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
performance, accompanied by the rest of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ⅞ (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
(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
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.
– DaniEditor: SaraPhotos 1,2: Heiko Roith