Mia Guldhammer & Morten Alfred Høirup – Tral, Tråd & Traditioner (2021) Review
Cliff de Booy
In every scene you have certain people who seem to part of every band you know. In Holland the names Lies Sommer and Sophie Zaaijer come to mind. In Germany it’s
Fabi, and in Denmark, obviously, one of them is
At CeltCast, Mia is mostly known as the leading lady of the medieval folk band
but she also is the lead singer of the ‘electrophonic folk orchestra‘
and she teamed up with the French folk band
Dour/Le Pottier Quartet
(Not to be confused by the Norse jazz-pop band with the same name) a group that mixes Scandinavian folk vocals with a classical chamber music feel and a lovely Eastern European improvisation style. (find a link to a concert of them
Mia’s latest collaboration is with Danish folk guitarist and singer
Morten Alfred Høirup
and as always, the result is something special.
Before we dive into Tral, Tråd & Traditioner let’s further introduce Morten Alfred Høirup. Just like Mia, this composer, guitar player, singer, and folk radio DJ is a well-known face in the Danish folk scene, but has also built up a following in the American roots music scene. He is, or has been, a member of several folk groups, some more traditional Danish, some more adventures, mixing 50’s style swing with folk, explaining Morten Alfred’s popularity in the American roots scene. I’ll start with the more traditional groups first. Both are trios that play melodic accordion-oriented Danish balfolk. We have
the Gangspil trio
(2012 – 2017) and
trio Jensen, Bugge & Høirup
(still active). The Jensen, Brugge & Høirup trio feels the most traditional of the two I listened to. The Gangspil trio sounds a bit lighter, leaning slightly less on the distinctive sound of the accordion, but both are nice balfolk albums.
Two sides Morten Alfred’s music
Then there is Morten Alfred’s swing-jazz/ Scandinavian folk side. Again I found two bands on Spotify:
is the more laid-back, easy listening of the two. The other, the
American Café Orchestra,
will challenge the listener a lot more. The basis is also laid-back swing folk, but quite often it has a hidden sting: an experimental approach that will challenge the listener. Songs like Rain, Egyptian Domino Dance, or Grey Brothers’ Holiday are well worth checking out for the more adventurous folk fan.
Morten Alfred has also been involved in bands I didn’t find on Spotify, such as the duo
Fin Alfred & Morten Alfred
with his father. Furthermore, he forms a duo with American Café Orchestra fiddler
and he has been playing in the Danish fiddle and guitar duo,
Haugaard & Høirup
from 1998 till 2008.
So after this impressive introduction, the big question is: what will the partnership with Mia Guldhammer bring? A traditional Danish accordion sound or something more in the direction of the intriguing folk jazz bands Morten Alfred is part of?
The first notes of Brudegaverne/Lybekkeren/Altergang make me say traditional, but without the accordion. The song is upbeat, and strong in its simplicity. A voice and a guitar, that is ALL you get here -OK, and a choir joining in at the chorus but that’s just a ‘minor’detail-. You don’t need much more anyway. Mia and Morten fill up the whole room perfectly, their voices are a match made in heaven, the rhythm guitar is exquisite, and that choir is pure genius.
The quality of Mia’s voice is well known, but Morten Alfred has a voice that easily equals hers. He proves so on Sorgen/Håbets Dans. Strangely enough, he rarely sings in any of the bands I listened to while doing my research, so some may be surprised to hear the quality of his voice. Just like Mia, Morten Alfred has an accomplished, warm, and soothing voice. A pleasure to listen to. The harmonies he and Mia sing together on Sorgen/Håbets Dans are like a warm blanket. Pure bliss. And the lilting at the end of the song feels like vanilla ice on a hot chocolate cake. So smooth.
I’m also glad that Morten Alfred’s rhythm guitar playing is one of the features of this album. The part of the rhythm guitar is quite often overlooked, overshadowed by the soloists, but it is such an important part of a band. Highlighted as it is on this album you can hear how Morten Alfred’s playing fills up the room, how his rhythm has groove, how it drives the music, and how he effortlessly creates a smooth musical blanket on which the voices and soloists can shine. That’s the magic of a good rhythm guitar player.
Hold on, did you say ‘lilting end’ a few lines ago? Yes, I did. But I’ll let Morten Alfred and Mia explain that themselves:
-‘ When we first met in Copenhagen in 2018 and started making music together, it seemed like we were missing an instrument to take the melody now and then. But as soon as we had that thought, we realized that we could just
‘lilt’ the melody, just as we’d each been doing so often when singing alone at home. We quickly learned that we didn’t need more than our voices, a guitar, and some catchy material to work with.’
And boy does it work! We have Polka Umulius to prove it! This, the third song on Tral, Tråd & Traditioner, has to be my favorite song of the album, maybe my favorite song of the last few months! I have had this as an earworm ever since I first listened to it two weeks ago. The song also answers whether Morten Alfred and Mia would go traditional or folk-jazz on this album. Both, actually! Polka Umulius is a traditional polka, but it is also jazzy, upbeat, cheeky…actually the most fun you can legally have on a dance floor. Ánd it is a lilt from start to finish. I love this. I truly love this! Put this song on and you instantly have the summer sweeping through your living room. A song like this should not be allowed without a “will cause addiction” warning on the package. That’s all I need to say about it!
But we have to carry on, there are more treasures to be found on Tral, Tråd & Traditioner. The following song: Hvordan Vil Du Forsørge Jer greats us with a cool jew harp /guitar intro. Although Mia and Morten Alfred said they only needed good songs, a guitar, and their own voices to fill up the CD, they díd invite their friends over for some additional musical coloration. The mouth harp solo in this song for instance is really cool, and there are more moments like that on the album. There is the violin following Mia’s lead vocals in Polka Umulius. There is the mouth harp solo on Hare Løb, with a vocoder no less. As if
temporarily stepped into the folk scene. In Åh Min Nikolaj/Russeren/Den 2. Russer you’ll hear an overtone flute flutter through the music, giving the song a cool pagan folk feel, not to mention the smoking violin solo in the second part of that song. But it is all tastefully mixed in the music. The overall feel of the CD stays that of two folk balladeers performing right there in your living room. And it is THAT sound that makes this album so special. That magical harmony between the voices and the guitar. Co-producer and studio technician
managed to record that magic perfectly, so huge kudos to her.
Morten, Mia and Tapani Varis performing Varis Hare Løb
Well, I think that sums up Tral, Tråd & Traditioner quite nicely. Mia and Morten Alfred have created a warm traditional singer-songwriter folk album with a lovely cheeky swing jazz touch to it. Really original in its approach and really laid-back at the same time.
One of my big wishes is to be allowed in a studio or rehearsal room once and witness an album being born. To see the whole process involved, especially the creative part. Well, that wish has come true. Tral, Tråd & Traditioner feels like we have been invited to the studio with Mia and Morten Alfred. You will hear all the fun ideas they had; all those “we can’t do that!” moments, that normally never seem to survive the mixing process, have been kept in. This Making Tral, Tråd & Traditioner a boost of energy, a splash of good cheer, and an awfully entertaining CD.
Xuntas, introducing the music of Sangre de Muerdago
Cliff de Booy
‘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.)
Those were the first words I heard about
Sangre de Muerdago.
These words came from Dani Iturriaga, singer and multi-instrumentalist of
but also the founder of
a site in Spanish informing the public about folk music, just as we do with CeltCast.
Dani is just as much a music fan as he is a musician and that becomes clear when you visit his website. It also became clear when we were talking about Sangre de Muerdago. It turned out Dani has been a fan of this Galician band for quite some time. This is what he had to say about Sangre de Muerdago:
-‘I have to admit that it makes me a bit dizzy that you mention Vael so much as a reference in the Xuntas review, because I don’t think we deserve it. For us, Sangre de Muerdago is one of our main references, and we have only just started. The truth is that if there is a group that I would like to be like, it would be them. You know, all bands start out playing covers of their favorite artists. We started by covering
and Sangre de Muerdago.’
I can’t think of a better way to introduce Sangre de Muerdago to you all. Xuntas, and all the other (split) albums Sangre made over the years can be found on Bandcamp. So I hope this
will make you discover a wonderful new band, or that it will reacquaint you with an old friend.
– Cliff-picture by Josanne van der Heijden
PS. Don’t forget, next week it is the first Friday of the month again, the day that Bandcamp waves away their share of the revenue to support the musicians in these odd Corona times.
The Carrots – Driftwood (2020)
Cliff de Booy
From the first seconds of The Flood you can hear the two trump cards of
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
The Civil Wars,
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,
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
version of Little Duke Arthur’s Nurse,
Meidi Goh’sFoxskin, or
AmmA’sMatty 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!!!
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
Sangre de Muerdago – Xuntas (2020)
Cliff de Booy
‘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
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
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
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-gurdyThe 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
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
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
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!
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
Cliff de Booy
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
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
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
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
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
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
would sound totally out of place as the lead singer of
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, (
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
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.
CD Cover: Robin Kley Photographies
– Lollipop Studio (1)
– Robin Kley Photographies(2)