Tag Archives: Pagan Folk

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)

The Daily Disc
Trobar de Morte – The Book of shadows (2020)

Recently, we received the new album of Trobar de Morte, the Medieval, Folk and Fantasy band from Barcelona, Spain. The Book Of Shadows came in a beautiful package, a real present! The artwork of the album is as always stunning! It contains a booklet with 10 pages full of photos, drawings, and lyrics.
Most of the songs are composed by Lady Morte herself. A couple of songs are by Daimoniel B. Eldar. The song Helvegen is a cover of the original song by Einar Selvik (Wardruna). The artwork is made by ArtDrómeda Photography and Duncan Triskel.
Last Sunday, you might have heard the first song of this album play on our radio stream. You can find the whole album already on our Spotify CeltCast Radio – Official list.
My favourite song of this album is Witches! I love the diversity of sounds in that tune! It makes me think of the songs of EMIAN. So enjoy this new Trobar de Morte album as we do!


Musical greetings, Ilona CeltCast

The Daily Disc
SeeD – Zonnewende (2020)

Last night, SeeD had a Winter Solstice video release! They launched another song ánd video of their upcoming album. And…, this song is breathtaking! The video makes the picture complete. If you haven’t seen it already, go to YouTube and let these sounds and images come to you. Below the YouTube video (and on Bandcamp ) you can read the translation of the song!
SeeD says: Zonnewende (Solstice) marks the longest night, after which the light will return. The lyrics are a druidic solstice ritual translated from Welsh into Irish.
The song is already in our Spotify CeltCast Radio – Official list and soon we’ll play it on our radio station as well.



Musical greetings, Ilona CeltCast

The Moon and the Nightspirit – Aether (2020) Review



For almost two decades, Ágnes Tóth and Mihály Szabó, also known as The Moon and the Nightspirit have been blessing us with their unique blend of world music and medieval soundscapes. Music both timeless and ancient; sounds both dreamy and spooky; melodies both tender and dark; vocals both soothing and eerie; that is the musical world The Moon and the Nightspirit has created. A world that can be found in the twilight zone of Eastern European folk. Six albums long The Moon and the Nightspirit have enchanted us with their unique, acoustic take on pagan folk music, and I have loved every single record.
In the summer of this year, the duo released their seventh album Aether, and during the release, Ágnes and Mihály already told the world this album would be different. ‘It was time for us to re-adjust our approach. You could call the new album Aether a milestone in the history of the band, with a surprising stylistic recalibration during songwriting – for whereas so far, singer Ágnes’ voice has been front and center, the new songs now perfectly balance the female and male sides of the Moon and the Nightspirits musical entity.’
And with that new approach, Ágnes and Mihály wrote a musical masterpiece as far as I am concerned. There is so much to tell about Aether that I’m afraid I might turn this review into a novel.
The title song Aether still sounds like The Moon and the Nightspirit as we know it from their previous records. The lovely soundscape to start it off; the subtle guitar notes; the rich and ancient sound of the dulcimer; the typical vocals of Ágnes (combining the innocence of a child with the ancient wisdom of a forest elf in her voice), the haunted violin chords, it is all so typical, all so beautiful, all so unmistakably The Moon and the Nightspirit. Within minutes I’m drawn into the song, drawn into the CD actually. The captivating power of The Moon and the Nightspirits’music is all because of the writing skills of Ágnes and Mihály, the ingenious way these talented musicians build-up their songs. It is never rushed, never forced. It feels like the music is growing organically; like it is born from within itself, these notes were always there in the mists of time, waiting to be found by those who dared to listen; and now it is found. Now it is recorded, and all I want to do is close my eyes, listen, feel, absorb it all and let go, let myself get swept away by it all. Gliding in the essence of Aether. This is just the first song and I already know this is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year!

It is on the second song Kaputlan Kapukon Át, that we hear The Moon and the Nightspirits’ male side for the first time. And well, I LOVE it. Truly love it. Ágnes and Mihály have added an electronic feel to their music that is very similar to the sound Guido Bergman added to Shireen. Placing the music of The Moon and the Nightspirit slap-bang in the middle of three of my all-time favourite bands: Shireen, The Moon and the Nightspirit themselves, and the gothic/dream-pop duo Cranes. It is all so beautiful I find it hard to describe. Where do I start? It is that power of the low keyboard sound – sounding like an electrified version of a mouth harp/slidgeridoo combination – driving and driving the song; it’s those fragile, eerie vocals of Ágnes, tender, breakable and oooooh so enticing; it is the flow of the music, coming and going, like waves of gothic power building up and crashing into the acoustic medieval coral-like intermezzos in between. For those who love gothic medieval rock, this is a masterpiece. A true masterpiece. The only downside is that the song slowly fades out waaaay before I want it to end. Even tho it clocks in at 6:37 it feels like an instant. This is a song I want to last forever and ever, even longer if in any way possible.



Luckily it is not the end of the album….Nooo we still have 5 more gems to come. Égi Messzeségek is next. Again there is that electric drone, that sampled mouth harp drawing me deep, deep into the mystical world of The Moon and the Nightspirit. Take the sound of Shireen; the sound of Dead Can Dance on Aion; the feel of the Cranes dark masterpieces Adoration or Thursday of their debut album Wings of Joy; add Faber Horbach’s (Sowulo) spoken scream vocals on Mann; add a Sophie ‘Shireen’ Zaaijer-like violin solo and you have the new sound of The Moon and the Nightspirit on Égi Messzeségek. Now honestly, what is not to love about that?
Do I need to go on? Do I need to mention A Szárny; the pure gothic rock drum sound in it; the layer upon layer of dark musical silk making this music so strong, sooo powerful, sooooo beautiful. The clever thing is that: with every next song on Aether, the band adds a new element to it. You are guided into their new sound. Guided from the old feminine, medieval folk music of earlier records into these new masculine soundscapes. Clever; so clever.

Logos starts gently again; reminiscent of Priscilla Hernandez‘s Ancient Shadows album. It gives us a moment to breathe after the intense journey we just had. It is also proof that The Moon and The Nightspirit didn’t lose their soft side. No, they just added to it. Boy did they add to it! Don’t sit and wonder too long cause A Mindenség Hívása is coming, and the drum fills are ready to grab you, take you down in a bliss of musical adoration again.

My conclusion can be short but sweet. This is the best album I heard in 2020. And yes I am biased, as I have been a fan of gothic music ever since its origins at the end of the ’70s. Hearing Aether for the first time truly had the same effect on me as hearing the Sisters of Mercy for the very first time. Or a musically better comparison Siouxsie and the Banshees. Two bands I adore. Just as their music 40 odd years ago, Aether just blew me away from the very first note! The cool thing is The Moon and the Nightspirit added their own uniqueness to the gothic style. Yes, it has this dark power of the early goth bands, but just as Shireen, they added sooo many more layers to it. This music oozes richness, it oozes velvety dark chocolate out of every note played; velvety-dark and bittersweet; beautifully soft; intensely strong. Aether opens the door to the dark elf lands existing in the twilight of our imagination. This is NOT a normal album; produced, composed, written, and arranged, no no no no! This is a living, breathing musical entity, lying dormant in the Aether of time, sleeping amongst the night spirits, waiting to finally appear…. and I truly, truly love it!

– Cliff

Editor: Sara
Cover art: Ágnes Tóth
pictures: Spiegelwelten photography

Sowulo – Grima (2020) review



Once there was, and once there wasn’t.
One thing comes to pass, and the other doesn’t.
Two families fought before men walk the earth.
Out the peace they then wrath, followed unlively birth.
After many moons bloodshed, spears set aside.
In a great hall, they met to turn the red tide.
A cauldron was set in the midst of the thing. The anguish went out and the spittle went in.
From saliva of all, the wisest became, destined to fall and Kvasir his name….


With these words Grima, Sowulo’s new album, starts. A rather unconventional way for a Nordic folk band, but Sowulo was never meant to be a conventional band in the first place. Starting out as a musical project founded by Faber Hornbach to celebrate the pagan holidays, it developed into a musical journey deep into our pagan heritage. (Which for me as a dutch person mean the times of the Batavi and the Frisians, part of the west- and North Germanic tribes that inhabited western and northern Europe around the Roman times). And we are doing it through Faber’s eyes, traveling with him to the days of the Northern Germanic tribes. The times were stories were told of the worlds flanking Yggdrasil. Storys of the plights of the gods and their interactions with dwarves, giants, elves, and all the other mythical creatures living in the nine worlds


Just a year ago Faber surprised us with Mann, a personal Nordic folk album, really powerful and tribal, in which he searched for his inner warrior, lover, king and musician, in a way discovering his own person and his place in the ever-turning circle of life. Mann ended up being a very intense and beautiful pagan folk album, sung in Anglo-Saxon. An album that took me a while to fully understand, but I now count as one of the better Nordic folk albums in my collection.
Fast forward a cycle of the sun and we have a new Sowulo album. Part of it already came out as a digital album on Bandcamp, and again it was a huge surprise as it consists of stories, not songs! And not just any old stories. No, Faber and storyteller Niek van Eck traveled back in time to the days of Asgard, when Odin ruled the nine worlds, and Ragnarok was just a small ripple in the future to come. Stories that ended up being written down in the Edda, the basis for all our knowledge of the Nordic myths and legends. Three of those stories made it onto Grima. Three stories based around the main theme of faith and destiny. Especially the futile struggle to escape your own destiny, be you a giant, man or god.
Triumph Over Tears, the third story for example, tells about the faith of Baldr, the son of Odin and his wife Frigg. It starts with the discovery of the Gods that Baldr was destined to die, and in their futile attempt to stop this from happening, they actually became responsible for his death! A death that otherwise may not even have happened.



Spātle Ǣghwās, the first single inspired by Grima is based on the ‘Saliva of all’ storytel-track

Gungnirs Gap, the fourth story on Grima, is even clearer in its message. It tells of Odin who discovers that the Norns, the ones weaving and breaking the threads of life, manage to laugh at faith while doing so, totally bewildering Odin, who in the end discovers that even for him, the mightiest god there is, trying to avoid faith is futile.
The opening track Saliva Of All and Beguiled By Blood Brew together form the longest story on Grima. It tells about the faith of Kvasir. The wisest of all, whose fate was to be killed by greed, and whose blood was turned into the mead of poetry, the mead that even to this day gives us the beauty of poetry, music, and stories.

It is clear that Niek van Eck (left), our narrator in this world of ancient sagas did indeed ask Odin for a drop of inspiration, as did Faber because Grima is as impressive an album as Mann is in its own unique way. From the first sentences of Saliva Of All, it is clear that Niek is a gifted story teller. He has a pleasant, deep, strong voice that fits these old Nordic stories perfectly. All told in English, his stories manage to captivate me time and time again. Even now, after listening to them for a fifth time, writing this review. He knows perfectly well when to slow the pace of his story, or when to speed it up to keep you captivated, and also when to change his tone of voice to emphasize a certain phrase or sentence.

Faber in his own right complements Niek very well. He took the stories and composed music under it, creating a perfect soundtrack to support every story Niek is telling. The best compliment I can give Faber is that the music never takes the foreground. While listening you tend to forget about it although you know it is there. The drums; the nyckelharpa; the strokes of the jouhikko; the gentle touch of the lyre; and the mythical sounds of the synth play some lovely repetitive themes that fit the stories very well. They lay a beautiful carpet on which Nieks words find a perfect resting place, changing rhythm and tune to emphasize every new chapter Niek is starting in his stories, but they never take over.
Only at the end of the last story, at the end of Gungnirs gap, Faber finally lets the music flow freely and lets the instruments tell their own story of fate, destiny and human nature. A perfect ending to a lovely storytelling album.
Now Grima, in the form it was released on April 2020, would never have made it to the CeltCast review pages, as we are an acoustic music station. But luckily on the digipack, there are two bonus tracks, and they deserve just as much attention as the four beautiful stories I told you of above.



With Spātle Ǣghwās and Fæcele, Faber took the musical themes he used in the stories and transformed them into two lovely songs, sung in old Anglo-Saxon. That might sound a bit odd for a nordic folk album at first, an old English language? Not if you know the history of it. Anglo-Saxon was the language spoken by the Germanic tribes living in the north of Germany all the way up to the top of Denmark. It was those tribes who, together with the Frisians, from 375 AD onwards made the jump to east England after the Romans left there, driving the original Celtic inhabitants of England outwards to Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, where Gaelic still lives today. So it is actually a north Germanic language

The first thing you notice when listening to Spātle Ǣghwās is the truly stunning voice of Emilie Lorentzen, best known as the backing vocalist of Euzen and Heilung. She lifts the already very powerful, atmospheric folk of Sowulo into new heights, her voice effortlessly shifting from angelic hights to intensely piercing, she puts the crown on this historic folk ballad, inspired by the story of the birth of Kvasir.
Fæcele is a faster song that’s perfectly in line with the music we heard on Mann. It shares the strong male vocals, the nyckelharpa, and drums from Mann, but adds a certain feminine touch to it, especially through the classical influences and atmospheric vocals halfway in the song.
While the music under the four stories is played by Faber alone, on Spātle Ǣghwās and Fæcele he is joined again by his fellow bandmate and Celtic harp player Chloe Bakker. Furthermore, we hear Rikke Linsen (Pyrolysis) on Violin and Heleen de Jonge on Cello.
Faber has written yet another chapter in the story of Sowulo, a story that is as exciting as it is unexpected. I can’t wait for what the next page of their story will bring, I guess I will just have to wait till the wheel of life turns once more. But until then I will keep enjoying the ancient myths of the north, and the ancient sounds of the Northern hemisphere, clearly touched by the meade of poetry, the blood of Kvasir himself.

Cliff

(For those who can’t get enough of the old Nordic saga, here is one more, recorded in 2016, just before Sol was released. In this case the narator is Eugene, and it is told in Dutch, but with English subtitles.
Enjoy! )




Cliff

Editor: Sara
Cover art:Tim Elfring
Pictures:
Cliff de Booy (1)
Rebeca Franko Valle (2)
Samantha Evans (3 and Grima video covers)

Credits Ginnungagap Story video:
Video production by Jasper van Gheluwe | Deer and Wolf Productions
Soundtrack by Faber Horbach | Auroch Audio Productions






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