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
It is insane how fast this band is going.
Helen van der Jagt
It is insane how fast this band is going. It was just the first half of 2017 when
played their first live shows. Now, a year later they play at so many festivals in Holland and internationally that you just cannot go to a festival without seeing this awesome band on stage.
With their mix of americana, blues, roots and fiddle folk, Sunfire’s
are putting down a solid sound of Western folk.
The tunes are catchy and stick in your heard forever while the energy on stage will make you want to party. A deathly combination for every music lover in the world. You’ll get addicted.
Normally, watching a band like this should come with a warning: “Be aware, you’ll be likely to dance, sing along and you won’t get it out of your head!”
However, right now, all we can say is, come to see Sunfire live!!!
Sunfire is playing tonight at the
in The Hague, but that’s only one show. After you have seen them there, you can come to
and see them on the Friday and Saturday again!
WANTED: Elfia 2018: Magda (Ye Banished Privateers) for brutally striking down Satria (Sunfire)
Helen van der Jagt
ALBUM REVIEW: SUNFIRE
Helen van der Jagt
As we get ready for a music and friendship filled weekend, starting with the
, with co-headliners
, leading up to a full festival weekend at Elfia Haarzuilens, we can give you a little treat of a band that is playing there both days!
You have already seen
in the current configuration in our livingroom livestream, but
already released a solo album with guest musicians, and our
has written a beautiful review for it, just in time for all this festival madness!
Enjoy the review at
and we hope to see you at the events this weekend!
Sunfire – Sunfire (2017)
Cliff de Booy
There is this Dutch saying: ‘all good things come fast.’ But I don’t think even Satria Karsono would have dared to dream that he would be rocking the Winter
stage with his own band
only 10 months after doing his first solo concert as a support act for
Nor would he have expected that ALL the major Dutch fantasy festivals would be queuing up to book his band for the 2018 season. Whether you will be visiting
there is no escaping the western folk sounds of Sunfire. And you might bump in to them on a lot of other Dutch festivals as well. 2018 is starting to look like a break through year for this young band.
Sunfire already visited the
CeltCast living room
and the song Yoyo was our February 2018 monthly marker . So it’s high time we finally introduce Satria’s music in a CD review.
We first picked up on Satria Karsono’s music when he released the mini CD Endorphine under the artist name Satria Sunfire in 2014. It is a beautiful 6 track album that showcases Satria as a gifted singer-songwriter and guitarist. His style can be described as laid back acoustic music, with a warm soulful voice and good lyrics, reminding me a bit of
It kinda feels like friends sharing life stories while drinking good wine around a campfire. Endorphine was brought out as a download album only. Although officially no longer promoted, you can still find it in the archives of the good old internet if you want to.
In February of 2017 Satria did his first solo performance at the Thundercrow release party, for their CD
He played old material from his Endorphine Mini CD and gave us a taste of the new songs that were released on Sunfire soon after. This is his first -and for the time being only- full length solo CD. Satria recorded it with the help of old friend and sound engineer Berend de Vries. But even before officially releasing Sunfire, Satria already told us he wanted to bring a band together to promote the CD and work on new material.
In the summer of 2017 Sunfire did some small shows as a full band for the first time, with Satria on vocals, guitar and percussion; Berend de Vries on (solo) guitar and Michel Beeckman on bass.
The final piece of the Sunfire puzzle fell into place when Sophie Zaaijer
added her violin skills to the American folk sound that was already starting to emerge within the band. The four of them adding yet another unique sound to the already so vibrant fantasy folk scene. Alternative Western folk.
Back to the CD. Reading about the short but rapid development from Satria Sunfire as a solo artist to Sunfire as a band, it’s easy to think that Sunfire the solo CD -are you getting confused already?- is just an intermediate stop, building up to the Western folk style the band have now. But that wouldn’t do the album any justice. No justice at all. So let’s talk music!
After the intro called Intro, a short soundscape kinda thing with fragments of songs from the album setting the mood, the CD kicks of with Live Today. The first chorus, with it’s single acoustic guitar and Satria’s soulful vocals, is still how I remember him from Endorphine. But the start of the second verse changes the whole sound. Daphyd Sens and Rob van Barschot
join their friend and former band mate to give the sound a cool almost Australian groove. But it’s the ’70’s electric guitar with a cool lo-fi effect on it that makes the song sound old and rugged, almost desert like. A guitar sound that reminds me a wee bit of
or more recently
To be clear. Edwyn Collins is a pop &rock and roll singer, while Satria Karsono’s solowork is singer-songwriter material with
influences. The reference is only to illustrate that Satria and Berend used a similar guitar sound to give the Sunfire album a modern and yet old feel.
is actually a blueprint for the whole CD. In my eyes, Live Today is also a bridge between the singer-songwriter Satria Sunfire I heard on his first mini CD and the Western folk band that Sunfire has become today
That same electric guitar starts the second song Sunfire. Satria wrote this song on an early morning, while he was sitting on his balcony watching the world wake up below him. And you feel it.
The melody reminds me a lot of My World, a song by
used for his Jamie at home series. It has the same laid back, comforting feel to it. Here the singer-songwriter in Satria shines, with some impressive harmonies in the later part of the song. It’s impressive to hear how high Satria’s voice can reach. Guitar and vocals, you really don’t need more to have a beautiful song.
The third song, Ghost, takes us across the water to the great plains of America for the first time. With the tender slide guitar notes, the native American influences, the flute and the lyrics reminding me of native American medicine men taking on their totem animals to fly over their native land or glide through the night like a mountain cat. It is a beautiful homage to these proud ancient people. Again with stunning vocals and harmonies building up a impressive climax.
With Dirty James we stay in the good old US of A. In bluegrass country to be precise. This song, based on a laid back banjo riff, is the first one I heard that comes with a lyrics health warning . Don’t listen to those lyrics while you are eating. Not unless you’re on a diet that is. It will kill your appetite in seconds. Trust me.
But, all fun aside, it’s a cool song which shows the witty side of Satria’s songwriting skills. I’m secretly hoping he will include it in his live set again one day. Because the song is really funny and I’m actually interested what Sophie could do with the violin in it. I have this odd feeling it would be pretty surprising.
The next song I wanna pick out, Find Your Home, comes closest to the uptempo alternative western folk Sunfire is playing now. In an interview Satria told me where he wanted to go with his music. In the fantasy scene we focus a lot on European folk. Be it the Eastern European or the Celtic version. But the emigrants to America also took that music with them. In the south it evolved in what we now call
In the east, under the influence of the Irish and Scottish emigrants it turned into
And it is this ‘American folk’ that Satria wanted to explore with his band Sunfire. Find Your Home has that cool uptempo western folk feel that we now know to be the typical Sunfire style.
With A Smile For You and Little Rascal we come to the deeper emotional part of the album, where Satria really proves to be a gifted singer-songwriter.
Both songs are ballads. A Smile For You again has those native American influences I mentioned in Ghost. He reaches deep inside to express the emotions that he feels seeing people hurt within these lyrics. Real goosebumps. In Little Rascal Satria shows that he isn’t afraid to put delicate subjects into his songs. It’s a homage to all the women who have lost a child before birth. Something that is not talked about a lot. A hidden grieving that he managed to put into words. Soothing. Sung as a warm embrace for everybody who had to go through this experience.
Mr Whiskers is the ideal song to follow up on all those emotions. It’s a witty bluegrass ballad about an old stray cat in a dirty old ghost town somewhere in the deep American countryside. Putting the odd smile right back on your face.
Yoyo, Celtcast’s February Monthly marker, is a bit of an odd one out on the album. With
Rob van Barschot
joining in again on Slidgeridoo and percussion, it has this Australian beach feel again that we started out with on the album with Live Today. Ending our visit to the American plains and ghost towns.
Immortal then totally closes the circle on this album. Again a soundscape kinda song. Let´s say
in the Australian desert, with Satria putting his electric guitar skills to good use. Odd, eerie but beautiful. Closing a CD that opened a whole new musical world to me. A world of bluegrass, alternative country and
mixed with the singer-songwriter i’m more familiar with. A world that the band Sunfire is going to open up even more for us.
As we speak the band is writing and recording new material for the upcoming CD, due to be released some time in the summer. I was allowed to listen to a short preview and believe me, it is gonna rock your socks off. So I’ll finish this review about the ‘old’ solo work of Satria ‘Sunfire’ Karsono with a preview of the new alternative Western folk band Sunfire. And their first single Jordan.