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.

Cliff

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.


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


Trobar de Morte – The Book Of Shadows (2020)



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 Cesair 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!

– Cliff

editor: Sara
cover art: artdrómeda photography
Pictures: Cliff de Booy





The Carrots – Driftwood (2020)



From the first seconds of The Flood you can hear the two trump cards of The Carrots, the vocals of the sisters Susanne and Hanna van Gemeren. Rarely have I heard two voices blend together so beautifully, so harmonious. They are truly breathtaking together. Combine that with Wouter Raidt’s gentle touch on the acoustic guitar and you are onto a winner. Singer-songwriter folk with a touch of Americana and a real angelic feel that you just have to buy!!!
Good! With this conclusion, this review is sorted! On to the next one! Maybe, but it would be unfair to this lovely young trio to stop here. (And to myself as well, ’cause as long as I write on I can keep listening to this delightful EP. And honestly, I will take on any excuse to do so.)
The Carrots are a trio from Zwolle, the Netherlands. The three of them already earned their stripes in the Dutch scene with the band Half a Mile, a band that was together for almost 10 years and had their farewell performance on April the 25th, 2019. Susanne, Hanna and Wouter decided to carry on making music together as a trio and Driftwood is their first official sign of life. What a sign of life it is. I will be highly surprised if this EP won’t open doors for them as soon as the festival season will start again.

As I said in the intro, the opening song The Flood starts really strong. It is a bitter chocolate, singer-songwriter treat wrapped in a delicious pop sound, with a tasty coating of salty Americana caramel to finish it all off. This is candy to the ears of those who share my love for Rachel Croft, The Civil Wars, and Indigo Girls. The two sisters draw you into the Carrot’s music from the very first note they sing. It is a ‘simple’ hum they sing, but the two ladies are able to put so much power and energy in that humble ‘hmmmmm’ sound, I find it astonishing. It is strong, feminine and slightly melancholic but most of all really powerful. Still, within that feminine strength, their voices also have a fragile touch which makes me think of the Dutch dream folk band Rosemary & Garlic. But there is more to this ballad than a single hum. A melancholic acoustic guitar riff leads you in heartbroken but beautifully poetic lyrics. When (a minute into the song) Susanne and Hanna’s voices start weaving and circling around each other, the colour of it all reminds me of another strong feminine but emotive vocalist, Evanescence’s Amy Lee. Mind you I’m just comparing the colour of the voices with each other. In no way am I implying that The Carrots make gothic folk-rock!

Having said that…, they do know how to rock though! Listen to Everything Flows, the second track on Driftwood, and the three of them will prove it straight away. Especially the middle part truly kicks ass! The bouzouki ‘riffs’ after the harmonies at 2:40 will get everybody onto their feet. Especially, when played live. And then I’m almost forgetting the whole build-up to that point. It starts from the second verse. The music breaks down into a single bouzouki chord, with some percussion accents, highlighting those beautiful harmonies of the van Gemeren sisters. It all gets stronger and stronger until the whole song erupts in an acoustic, western folk-rock extravaganza. The Carrots surely have a potential hit on their hands with this song.



It is not the only hit on Driftwood though. The power ballad Train Of Thoughts also has hit potential written all over it. Not that it is a commercial song, no, it is just ear-catching beautiful. Again a melody that instantly digs itself into your brain. The guitar chords, the bass line, those voices, they all blend so perfectly well together. Train of Thoughts clearly shows the difference between a designed hit and one that came naturally. This one keeps getting better every time I hear it. And we are not done yet. Hit number three comes straight after Train of Thoughts.
It is called Note To Little Me and it is a true ballad. I love the lyrics of this song. Pure singer-songwriter poetry. I also love the voice of Susanne, she genuinely sounds like Rachel Croft’s sister in this song, instantly making her one of my favourite female vocalists in the folk world.
I find every single bit of this song amazing, but mostly the simplicity of it. 80% of it is just a voice and a guitar. And trust me, it needs nothing more. The result is…, GOOSEBUMPS! Note to Little Me is easily my personal favourite on an album that has the bar raised terribly high.



Closing song Clockwork comes closest to pure old school European folk as we know it. It has that almost medieval storytelling quality that makes me immediately think of classics like Gwendolyn Snowdon’s version of Little Duke Arthur’s Nurse, Meidi Goh’s Foxskin, or AmmA’s Matty Groves. With Susanne and Hanna on vocals I am mostly drawn to Amma as a comparison actually, and that ain’t a bad thing. But enough about the vocal awesomeness that is displayed all over this EP. At this point, I want to put the spotlight on Wouter Raidt’s guitar playing. He silently shines throughout the whole EP with his warm, thoughtful style of playing. He is the perfect accompanist for the ladies, taking his place in the background, making them sound awesome, as a true musical gentleman would. But he is well capable to spice up the music when needed. That frisky guitar riff under the verse in this song for instance. I just love hearing him walk all over his frets, giving the song an unexpected cheerfulness. When the moment is right, he has the technique to throw down a lovely guitar solo as well. In this case, the guitarsolo has a distinctive Spanish feel to it. Giving Clockwork (and the whole EP) another interesting musical twist.

I started this review by saying the Carrots have two trump cards. That is actually not true. They have three. Wouter is just as important to their sound as the ladies are. They all blend beautifully together, enhancing each other’s talents, which makes them the perfect trio. Can’t wait to see them perform live! I just know we will be in for a treat. Until that moment, we just have to make do with Driftwood. Not a bad replacement though. Not at all!!!

– Cliff

ps. The Carrots recorded a quarantine video, a cover of the song Kingdom Come, originally recorded by the Civil Wars. A lovely version paying true homage to the equally beautiful original. It is way too good not to post here, although it isn’t featured on the EP. Maybe on a future one??





editor: Anna
CD Artwork: Susanne van Gemeren
Picture: Tanja van Dijk












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