hernández and our station, and we are very very grateful that he did, because it would have been a shame if we didn’t give Priscilla Hernández the place the spotlight she so fully deserves.
Priscilla Hernandez was born on the Canary Islands but now lives in Navarre Spain. From a young age she was fascinated with illustrated fairy tales – especially the more eerie ghost tales and, as she calls them, ‘supernatural spectral romance stories’. Not to mention a love for the old Jim Henson fantasy films like Labyrinth or her favourite the dark Crystal. Fed by her personal experiences with sleep paralysis and nightmares she started to create her own stories, either in the form of music or art.
She first showed that art through drawings, part of an unpublished graphic novel – I’ll go into that more in the review of The Underliving – but later on also in music. As Priscilla says in her bio she started writing songs as a child but only got the courage to perform them herself in 2002. She recorded the I Steal The Leaves demo in that year, accompanying herself on the keyboard and to her surprise that demo got really positive reactions and reviews. At that point, the music started to take over.
In order to keep the spirit of her art untouched, she decided to stay independent and together with the love of her life Hector Corcin she started her own label Yidneth, and then in 2006 Ancient Shadows – the ghost and the fairy – was born.

The opening sounds of Facing the Dream, the intro to Ancient Shadows, leaves no room for doubt regarding this album’s theme. It has an eerie fairy feeling oozing all over it. The shiver caused by dark shadows hidden in eerie lights, while shards of mist are broken by gusts of sudden wind, deep dark clouds are rushing overhead, and a Banshee suddenly screams through the midnight air. That’s the feeling you’ll have while hearing those first haunting notes.
The actual opening song Away is actually a surprise then. Where I was expecting Trobar de Morte / Dead Can Dance art-folk/pop, I got ethereal, almost ambient triphop music. New age meets dance in a very beautiful way.
The music is very keyboard-based and beautifully mellow, as you would expect from ambient music, with a cool triphop beat under it giving the song a lovely easy-going vibe. To put it in comparison, a lovely combination of Helisir meets Portishead. On the one hand unexpected, on the other so natural. Just imagine how 19th-century gothic ghosts, who make ambient dance music and perform it floating in eerie light blue light around the shadows of the ancient ruins would sound like. This is what the undead would be weaving around on in their silent, drifting slow motion dance around the ancient willow trees. This, dear reader, is something else.



Ancient Shadows is another surprise. I never ever thought I would refer to a Madonna song in a review I would write for CeltCast, but I’ll do it here and now. Ancient Shadows could have easily been on Madonna’ s Ray of Light album and might well have been just as big a hit as Frozen.
With But If You Go Priscilla goes from mellow ambient into a beautiful piano ballad. It’s in this song that you really appreciate the arrangements for the first time. You can just hear how much time Priscilla and her partner Hector Corcin have put in getting all the ‘ornaments’ right, all the decoration that makes every single note a pleasure to listen to. The wind effect, the strings added, the beat just right, the cello flowing under it giving the music depth, the choir perfectly timed to enhance Priscilla’s vocal performance. It’s all there, not too much, not too little, just enough to showcase Priscilla’s beautiful vocals.
And those vocals ARE beautiful. Priscilla has a warm, really pleasant voice that, if I want to describe it, sounds similar to Lene Helisir, with touches of Portishead ‘s Beth Gibbons and Evanescence‘s Amy Lee . Not that Priscilla makes gothic rock, not at all. The colour of her voice just edges to that of Amy Lee and she uses the same original ‘artsy’ singing lines as we know from artists like Amy. Actually, if Evanescence’s My Immortal would ever be covered by a triphop band like Portishead, or Priscilla herself, it would probably have the same sound as But If You Go or I Steal The Leaves.

Coming to that song, if any DJ of a popular radio station would have picked up on that song back in 2006 it would have been an instant and huge hit! Plain and simple. It has everything a good song should have: it’s catchy; has good lyrics; magical vocals and a unique yet familiar sound. It’s a unique mixture of ambient, triphop, poetry and art pop with touches of Kate Bush and Jyoti Verhoeff – the Dark Room side of her album Riven – to spice it all up. (again names used to describe Priscilla’s sound, not bands that directly influenced her)
That Kate Bush/Jyoti Verhoeff feel is the strongest in Call Of The Nymph. You feel it in the vocals and the arrangement but especially in the lyrics and how they flow into the music. Priscilla is a poet as much as a storyteller with lyrics like:
“Where do you go?
Where do you run away?
It seems it was ages ago
I last saw the shining sky
How many souls I may devour
to become a dragonfly?

-The Call of the Nymph-




Priscilla Hernandez performing Call Of The Nymph, Live at teatre Xesc Forteza, Mallorca, Spain

Listening to those lyrics sung in her fairy voice, with the strings keys and recorder weaving as chords of mist under it, I find it pure magic. Priscilla has her very own perspective in her musical stories which are quite often very personal. Themes like the first weeks of a new found love, the anxiety of losing the safe haven of a child’s world when you grow up, the personal experience of sleep paralysis disorder, or the loss of a dear friend are just as effortlessly turned into fairytale poetry as ‘real’ fantasy themes like haunted ruins, bitter weeping willows -better to be avoided-, or the soul of a drowned lady trapped in the body of a dragonfly nymph waiting to escape her faith in The Call of the Nymph.



Priscilla Hernandez performing Call Of The Nymph, Live at teatre Xesc Forteza, Mallorca, Spain

I really could go on and on about this album: the beautiful Maya Fridmann like cello under the Helisir like vocals in the piano ballad Nothing, the Pink Floyd electric guitar taking center stage in Nightmare – the only song where an electric guitar is featured on Ancient Shadows, making this song a true prog-rock pearl- the eerie whispered double vocals in Haunted or the, indeed, haunting Amy Lee double vocals and arrangement in Lament, a true ghost fairytale masterpiece, or the lovely instrumental tribute to her dear canine friend Kira, it is all equally masterful done. And then I didn’t even mention the stunning artwork yet, all drawings made by her own hand.
But, as always, I need to end this review, as much as I would love to tell more and more about it. If you want some fast upbeat songs to dance on, this is not the album for you, but if you – just like me – want to be caught in a web of beautiful notes, drown in the sound haunted vocals or get lost in a labyrinth of ghostly fairytales then Ancient Shadows – The ghost and the fairy – HAS to be in your music collection.
Priscilla told me there are not that many physical copies left, so if you want one, you shouldn’t wait too long. Of course a digital version will still be available on her webpage or her Bandcamp page . Now if you don’t mind, I want to dream on a wee bit more.





– Cliff-


Editor: Sara Weeda
sleeve art:Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth
pictures & artwork: Priscilla Hernandez/Yidneth






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