Sangre de Muerdago – Xuntas (2020)



‘Sangre de Muerdago stands on the wild side, on top of the cliffs, at the depths of the woods…., Galician Folk songs to heal and roam, to dance and love.’ These are the opening lines of their bio on Bandcamp, and I could not have said it better myself. I first heard of this Galician band (situated in Germany) through the site Hierba Loba of Vael‘s singer and multi-instrumentalist Dani Iturriaga who has been a fan of the band for years. He introduced the previous Sangre de Muerdago album Noite with the following words: ‘Comprado en uno de los conciertos más mágicos a los que he asistido.‘ (Bought at one of the most magical concerts I have ever attended.) That was enough for us to look up this lovely band and we were not disappointed. Noite is a lovely album that we already play in our stream and we were anxiously awaiting the follow-up album Xuntas. In November of last year Pablo “Pabs” C. Ursusson (classical guitar, hurdy-gurdy, music box, steel-string guitar, bells, lead vocals), Erik “Erich” Heimansberg (flute, pandero de Peñaparda, bass clarinet, vocals), Hanna Werth (viola, vocals), Georg “Xurxo” Börner (nyckelharpa, vocals) and Asia Kindred Moore (Celtic harp) released Xuntas and it has been patiently turning its rounds in my CD player ever since.
Before I start the actual review there is one more person I should mention here. A person whose name you will always find in the band’s artwork, and also in interviews with the band. A person who, when I asked Pablo if he could give me the lineup of the band, was credited to deliver ‘Melodies from the Otherworld’. This person is Jorge Olson de Abreu. Pablo explains: ‘Jorge died after we recorded the demo, before the first album was recorded, but for me, he has always remained part of the band. Even though he has been gone 12 years now, I still consider him an active part of Sangre de Muerdago if that makes any sense.’
It makes perfect sense to me, so with this being the first Sangre de Muerdgo review I do, it feels fitting to dedicate this review to a man that will [quote]: Always give inspiration from the otherworld. (Noite). Your legacy still lives on Jorge.


Xuntas

Trust me, if you acquire Xuntas you will be in for a treat, starting from the very, VERY first note you will hear. You almost expect a Spanish song to start with classical guitar and Sangre de Muerdago kindly fulfills that expectation, soon followed by the melancholic sound of a nyckelharpa and one single voice. But what a voice! Pablo has a voice so tender, soothing, pure, and delicate at the same time that I’m captivated from the first note he sings. A lovely flute solo is the icing on the cake. Sangre de Muerdago’s music is the beautiful sum of three simple ingredients: a lovely combination of singer-songwriting, a delicate sauce of European folk, and a slight seasoning of classical chamber music. This is fine dining put to music. The first song Cadeliña is a perfect example of it. If you love this song, you will love the whole album. And what do you drink with an exquisite meal? Wine, of course! Wine; rich, velvety red, but still smooth to the touch. The second (title) track Xuntas oozes that out from all sides. It is true European folk with rich harmonies, strong classical influences, and an exquisite touch of Arthuan Rebis‘ magic to finish it off. Truly stunning.





The title track Xuntas, featuring guest vocalist Steve von Till (Neurosis).

Sangre de Muerdago master instrumental songs just as well. They have a lovely open sound to their music which is like a gentle breeze on a spring day. All the instruments the band play have this calming, this soothing quality. Acoustic guitar, Celtic harp, nyckelharpa, viola, bass clarinet, even the hurdy-gurdy (!), are all recorded perfectly clean, all are played light as a feather, full of emotion, full of love. Is there a thing called instrumental singer-songwriter music? If you listen to Unha Das Peores Cousas Que Escoitéi no 2019 Foi “Pedir perdón é un acto de debilidade” (what’s in a name?), the answer is yes. Every word is said without speaking. Every syllable is captured in notes. I should compliment the sound engineer Tobias Häussler too here. This is recorded so beautifully; so full, so rich. You can hear every note played; the attack of the nyckelharpa (I always love hearing these rhythmical clicks as the notes are played); the natural richness of the guitar and harp; and then there is the impressive orchestration, the grand build-up of melodies at the end. The Magic Door meets Vael. And then you get those subtle notes at the very, very end! Yes, this song has everything an impressive instrumental music piece needs.



The song with arguably the longest songtitle ever: ‘Unha Das Peores Cousas Que Escoitéi no 2019 Foi “Pedir perdón é un acto de debilidade’, featuring Germán Díaz on hurdy-gurdy

The magic continues

I mentioned Arthuan Rebis and his project The Magic Door before and in Canción de Berce I am reminded of him again. I find him in that clever use of the viola and harp, combined with this slightly melancholy music Sangre de Muerdago plays, in a style I just cannot define and don’t want to define, actually. I just want to listen to it and float away into my own little dream world. A world where spring mornings last forever. A world where Arthuan Rebis and Árstíðir are happily sharing the stage on a Castlefest Sunday morning. I can easily see myself sitting on the hill opposite the old Folk Stage at Castlefest, soaking this all in. My eyes closed, loving every moment of it, knowing a whole crowd is doing the very same thing. And they would, I’m sure of that. Sangre de Muerdago’s music has a timeless quality to it, a melancholic beauty that instantly sweeps you away.

On Lonxanía a lot of medieval influences flow into Sangre de Muerdago’s music. Let’s say we have Datura, Meidi Goh, SeeD and Árstíðir together on stage now. Pablo also shows a different aspect of his voice in this song, much stronger, but still perfectly in tune and full of emotion. The singer-songwriter is gone now and the medieval bard appears. (Iris, the lovely editor of this review even got some Russian vibes from the vocals.) It makes Lonxanía a lovely contemporary take on medieval music.
María Soliña is a small song, a moment in time captured on tape. An honest celebration of life caught in a whistle. Nature’s beauty put in a few guitar notes. This proves once again that singer-songwriter music doesn’t need words. Not in this case. Not if you are Sangre de Muerdago.
Coma Un Bico reminds me a lot of Vael again, just as rich and beautiful, but without the Oriental influences that are so distinctive of Vael’s music. And I truly adore the music box/finger-picked violin ending of this song. It is as if Sangre de Muerdago brought that music box to life in the studio. And maybe they did, who knows!

A lovely live version of Coma Un Bico



I could go on and on about this album. And listening to the powerful, captivating chamber music melody that is Foliada de Tenorio, I really have to restrain myself not to. But I know I’m only going to repeat myself. There just are no highlights on Xuntas, the album itself is the highlight! Eleven beautiful songs long. European folk meets classical chamber music. Medieval music meets contemporary folk. Even pagan folk (ZiRP) meets medieval folk. Just listen to Heavy Mental and you’ll know exactly what I mean. What a treat this is. From the very first guitar stroke till the very last music box notes, this is a stunning album. Truly! I cannot think of any reason NOT to acquire it!

– Cliff

editor: Iris
Cover art:Kaska Niemiro
band pictures: Josanne van der Heijden
Music box picture: Sangre de Muerdago






Le Garçon de l’Automne- Leaves Are Falling (2020) review



There are five things going through my mind as I listen to Leaves Are Falling, the debut album of Quentin Maltrud, alias Le Garçon de l’Automne. Those thoughts are:
– ‘That sounds nice.’
– ‘Oh wow!’
– ‘This has potential.’
– ‘You might want to rethink that part.’
– ‘Yes he has so much potential.’

The first three are the predominant thoughts I have after listening to Leaves Are Falling though. Leaving me with a really positive feeling after listening to Quentin’s music. You could see this debut album as Quentin’s journey through the pagan folk scene. From medieval music up to pirate folk, and from dark Nordic folk to the warm nostalgic Mediterranean sound, he had a taste of all of them on this record. Quentin’s main instrument is the hurdy-gurdy. He started playing around five years ago, inspired by the music of Eluveite. As our young Frenchman discovered more and more folk music he also taught himself how to play the Irish bouzouki, recorder, several flutes, chalumeau, didgeridoo, kalimba, darbuka, hammered dulcimer, percussion,surpeti, jouhikko, and keyboard, among others. (Oh and he also sings the lead vocals on Leaves Are Falling.) Again a clear cross-section through all de different styles of European folk. It proves Quentin to be a curious person, or as he is described by our college of Mythologica in an interview: – ‘A traveler in music.‘ Well then, let’s travel with him.
The first track I want to mention is called Alioth. It’s an instrumental piece, starting nice and traditional, but you will quickly hear the potential in Quentin’s arrangements. The intro with the hurdy-gurdy and Medieval percussion is fun, but still predictable; the choir, coming in at 01:48 most definitely is not, nor is the cool keyboard sound just before that. An original mix of 70’s Mike Oldfield keyboards mixed with a healthy splash of organ. It really adds to the song, as does the marimba I hear around 2:30. A really cool touch. I also like the way Alioth is built-up, keeping me interested all the way to the end, even though it’s all based upon one single melody. Well done Quentin, a nice first impression.

Quentin tops that straight away with Stars, my first ‘WOW’ moment on Leaves Are Falling. It is a song he wrote together with some members of Scurra, and it is truly impressive at times! The wow-element starts straight away with a lovely music box intro. So nice and delicate! It is followed by a beautiful violin melody, played by Ombeline la Fougueuse (Scurra), that reminds me a lot of Vael. The whole feel of this song reminds me of this Spanish band actually. The choir coming in at 2:40 is really impressive. It is quite bold for a starting musician/music producer to throw something like that into a composition. It is one of the many moments that I can hear the potential in Quentin’s music. He clearly isn’t afraid to try things out. And they quite often surprise me in a pleasant way. I already mentioned the intro, but there is also the music box outro, with a lot of phasing effects on it. I only wish Quentin would have played with some stereo effects here, making the sound wider and even more interesting. That would have been the icing on the cake, but: potential, potential, potential!

Tiniri is another song that gives me a lot of positive vibes. It is a medieval song with an exotic touch of Eastern percussion and Middle Eastern backing vocals. I love the marimba/guitar part in the middle, with some cool spoken word bits over it, in Arabic no less. The powerful orchestral follow-up is also pretty darn impressive. You could only wish the instruments were spread out more in the overall sound for an even bigger impact. Now everything is sitting safely in the middle of the stereo image. Placing some instruments left and right in that stereo image, having the percussion or marimba come from both sides, playing a bit more with effects, are neat producer tricks that would make such a difference. But, having said that, Tiniri is a cool track with a lot of potential to become a WOW song. The same goes for A Devil Made Me Do It. A cool song as is, but with so much more potential hidden in it. The evil laughing in this song for instance. As a listener, you want to be engulfed in it. Had it been coming from all sides on my headphones, it would have scared the living daylights out of me, (and would have had just the effect Quentin intended.) Still, a potential WOW song

Talking about WOW songs! Saltatio Vita has it all. It’s a beautiful ballad sung by Quentin and I can say he sounds beautiful in his own language. Saltatio Vita is the perfect song for his slightly fragile singer-songwriter voice. A tender melody carried by the guitar, with lovely flute and violin solos added to it. A perfect match. Quentin’s vocals also blend beautifully with those of guest singer Aubelia l’Ecumeuse, and the backing choir formed by Scurra members Aubelia, Ombeline, and Fergus Mac Aron. Easily my favourite song on this CD. This shows ALL the potential Quentin has as an artist, songwriter, and producer.



After Saltatio Vita, Quentin gives dark Nordic folk a try and.., well…, it isn’t the best part of the album, to be completely honest. Nordic folk from bands like Garmarna, Hedningarna, (or certain Asynje and Brisinga songs), are known for their dark mythological feel; their deep Viking vocals; epic yet melancholic nyckelharpa chords; and (occasional) almost out-of-key seljeflojt solos, that end up being hauntingly beautiful.
I can hear Quentin trying to do the same, but he regularly crosses that thin line between hauntingly beautiful and clearly out of key, especially in Båtens För. Quentin’s voice is too much of a high-pitched, soft singer-songwriter one, to be comfortable in the low, deep chords he is trying to sing. (The same reason why Oliver SaTyr (Faun) would sound totally out of place as the lead singer of Heilung). The seljeflojt- and chalumeau solos do not help the two Nordic folk songs either, especially in Båtens För they are just off the mark. I can hear the potential in these two songs, especially in Nattkulten, but they are saved for prosperity just a touch too soon in my opinion.
Luckily Quentin redeems himself quickly as he leads us into the shanty section of Leaves Are Falling. Au Fond Des Brumes is a nice French shanty, with a cool accordion solo by Laurens Krah, ( Imbue/ Pyrolysis), that plays right into Quentin’s strengths. If I’m nitpicking, Quentin’s voice could be a bit stronger at some points, but nothing a bit of vocal coaching can’t solve. That would be my general advice for the next album actually: Get some friendly pairs of ears to help take the music up to the next level.

In an interview Quentin did with our colleagues of Mythologica (published below) he told that Le Garçon de l’Automne became a solo project because he couldn’t find like-minded musicians in his neighbourhood. In retrospect he said that he actually liked working alone because it gave him the chance to develop his music alone, not having to compromise as you do in a band situation. I agree with him. Working solo gave Quentin the chance to define his own style of pagan folk. He was able to explore all the different styles of folk that inspired him unhindered, and it helped him learn things he might never have taken on if he’d been in a band situation.
Listening to Leaves Are Falling I think Quentin is now ready for the next step, working together with experienced, talented musicians like Laurens Krah, or a talented producer like Štěpán Honc (Perkelt), will make him want to become better, to push his music to the next level. Having talked to Quentin after he read the review I wrote, I could sense his drive to learn. I’m sure more experienced musicians will give Quentin a big push forwards. Not because he has to, no because he wants to!

There is so much potential to be found on this record. NVTTO for instance is a beautiful catchy song that only needs one or two recording tweaks to make it a WOW song. That glockenspiel in NVTTO is so cool, it just needs a tweak and it will become ‘wow’. Or the didgeridoo in the same song. I already like it. Make it sound more massive and Quentin is onto a winner. The same goes for the organ/choir start of Lava Veins. Already a cool idea as it is. Go even bolder with it and it will become epic. It’s those post-production tricks that Quentin now has to learn.
Listening to the whole album I know the ingredients are there for a smashing second CD. All the potential is there. Some of the songs on Leaves Are falling are really good, there are some truly original ‘flavours’ added to the music, and the contributions of the guest musicians are well-choosen additions. I truly feel working with an experienced musician like Štěpán could be the last piece of the puzzle. I know there is more inside Quentin Maltrud. I can hear it between the notes. I’m going to enjoy watching this young musician grow in the coming years. I’m sure of it.

– Cliff



Editor: Sara
CD Cover: Robin Kley Photographies
pictures:
Lollipop Studio (1)
Robin Kley Photographies(2)

Trolska Polska – EufoRI (2020) review



Being a CeltCast reviewer has made me discover a lot of beautiful records over the years and a selected few became even more than that, they became an addiction. They are CD’s I need to play on a regular basis, just as much as I need my daily cups of coffee! Albums like Matriarch by Shireen, Mythos by Waldkauz and Portal to Elfland by SeeD keep me energized and sane. They help me wander into my happy place, away from the madness of everyday life, the place where I can let everything go and just be me. I can tell you now that Eufori, the newest record of Trolska Polska, made it into that selected few. This album is pure genius. A troll-folk concept album that just works on every single level. From the artwork till the very last note. It’s funny, captivating and addictive. My personal album of the year 2020!
The fun starts right away with the opening song Tøbrud (spring thaw). The beginning is really gentle, tiny drops of sound are faded in, setting the mood. An enchanting flute melody appears, its sound takes you by the hand and leads you into a spring morning. This is going to be the first nice spring morning after a harsh, cold, Nordic winter. The low sun is casting friendly shadows over the frozen meadows. The gentle sound of dripping water is all around you. In front of you are two figures, dancing, waltzing and swirling. Easily evading every drop of melting snow that is falling down from the trees above. As if the old oaks are carefully pulling back their branches, making sure they do not disturb the graceful couple down on the grass…..

Oh, how easy it is to drift away in your own fantasy world when you listen to this album. It is all the small little details that Trolska Polska have hidden in their songs. They have done it so cleverly, so subtle. You can really hear the drops of water fall down when you listen to the music. You can hear the melting water rush down the brooks and creeks of the ancient woods. If you close your eyes you can hear the day start. You can feel the sun heralding the start of spring. The start of big things to come. It is all there, captured in music. In my eyes, Eufori is the folk version of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the wolf. A bald statement to make, I know, but trust me, it is one hundred percent true. Where Moss was a charming balfolk album and Untold Tails a lovely mix between balfolk and troll-folk music, this album is a huge leap forward. Trolska Polska not only wrote beautiful music for Eufori, but they also created a whole world around it. A whole story they play out in eleven delightful songs. Eufori is the story about one of the most important days in the troll calendar: The big spring ball!

When you dive into the booklet you’ll find that every song represents a chapter of this story, beautifully illustrated by Kent Overby Stück. As the story and music were created alongside each other they enhance one another in a beautiful way. The music becomes so much stronger when you read the tales, and the tales get much funnier when you listen to the songs. I would totally ruin the fun of listening to Eufori for the first time if I tell all about the storylines here, so instead I’m just going to tease you a bit with some hints, just to whet your appetite. I am only going to mention the mischievous troll kids, and how they manage to get the steam blowing out of the conductor’s ears… and the smoke coming from his tail while they’re at it. I’m only briefly going to point out the ‘breathtaking’ appearance of Slattenlangpat and her infamous booby-woogie. And I’m going to let you wonder why ‘the wandering giant’ leaves the party with a castle window pressed into his right eye.
I can assure you, if it ever was worthwhile to buy an actual CD instead of just streaming the music, then this album is it. You really are going to miss out, if you only have the music files without the story.



Tumult, the first single to be released from Eufori

This brings me to the main subject of every review, the music. What can I say? I LOVE this album! From the very first note till the very last chord. This is instrumental folk music at its very, very best. The melodies are catchy and fun, the solo’s mesmerizing and the whole concept is so believable. Where on earlier albums I personally missed a bit of true troll feeling sometimes, Eufori just oozes troll-folk. Every note has something otherworldly, something mischievous about it. Where the melodies on Moss were lead by the higher notes of the flute and violin, Eufori has much more room for the lower string instruments: the cello, the double bass, the hurdy-gurdy, and the bagpipe. And that lower sound is so important to get the feeling of true trolls, gnomes, and other otherworldly creatures across. I can’t help but believe that I have wandered deep into the dark Scandinavian forest, carefully peeking in, watching the trolls have their fun, while I’m trying not to get caught. (You wouldn’t want to get a wedgie from old Slattenlangpat now, would you?)

Although the whole album is a highlight, I do have some personal favourites, and the song Slattenlangpat is one of them. It’s a schottisch with a really cool, jazzy, double-bass riff as the backbone of the song. That riff alone is enough to get a huge smile on my face, but the whole build-up is great too. The catchy string melody the song has, the funny vocals that get a whole new meaning when you read the story behind it, the bagpipe solo, the pop-like string parts making this an instant hit… Oh, I could go on and on about this song alone.
Vigtigpråsen is the second song I want to pick up on. Again a schottish, again with this really laid back feel to it, again built up so well. The solo’s, the catchy troll-whistle, the cool viola solo, it’s so different to the balfolk music I normally hear, so unique, and yet so cool.

Not all the songs are laidback though. Halvlang Hopsa proves that straight away. It is fast, lightning-fast, and sooo much fun. Especially if you read the story behind it. Definitely one of my favourites. Keen eyes will have spotted the first Scandinavian balfolk references in between the lines. And they would be right, although Eufori is clearly a concept album, the band did not forget about their balfolk roots. Better yet Scandinavian balfolk is stil a big part of their sound. Polkas, waltzes, a hopsa, a halling, a gangar, even a menuet, all the cool Scandinavian dances are all there. Sometimes furiously fast like in Halvlang Hopsa, sometimes jazzy and cool like in Slattenlangpat, and sometimes just really beautiful as in Måneskinsmenuet. Eufori is as much a dance album as it is a pleasure to listen to. For those not too familiar with the Scandinavian dances, no need to worry. Our in house balfolk team have spotted a few an dros, some scottish, and two gavotte de l’avens besides the familiar waltzes polkas and polskas i already mentioned. So plenty to dance to. Eufori truly ticks every box possible.



Eufori, the title track, and second single to be taken off the new album

There are two more songs I want to mention before I wrap this review up. These are my two absolute favourite songs on Eufori. Both with a wonderful build-up, lovely melodies, and stunning solos. First of which is Hylkerne. I love everything about that song. The deep mouth harp, almost like a didgeridoo, laying down an awesome beat together with the double bass. (Or should I call it a power chord, as the song has the feel of an acoustic hardrock power-ballad that wouldn’t look out of place on a Dio album.) That beat is sooo impressive. Do you know the intro of Ayreon’s song Loser? Well, this has the same impact. Those ‘power riffs’ in the intro of Hylkerne are amazing! Acoustic, but exploding in your ears anyway. Combine that with the awesome power of the percussion and you get a sound, as if a whole platoon of mammoths is marching in on their way to a place deep, deep in the Northern woods. A place where you and I don’t want to be seen. This song is something else. I don’t know if I should dance or bang my hair around, so I end up doing both! I cannot wait to see and especially FEEL this being played live. EPIC! Truly epic!!

Den Vandrende Kæmpe is the last song on Eufori, and the last song I’m going to mention. It is a song of amazing beauty. It is another power ballad. It is also the absolute best song on this truly stunning CD, I’m just overwhelmed by it all. Drawn into every single note! Into every single bar! It just goes on and on. Highlight after highlight! This is the moment all my editors dread, because I’m going to become lyrical, (which means I write waaaaay to much, and they have to edit that 😉 ). One by one everybody gets their moment to shine on this brilliant final song: First the percussion, strong and powerful! Followed by the cello, first improvised, then leading us in one last catchy melody. We have the double bass joining in, strong and deep, ‘singing’ its last mesmerizing duet with the cello, their duet echoing through the northern woods, flowing over the fast horizon. Beautiful! And then, THEN comes the true icing on the cake! The flute solos! As if Iain Mars of the Sidh joins in for one last moment of pure bliss. I have tears welling in my eyes as I am listening to this grande finale. This song moves me so deep in my core, so deep in my soul. This song is e-v-e-r-y-thing I adore about music! Truly Epic!

So there you have it, Eurori put in words. Quite a lot of words actually. This review became quite a story although I only scratched the surface of it all. There is so much more to tell, both about Trolska Polska, and about Eufori. So I inserted one more video below, where Martin Seeberg himself tells the story of the band and the album. And with that I want to end, hoping this will not be the final chapter in the Trolska Polska tale. No, I’m hoping for many more chapters to come. And I’m hoping the very first of those chapters will be a performance on Winter Castlefest, in the great hall, with the band playing the whole album in one go, and Mia Guldhammer (Virelai) narrating it, reading out all the stories of the booklet in between the songs, making it all come to life. Of course, there should be enough room for the balfolk dancers on either side of the podium, so they can become part of the performance too. Now THAT would be a magical moment to experience. A worthy way to celebrate this magical album. Let’s hope that dream comes true one day.

Cliff



Editor:
– Anna Schürmann
Balfolk editors:
– Berit van der Jagt
– Erik Leguijt
Cover art:
Kent Overby Stück
Pictures:
Emma Engstrom (2)
Cliff de Booy (1, 3)

Två Fisk Och En Fläsk – Discography (1998-2016)

A CeltCast Classic



This is not going to be a true review, but it is more going to be a story. The story of a young group of Swedish musicians, from their beginnings as starting a medieval folk band to the last fusion-folk/ world music jam session they recorded. A story that spans over 10 years.
For me, the story started halfway through 2020, with our Marielle sharing the link of an acoustic album by the Viking metal band Månegarm. Although Urminnes Hävd (The Forest Sessions) is a nice acoustic CD, it is still too much a rock album to fit our folk format. But one other thing caught my interest, a female guest vocalist by the name of Umer Mossige-Norheim, then lead singer of a band called Två Fisk Och En Fläsk. Her voice impressed me from the first moments I heard it and the band name sounded intriguing, very intriguing actually. So a quick hop to Bandcamp for a listen was the next step. It didn’t take long before I started sending links to Ilona, and we both knew right there and then we found something special. Something we wanted to share with you all.
And thus started the search. Cause the only things to be found on Bandcamp, (or anywhere else on social media for that matter), were four albums, some videos, and the names of the band members. That was it. Oh and a couple of photos found on the site of a certain Jayne Insane (second from left). Well, that Jayne Insane turned out to be the Swedish composer and musician Jan Liljekvist; known amongst others as the former violinist of Månegarm AND Två Fisk Och En Fläsk. So I sent him an email hoping he would be willing to tell me more about the history of the band. Luckily Jan was quick to respond.
-‘ You asked about Två Fisk och En Fläsk?! I have been deep down in my memories and tried to recall the days of Två Fisk. I will try to tell our story. Although I am not a man of the written word, I have put together a brief history of the group. My history, that is.‘ And so the story started.
-‘Två Fisk & En Fläsk were active ca 1993-2003, though we had a brief reunion in May 2019. We went through a couple of member changes, but the core of the band was mostly Umer, Marcas and myself, and later on Olof and Stebbe.

MARK I: HOW IT ALL STARTED:

-‘When I first met Marcas Oreglia he was singing in the choir in an opera, Le Villi by Puccini. I worked at the opera company’s office, slacking around after the disbanding of The Shoutless, a garage rock group I played with for more than 10 years. With that band, we made a couple of vinyl singles and albums that can still be found on Bandcamp and toured Sweden and Europe. I was not exactly looking for a new musical vehicle, but when Marcas suggested we should jam together, I accepted. So we started to play together in the fall of 1993, and he soon brought in a friend of his: Umer Mossige-Norheim, a vocalist with a taste for baroque opera. First, it was Marcas on violin and me on guitar, but I soon switched to violin, with a possibility for us both to change to guitar occasionally. Umer of course sang lead, with us on harmonies. We even gave her a drum to bang on. Shortly afterward, I brought in my friend Anna Westman on flutes, violin, and occasional vocals. This version of the band existed for about 6-7 months.

MARK II: THE FIRST CHANGES

-‘When Anna left the group in 1994, we met Anders Peev who doubled on keyed fiddle and guitar. This is also when Jie Zelf on percussion came into the group. It was during this period we created our musical language. Umer was strongly influenced by the Swedish group Folk & Rackare (check them out) and got us on the way to play Swedish Medieval Ballads. At this time, we didn´t compose our own material, but we arranged the ballads in our own way. We took parts from different songs we found in books in the musical library, changed the keys, added chords, and took lyrics from still other songs to put them together. Umer and I had become a couple, and we lived really close to Anders. So, we were constantly working on the music, playing and rehearsing in the basement of Umer’s place.
We used to play at home parties and student clubs. We also got in contact with the role-playing community and played a lot in the woods where they arranged medieval re-enactments over the weekends. And of course, in the medieval week in Visby, Gotland. After a week in Visby, Jie left the group, and in came Robert Lundin, also known as Gaahnfaust, drummer of the Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral.


MARK III: THE DEBUT ALBUM

-‘When Anders went on to more folkish music, we teamed up with Olof Öberg (guitar) and Stebbe Grapenmark (percussion). They had played together in obscure punk groups, and I think they came in through an ad we put up in a music store. This turned out to be the most fruitful and long-lasting version of the band. Olof’s aggressive but delicate handling of the 12-string guitar, together with Stebbes heavy pounding on the cow drum, was perfect for our mix of medieval folkish music with an attitude. Jie soon rejoined on djembe and percussion, and we recorded our debut CD in Sunlight Studio, with Tomas Skogsberg, the legendary metal producer.
As a sidenote: It was during these sessions we met with Månegarm, who were recording their second demo in the same studio. Umer did some backing vocals and I laid down some fiddle tracks. After that, there was no turning back. I became a member of Månegarm and played with them for 15 years. We played a lot in Europe and even in Russia, Canada, and the USA. Often together with folk-oriented metal bands like Skyforger (Latvia) and Eluveitie (Switzerland). Umer sang on some of the records but never did any gigs.


Well, Jan described Två Fisk Och En Fläsk’s sound on the debut album very well actually. The first song Introitus is still a breakable precious balladesque solo by Umber, showcasing the ability of her voice; but on the second song Douce Dame, the brakes already go out. I have heard this classic being performed by many medieval folk bands and this one stands out as the most energetic of them all. Although mostly staying true to the medieval folk genre, it just sounds fresh and ‘young’. Nicely up-tempo, fresh-sounding guitar chords, a strong medieval, but at the same time modern-sounding percussion and some really cool violin improvisation by Marcas and Jan.It all sounds young, fresh, and modern.
The band keeps that feel up with energetic versions of classic medieval songs like Im Meyem Secundum, Näcken (which contains a strong build-up to a cool percussion/violin sound), the fast, medieval punk-song Mit Ganzem Willen (a furious but melodic version), Saltarello (love the Flairck-kind of recorder solo in it), or Liten Pojk (love these almost hard rock-type guitar breaks in there), making the debut album Två Fisk Och En Fläsk a lovely fresh and modern record to listen to, even after all those years. Maybe too modern for the true medieval purists, but certainly the perfect end to a long and sunny young re-enactment/LARP day!

MARK IV: THE SECOND ALBUM JUNGFRUBUREN

Jan continues:’‘The second CD, Jungfruburen, saw the birth of our first self-penned material in the same style. Now Jie had left again and we brought in Sebastian Åberg, a skilled percussionist who had spent several years in India, studying the tablas. We also had Gustaf Esters on darbouka and percussion. For a while, we had 3 drummers on stage! Unfortunately, Olof decided to leave the band shortly before the release of Jungfruburen. During a period we tried to replace him, first with guitarist/producer Viktor Buck and then with jazz guitarist Mikke Rönnkvist. It was during a gig with Mikke that Olof understood that he had to return to the band, so for a while, we were back with the “classic” line up.

Jungfruburen was a huge step from the band’s debut album. A step that may have taken some by surprise at the time. The basis is still Swedish style folk, but so many elements were added to the original sound that it turned into medieval fusion folk. A good example would be the intro of Saltarello IV; It has enough references of ’80’s pop-rock bands hidden in there for it to be used as a question in a pub quiz; Survivor‘s Eye of the tiger being just one of them.
The combination of old Swedish folk music, experimental fusion elements, and world music provided some true gems. Jungfrun I Buren has a violin riff going through it to die for. And Marcas’s ‘improvised’ freestyle violin sound takes center stage on Lussi Lilla. Come to think of it, Lussi Lilla is actually a nice blueprint for Två Fisk Och En Fläsk’s sound on Jungfruburen. It contains strong percussion/violin breaks, cool solos -not only from Jan Liljekvist but the whole band- and all of that is glued together by Umer’s beautiful, strong soprano. Femto Ganger is another example of that style. It starts as a beautiful Renaissance folk song before the band drops it in a world music sauce, only to follow it by an almost operettic male choir. Now to say that Två Fisk Och En Fläsk were ahead of their time in 2000 when they recorded Jungfruburen is a bit risky, but even by today’s standards, their fusion folk is ‘out’ there. fans of ZiRP should definitely check this out, although I’m sure one or two improvisations might be a bit too much for some. But that is part of Jungfruburen’s charm. It showcases a young band of talented musical artists (with all kinds of different musical backgrounds) expressing themselves, looking for the very edges of their sound and sometimes going over it, just because they can. This is where music turns into a piece of art. Fortune Plango and Linden Bar Lov are beautiful examples of it. As I said not for all, but if you like the music of ZiRP, Jyoti Verhoeff‘s Touches album, and can handle some touches of experimental music, this record is a treat. And Linden Bar Lov a true gem.

MARK IV: FLESH WORKSHOP & FLESH JAM

– ‘sadly, after almost 10 years of playing together, Marcas gave up on the band. Leaving Stockholm, and eventually leaving music. That was kind of the end of Två Fisk as a working group. For a while, we didn´t meet or have any contact at all. Umer and I had broken up, and I had a lot to do with Månegarm.
My memory fails me, but I think it was during the recordings of Urminnes hävd -the acoustic album of Månegarm, on which Stebbe and Gustaf play- that Stebbe, Olof, and I started to meet and play again, just jamming without any purpose. But soon it started to sound like songs and arrangements. Finally, we contacted Umer and Sebastian and started to work on the recordings of Flesh Workshop And Flesh Jam, which is exactly what the title says, two albums with us jamming and fooling around in the studio.
But the world had turned. During our most active years, we had lived real close and worked hard with the music, but after Flesh Workshop we couldn’t find the real interest to continue. No gigs and a lack of interest from bookers also played a part. The re-enactors were now grown-ups with children and steady jobs, so we disbanded. Flesh Workshop never met the audience in a physical way, but Bandcamp gave us the opportunity to at least make a digital release.


compared to Jungfruburen, the third album Flesh Workshop sounds much more mellow. The fusion jazz improvisations are still there but they don’t have those ‘sharp edges’ anymore. They are not pushing us, listeners, to the edge of our taste. No, they now form a perfect blend with the Swedish folk the band play. And with that Grebsma, Harba II, Bas-Umers Polka, Sven Svanevit (with sparks of Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles) cleverly woven in there), Ella & Ola, Mando, or the beautiful ballad Leja Tjänstepiga are all world-music-meets-folk treats. The songs sound modern, catchy, and fun. With Jungfruburen the band was at the peak of their artistic experimental phase. On Flesh Workshop they managed to mold that eagerness to experiment into easier consumable music. Ending somewhere between the sound of ZiRP’s latest album Circle Divine and Martin Seeberg’s old fusion-folk band Instinkt.
Flesh Jam is just what it says on the tin. The bandmembers jammin’ together in the studio. Fooling with the different styles of music seperately, that normally would make up the total Två Fisk Och En Fläsk sound. Not playable within the CeltCast format, for me as a music lover and reviewer Flesh Jam is really interesting, as it helps me understand where Två Fisk Och En Fläsk’s music came from. And for all the fans of world music? Well, you have a really nice album to listen to.

EPILOGUE: AFTER TVA FISK OCH EN FLÄSK

-‘So what happened afterward? Umer went into computer programming for a while. She is now a successful author of teenage books. I lost contact with Marcas, but I heard he lives in a small village, close to the fishing and hunting he always loved. Olof is a hi-tech engineer and Stebbe is a teacher. Jie runs a small shop for comics and records. And for myself? I compose for, and play with the international group NB8 ART, a group mainly based in Lithuania that plays art-pop with an ambient feel. And since 2016 I am back on guitar, with the jazz-fusion/blues group Black Baker. No gigs right now due to the pandemonia, but we are constantly working on new material. Composing and recording.
During the years with Månegarm, I was also heavily involved in experimental electro-acoustic music as a chairman and producer for Fylkingen in Stockholm, and as a teacher at Elektronmusikstudion EMS. Stebbe and I did a couple of gigs in the project Jay Nein Sane & the Noisebreakers. But that those projects are far, far away from the music you guys play on CeltCast, so that is a totally different story…


– Cliff

with a huge thank you to Janne Liljekvist for telling his version of Tva fisk’s story.

Editor: Diane Deroubaix
Pictures: Jan Liljekvist

ZiRP – Circle Divine (2020) review



8 years after their debut album Drehvolution, ZiRP has brought out their second record Circle Divine. It would be really easy to call ZiRP the hobby band of their most famous member Stephan Groth, but that would be wrong for two reasons. One: it would take away from the other members, all true musicians in their own right; and secondly: ZiRP already existed BEFORE Stephan joined Faun. It was actually ZiRP’s music that caught the eye of one Oliver S. Tyr, and made Stephan a Faun member.
ZiRP itself started when Stephan Groth was looking for musicians to start a folk band. Rhythm guitarist Olaf Peters was the first one and he turned out to be the perfect musical partner, with great picking techniques. Soon the duo were writing tunes together. During the writing process drummer Florian Fügemann, at that point best known for his work with classical pop band Stilbruch, joined ZiRP; and as a trio, they recorded ZiRP’s first album Drehvolution, an album that came out in 2012. Two tracks of Drehvolution feature guest bassist Florian Kolditz, something that, as Stephan explains: ‘Felt so good that he became a permanent member in 2012 and our line-up has remained unchanged since then.
After the release of Drehvolution and the subsequent tour that lasted till 2015, it went rather quiet around ZiRP, most likely caused by the huge success Faun was having with their music. A silence I thought was a shame, actually, because Drehvolution was filled with lovely experimental balfolk tunes, showcasing all the possibilities of the hurdy-gurdy as a lead instrument. The song La Toupie was one of my favourite balfolk songs for a long time. I just loved that experimental fusion Drehleier (hurdy-gurdy) sound.
In March of 2018, the silence was broken again by the first concert in 3 years, and in September of that year the band made the announcement we had been waiting for: ‘We finally started with some pre-productions for a brand new ZiRP album and there is some serious progressive hurdy-gurdy fusion folk going on.’
Well, the brand new album is now out and as they promised us: there is some SERIOUS progressive hurdy-gurdy fusion folk going on!

From the first notes of 5-4-0 I am blown away by the awesome sound of -wait for it- the rhythm section! Yes, I know, not the obvious thing to start a review with, but e-v-e-r-y good band needs a good rhythm section. The bass and drums are the backbones of any band; the solid platform on which the soloists get to shine. Quite often these musicians play in the background, quite happily doing their thing as the lead vocalists, guitarists or flutists take center stage. Not with ZiRP. Both Florians are soloists on their own account and they both get plenty of opportunities to shine. The result is an amazing groove throughout every single song. Did fusion funk folk exist as a genre? It does now!

Let’s put the spotlight on ZiRP’s members one by one. Florian Manuel Fügemann, as I said, is a folk/rock/jazz drummer who has studied drums since the age of 8. He studied with Nils J. Fahlke at the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Zwickau for three years. After that, he studied pop/rock and jazz drums at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden, gaining knowledge in styles as diverse as pop, rock, Latin, fusion, funk, and jazz. To finish his impressive resume he also studied to become a teacher for music and English in German highschools. (What a cool teacher to have!) From his jazz music experiences, Florian developed this slick sound, this ease of playing that reminds me sooo much of former Omnia drummer Rob van Barschot. Just like Rob, Florian’s drumming just sounds effortless. You can just hear him throwing out drum fill after drum fill without shedding one drop of sweat. Listening to him play, I can just envision him sitting there behind his kit, just like Rob; looking like he was eating his midday sandwich while playing one amazing break after another… and well, look at the video below. Look at him play! Do I need to say more?
And there are plenty of moments for him to shine. Listen to the wonderful groove he is laying down halfway through Zirpelloise; the effortless fills in Bourrée Inkarnation; the flowing fusion rock groove together with Florian K in Odd Bourrée; Circle Divine or Uhrovec (hello Mother’s Finest); the double bass drum in 5-4-0… I could go on and on. But I won’t. What I will say is that Florian Fügemann not only studied drums, percussion, and vocals, but before that also piano. And on Low Lights he returns to his first love again in a beautiful tribute from the whole band to his father Jürgen Fügemann. The whole story behind this song can be found here.



I already mentioned the other half of this amazing rhythm section: Florian Kolditz. Readers who are well connected with the Berlin music scene will know his name from the projects and bands he is involved with, as a bandmember, guest musician or session bass player. One of the most interesting bands he is involved in at the moment is the band Makroskop. It is kind of a jazz Fusion band with a flamenco touch. But, as he says himself: ‘ZiRP is unique and I wouldn’t miss it in my life anymore.‘ Well, none of us would want to miss this modest but gifted bass player in ZiRP anymore. Together with Florian F, he brings the funk, the groove, and even the ’70’s disco sound to ZiRP. 5-4-0, Bourrée Inkarnation, Circle Divine, all those songs have such a wonderful flow because of his bass playing. Such an effortless groove. He marries his bass sound so wonderfully with Florian’s drums. Must be the name they share. On rhythm..our musical groove machine… F und F! But all joking aside we are not done yet. Like a true jazz bass player Florian Kolditz can play solo as well! Just listen to Mosaic, that cool bass guitar solo with the cello and horns under it. A stunning moment in this wonderful song. Or the beautiful duet he plays with Olaf and Stephan on Moon Mazurka And then there is that magnificent slapping bass guitar in Odd Bourrée and Uhrovec. Mark King, eat your heart out.

Do I need to put a spotlight on Stephan Groth? I think we all knows how well he finds his way around a hurdy-gurdy -the first CD Drehvolution and Stephan’s work with Faun are proof of that. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that on Circle Divine, this Drehleier giant is again weaving one beautiful balfolk tune after another in ZiRP’s music. Still, there are plenty of moments on this album where I’m just astonished at how beautiful it all sounds. The awesome solo at the end of Circle Divine for instance; with an effect on the hurdy-gurdy that makes it sound sooo similar to my favourite Roxy Music song ‘If There Is Something‘. Or that cool acid rock effect on 5-4-0. Balfolk meets Tangerine Dream. Or the stunning prog-rock solos scattered over Odd Bourrée. Just have a look at the video below and watch the speed of his fingers, amazing! And that are only the highlights.
But Stephan has another talent that may be less known to the public: he also knows his way around the low whistle. Listen to Kaleidoskop and you might be surprised to hear that THAT is Stephan as well. It could just have well been a track on one of Hamish Napier‘s latest albums.



With all these soloists around him, rhythm guitarist Olaf Peters’role in ZiRP is more ‘hidden’ in the background. His rhythm guitar is the glue that holds the whole band together. He is the salt and pepper of the band, the one that makes everything else taste wonderful. And in that way he is just as important to ZiRP’s sound as any of the other three bandmembers. You hear it so clearly on Circle Divine. His fine guitar chords almost disappear in the background when the music swells, but are very much in the foreground when the music calms down. For that reason alone, the title song is one of my favourite tracks on this CD. Another beautiful moment is Moon Mazurka, an instrumental ballad that gives Olaf the time and space to not only shine himself but also to play two beautiful folk duets, one with Florian Koblitz and the other with Stephan. But he is doing it all over Circle Divine, making him such an important part of the ZiRP balfolk meets fusion funk style.


I already mentioned Circle Divine as one of my favourite songs on the album, but I have a lot more. Zirpelloise with its cheerful Spyro Gyra meets balfolk sound is one. Or Mosaic, a song combining the oh-so German sound of a horn section with progressive balfolk fusion folk. Another clear favourite is the song Odd Bourrée, a song I could listen to all day. Clearly, another prog-folk classic to be. Not to mention Uhrovec, a song that just combines everything that is beautiful about this album in one song. Or the beautiful instrumental ballad Low Lights.
What impresses me most about this album is how effortless it all sounds. I constantly have the feeling that the band is just flowing along. As if they are four Tour de France winners just cruising up Alpe d’Huez on a Sunday afternoon, chattering about while we mere mortals are gasping for air trying to keep up with them.
You can just sense that, if they wanted to, they could blow us away with mesmerizing breaks, mind-blowingly fast solos, and amazingly complicated compositions that would make every wannabe folk artist stop before even trying. But why should they? This album is made for the fun of making music, not as a vehicle to show off your skills. It is all about the pleasure of playing. The joy of listening to each other’s skills and then adding your own groove to that; emphasizing each other’s talents. So they are just cruising as if it is Sunday afternoon. Make it sound like all of it is really easy. And in that lies their true talent. Because trust me, this is NOT easy at all. This is progressive fusion balfolk funk at its very very best!

– Cliff

Editor: Iris
Cover art: ZiRP
Photography: Florian Manuel Fügemann






Player

Please support us through: iDeal or PayPal

Recent tracks

Loading ...