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Description
While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Magenta
Agnès Milewski
Blue Stone
October Project
October Project
Chandeen
Annie Barker
Sofia Talvik
Rachel Sermanni
Annie Crane
Tirill
Chandeen

Links
Digest Index
More Digest Entries
Previous Digest Entries
Instrumental Digest
 
Magenta - Chameleon - CD Cover
image Tigermoth Records 2011

.: More Magenta :.
Revolutions Review/Interview (2002)
Ynysddu Hotel (2002-2003)
HLC, Rotherham (2003)
Seven | "Broken" (2004)
Interview | Concert Reviews (2004)
"I'm Alive" (2004)
Another Time, Another Place (2004)
Interview | Concert Reviews (2005)
The Gathering DVD (2005)
Home | New York Suite (2006)
Speechless (2007)
The Singles (2007)
Metamorphosis (2008)

slide shows: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


click image to visit Magenta FaceBook
body painting by Dave Daggers
image Tigermoth Records 2011

.: Trippa :.
The Trippa EP (1999)
Sorry (2008)

.: Christina Booth :.
ChimpanA (2006)
Caamora: She (2008)
Broken Lives and Bleeding Hearts (2010)

 

(updated 16 March 2012) Magenta is a British progressive rock band fronted by stunning female vocalist Christina Booth. Both Magenta and Christina have received numerous awards for their work including best band and best female vocalist by The Classic Rock Society. Magenta was named a Musical Discoveries artist in 2004 and their work has been covered extensively at this site. Magenta's band's eighth studio album is entitled Chameleon (Tigermoth Records (UK), TMRCD0911, 2011). We honor Magenta by including our review as the 1000th entry in our Digest.

In addition to their eight studio albums (two of them are digital downloads), Magenta have also released four live albums, four DVDs and three EPs. Those interested in Rob Reed and Christina Booth's work will also enjoy Trippa, Christina's Broken Lives and Bleeding Hearts and the ChimpanA albums.

Chameleon's nine stunning tracks span a tight 50 minutes. They were also released in 5.1 surround on an accompanying bonus DVD (TMRBDVD0911, 2011) alongside an interview with Rob Reed and Christina Booth about the making of the album. The DVD also includes a promo video for the album's final track "Raw" and three additional featurettes. These include Chris Fry Reflections, Kieran Bailey drum session for "The Beginning Of The End" and trailers.

Magenta have experienced lineup changes prior to Chameleon however Rob Reed (keyboards, bass and guitars), Christina Booth and Steve Fry (guitars) remain the core of Magenta. Kieran Baily is credited with drums and Martin Rosser additional guitars on a couple of the tracks. It is the first album where all writing was done by Rob and Christina; former outings shared writing credits with Steve Reed. Note Musical Discoveries contributors Stephen Lambe and Chris Walken are thanked by the artists.

Chameleon is a very tight song-based album. None of the tracks on this release can be classified as epics. Instead, each one has been worked down to the essential progressive rock elements that Magenta listeners will recognize. In "Gitterball," written in Magenta's 'single' style, Christina's vocals soar above Rob's vast keyboard arpeggios and Chris Fry's vast electric guitar excursions. In contrast, the band transition into a more robust style that mixes string-laden soundtracks with powerful electric guitar in "Guirneca." Listen for the backing harmonies supporting Christina and the tender acoustic guitar part in the instrumental break.

The very tight rock track "Breathe" is clearly Magenta's next single. With all of Magenta's individual elements -- Christina's lovely vocals and backing harmonies, Chris Fry's powerful electric guitar and acoustic guitar breaks and Rob Reed's swirling keyboards -- the song is certain to be one of the band's crowd pleasers. "Turn The Tide" is a gentler, ballad-style track. The gorgeously produced number highlights Christina Booth's crystalline vocals sung primarily atop light keyboard and soft electric guitar. The quiet instrumental bridge finds Rob's keyboard and Chris' acoustic guitar echoing the melody.

The stunning progressive rocker "Book of Dreams" is certain to appeal to long time Magenta enthusiasts as it features the sounds that led to the band's critical acclaim on Revolutions, Seven and Home. Christina's powerful vocal lead is supported by especially lovely backing harmonies. Rob's diverse keyboard passages are tremendous. Chris Fry's acoustic guitar solo track is entitled "Reflections."

"Raw" is most powerful track of the album, perhaps illustrated by the multi-tracking of Christina's already-powerful vocals. Likely the second "single" from the album, "Raw" includes spledorous keyboard- and guitar-laced instrumentals at contrast with the quieter spot during the instrumental bridge. It is also certain to be a crowd pleaser at Magenta's live performances. Very characteristic of Magenta, "The Beginning of the End" makes a perfect bookend to the "Raw."

Chameleon concludes with the album's one extended track entitled "Red" with a running time of just over nine minutes. "Red" includes a memorable ballad section with warm instrumentals that complement Christina's chrystalline solo vocals. The track builds, as many from Magenta do, into a robust all-out instrumental that shows the players in full splendor. Chris Fry's guitar solos are incredible.

Magenta have amassed a wide international following since bursting onto the scene with Revolutions ten years before Chameleon. Now having found their stride, we can clearly look forward for further excellence from Britain's top progressive rock acts and this great team of musicians. Christina Booth is clearly one of Musical Discoveries favorites.

 
Agns Milewski - Learn To Swim - CD Cover
click on image for Agns offical website
Image Frog Queen Music 2009


More Agns Milewski:
exclusive interview and photos
Pretty Girls and Ugly Boys (2007)

Agnes Milewski
click on image for Agns' MySpace
Theater Akzent - November 2009
photo Markus Drfler 2009

Agnes Milewski
click on image for Agns' MySpace
Theater Akzent - November 2009
photo Markus Drfler 2009

 

(20 January 2010) Agns Milewski was born in Knurw, Poland and lives now in Vienna, Austria. People from Austria and all over the world have been impressed her music since bursting onto the scene in 2007 with her first album Pretty Boys and Ugly Girls (Office4Music (Austria) 9 120024 951513, 2007) (review). In 2008 she won the Austrian Newcomer Award. This year Agns will release her second album Learn to Swim. Watch for our review of the album and exclusive interview with the artist.

Agns Milewski has been recognized as fine composer and leads the audience simply to another world with her remarkable music. The lyrics show a melancholic, deep and fantastic world in her soul. Her beautiful voice together with a powerful liveband create nothing but an emotional and highly energetic musical experience. With stated influences of Bjork, Charlotte Martin and Tori Amos, Musical Discoveries visitors Agns' power, intonations and range also produce allusions to Michelle Loose, the singer from Brave and Arise From Thorns.

Agns provides the lead vocals and piano. Her live band is comprised of Michael Hecht (bass), Michael Leibetseder (drums), Jimi Dolezal (guitar), Jonas Petersen (violin), Laura Pudelek (cello) and Carolin Ratzinger (flute, tinwhistle, backing vocals, keyboards, electronics). Members of the live band also contribute to the artist's debut album. Agnes' website has recently be relaunched to support her new album and is presented in both English and German.

Agns Milewski is far from being just a simple artist. The Vienna-based Polish singer/songwriter has a little bit of everything: once she's the nice girl from next door, next she's a sensuous woman. For one moment she's young and naive, in the next she's all grown up and wise. Don't be misled by her innocent appearance or her crystal clear voice or her readily accessible and easy-to-sing-along popsongs.

The new offering is a tremendous sixteen track album entitled Learn to Swim (Frog Queen Music (Austria) FQM002, 2009). The album is about stories life has told her. It's about love, loss, religion and sex. Water is the golden thread ever-present throughout the project. Musically, Agns demands high standards from her listeners. Musical styles of the past 100 years are torn apart, twisted and relentlessly assembled.

Viennese waltz meets heavy metal. Breakbeats meet disco, quite frequently within the same song. In cooperation with her producer Michael Hecht, she consciously refrains from using the widely known cliches connected to the traditional singer/ songwriter. On the one hand this makes it hard to categorise Agns Milewski, but on the other hand, this is what makes her unique.

Thousands of clicks on Agns homepage and Myspace-Site, and numerous positive CD and concert reviews bear witness of the high quality of her music as well as her live-performance of the project. Her compositions are healing one's soul. It's good to listen to a musician who knows her compositorial craft, the lyrics are hot and cold, pure creativity, full of puns, quotations and persiflages. The outward appearance of the band and the sound-a powerful entity.

Agns Milewski knows what she wants and her band knows how to transpose her ideas. The outcome is harmonious and consistent. The musicians have fun on stage and they amuse their audience with little gagsin all perfection they manage to take themselves not too serious.

With Learn to Swim, Agns Milewski actually learned to swim in this ocean called life, with all its ups and downs. She freed herself from all constraints which where imposed on her by self-proclaimed music-experts and business professionals in the last few years. She has shown strength and will to make the music suiting her whithout running after trends and temporary fashion.

Agns Milewski has shown that there's definitely more to her music and creativity than shallow pop. That there's much more than the reflection on the surface of the water. Get your copy of the stunning new album at CDBaby here. It is absolutely superb!

 
Blue Stone - Messages - CD Cover
Image Neurodisc Records 2009

.: more Blue Stone :.
Worlds Apart (2007)
 

(30 September 2009) Blue Stone is the production duo Robert Smith and Bill Walters. Both write, produce, program and arrange all the music for Blue Stone. The music is electronic based, but the group uses many organic sounds and natural percussion to elevate the sound beyond simple electronica. World music, tribal rhythms and lush orchestration are the underpinning for melodic female vocals and harmonies that give the music its ethereal texture and angelic sound.

The female vocalists on Blue Stone's albums include: Sara Bloomfield, Sheyenne Rivers, Samantha Sandlin, Sara Day Evans, Veronica Gunter and guests like Bridin Brennan. To date, Blue Stone have released three albums including their most recent, Messages (Neurodisc Records (USA), NR32 101 2009).

Their debut album, Breathe (Neurodisc Records (USA), NRO 32 064, 2006), focused on chants and operatic vocal treatments, while the stunning World's Apart (Neurodisc Records (USA), NRO 32 080, 2007) and the new album place strict emphasis on song structure and more pop-like vocal arrangements. The Worlds Apart Remixed (Spectacle Entertainment (USA), SPC 20004, 2008) not only served to tide fans over between albums but firmly planted Blue Stone in dance music as well. The album included a live acoustic and previously unreleased track as well.

Blue Stone's music is unique but in the style of Delerium, Conjure One, Balligomingo and Sleepthief. They present their music in a way that is, by and large, tactful and reflective, and for the most part feels very sincere and well thought-out. Their songs are known for throbbing bass lines. Surrounding this deep intensity are intriguing electronic pulses, glued together with sexy female vocals and topped off with catchy piano melodies. This type of music is great for meditation and easy listening.

"Lotus Bloom" is an instrumental and one of Blue Stone's best in the category. It contains an interesting blend of heavenly female vocals layered over ethnic drums and electronic effects that weave in and out throughout the song. This song is similar in its feeling to "Contact" from Breathe. The crowning compositional achievement of much of Blue Stone's music involves the blending of both the natural and the electronic. "Lotus Bloom" hits the spot, and has all of the best Blue Stone elements rolled into it. For example, there are some African hand drums in this song, some elegant piano melodies, but also some deep electronics.

Blue Stone puts a bit of sensuality into their music and "Wait For The Sun" has some of that. Listen to the clip for this song and you'll understand. Needless to say, its subtle and introduced through the mood of the song, but not explicitly, which is part of what makes this song so enchanting. The bass line is simple and yet very catchy and the chorus is excellent. "Voleti" and "Set Adrift" from Worlds Apart also contains some of this as well in the form of lush female vocals and an overall deep and eerie mood. Another example is the title song "Breathe" from the first album, which contains whispering at the beginning. "Wait for the Sun" works on the seductiveness of the lyrics and the sound of the mouth. Blue Stone pulls this off with a certain level of tact. The language is an old form of German. Not knowing what's being said only adds to sensuality of the whole thing.

"Dj Vu" has a nice mix of the right elements and is one of their best. As with many of their songs, the piano segments add tremendously to the composition. "Open Skies" sounds closer to songs from the first two Blue Stone albums. It's good to have some of the familiarity of their earlier albums connecting them to this one, and Blue Stone has done a commendable job of keeping the distinctive sound that they're known for, while also experimenting with some new styles to keep things fresh.

Some don't like the pop texture of "Hypnotized" or the passage where the voice has been processed through a metallic reverb/filter. This song is still fun to listen to, it has a good beat to it and a memorable chorus. There are some interesting synthetic sounds going on in "Moving Forward" that are complemented well by the inflection in the voice of the singer. The lyrics explore the journey through time and ask questions about where life began and it's purpose. There's a refreshing optimism to this song. It's the bright side of the spectrum, which acts as a respite from some of the darker moods of other songs.

In "Set Me In the Sun" the vocalist and piano arrangement are both stunning. Listen for the effects during the instrumental break. "Come Alive" is more pop-oriented than most of the other songss, with a catchy chorus. "Bridges" offers an interesting background mood, but the emotion presented in this song doesn't reach the same elation as the others. I felt like the chorus didn't offer enough of a punch. It still offers that distinct Blue Stone sound and feel, but climatically falls short.

"The Silence" does intentionally what "Bridges" seemed to do accidentally, that is to create a subtle background mood. It features a common Blue Stone call-and-response style of lyrics during the verses. The bass-work is its strongest point. I think they picked the right vocalist--that part was well done--but like "Bridges," I don't feel like the chorus fits with the rest of the song. It feels out of place. The verse builds a mysterious anticipation with the slap-bass, slides, and the "oh's." It has this "tick... tick... tick..." and is building and building, and you're getting lyrics like "the shadows hide me," "the coldness holds me," "the flames can't warm me," "fight off your demons," which is just awesome. This is then squashed by the chorus, which transfers into a resentful love story, with chiming sounds and a flat presentation.

Like "Lotus Bloom," "Ancient Echoes" is mostly instrumental. This one starts out slow and then has a couple moments where it really picks up. The verses build a certain suspense and feel like they would fit into a fantasy/adventure movie or game, but then, unlike "The Silence," "Ancient Echoes" really delivers during the chorus. Like much of Messages, "Ancient Echoes" contains layer upon layer of very creative effects, making it and others interesting to listen to many times over because each time you'll pick out something different to focus on.

"Open Your Eyes" gets a little spicy in its lyrics. "Touch my face in the night, made me feel it was right to play along. You're too scared to arise, afraid to open your eyes with all you've seen. Won't you understand, grab a hold of my hand ... when the lights go out?" Again, Blue Stone never gets very explicit, but many of their songs have this sort of deep pervading mood to them that explore both the dark and the light.

"Messages" is a chill and relaxing song full of harmonic "ohs" and "ahs" that create lush layers of female vocals. There are some lyrics here as well. The end of this one glides smoothly, finishing out the album with a restful ambiance. With a stronger groove than some of the others, "Midnight Tides" features a pronounced snare and kick during the chorus. There are some throat-like vocals that lay in the middle of this song with some softly presented lyrics over the top.

A consistant producer of fine electronic music, Blue Stone is here to stay. They don't deviate too far from what got them here, but they will always push the musical envelope to stay at the forefront of their genre, and to satisfy what they consider some of the most beautiful people anywhere: their fans.

 
October Project - Uncovered - CD Front Cover Artwork
click on artwork for OP's website
image op(iii), LLC 2011


More October Project:
Unplugged with Karnataka (2002)
Three (2002)
Different Eyes (2003)
(above article with interview)
Covered (2006)
More Uncovered (2012)

More Marina Belica:
Marina Belica One Sky
Marina Belica decembergirl
Marina Belica decembergirl Interview

November Project:
A Thousand Days

October Project - Uncovered - CD Back Cover Artwork
click on artwork for OP's FaceBook
image op(iii), LLC 2011

 

(26 February 2012) October Project's latest EP is a collection of five new songs in their stripped back form, and as a bonus track, "Something More Than This." The 33-minute long EP, which began as a collection of the band's work in progress, was published by popular demand from fans and friends is entitled Uncovered (op(iii), LLC (USA), 2011). Visit October Project's website for ordering details.

With material written by Emil Adler and Julie Flanders, the EP is performed by contributions from Emil Adler (piano/vocals), Marina Belica (vocals) and Julie Flanders (vocals). Do not expect October Project's typically rich arrangements. This stripped back collection is comprised of stunning vocal and piano work only. The band report that they are in the process of preparing a full length and completely arranged album with other October Project stalwarts.

Says Marina Belica, "Emil created piano tracks for the musicians we will be recording with in California, and Julie and I loved singing to them! Up until that point, we had been rehearsing and refining the new album songs a cappella. We thought, wow, maybe simple, vocal piano arrangements would be a fun way to introduce people to the new songs." And so Uncovered was born.

"Emil does these genius piano parts that no one ever gets to hear, except for me and Marina," says Julie Flanders. "The songs start with Marinas part -- just the melody -- and then, on this album, Emil has written a counter melody for me to sing that is equally as beautiful. It's a new approach. It's almost as if there are two songs within the one, and they are layered together." Listeners will hear this from the opening track on the EP, "Far Away In A Moment."

While the October Project sound typically has additional instruments in the bands rich arrangements, Uncovered is clearly October Project material from the first notes. The melodies in "Far Away In A Moment" are gorgeous and accentuated by Marina's and Julie's harmonies.

Adler commented,"Uncovered is special because the album is going to sound nothing like this. The risk is that people may become enamored with these simple arrangements and be resistant to the addition of bass, drums and other kinds of sweetening." Listen for the three-part harmonies in the mixes. He adds, "The finished album will sound vastly different. There will be guitars, bass, drum, other acoustic instruments, digital tracks, things like that. It is going to be arranged, so there will be a big difference."

In "Once Blue" the melody is first heard in the gentle piano introduction. Marina Belica's crystalline solo lead vocal opens the verse before Julie's harmony joins. It is hard to distinguish between the two vocalists. Julie says, "Unlike any other time that we've had vocal harmonies, on this album the vocal harmony is its own melody and not just a reference to the primary melody."

Julie continues, "In singing a cappella, Marina and I have been finding a new sound together. Marina's voice is so up close and personal, it's sort of like a photograph being taken in natural light with no makeup and no airbrushing! You have to be a very together singer to be listened to with that kind of scrutiny."

"Changing Light of Love" continues to develop the theme of Uncovered with more stunning harmonies working alongside the piano melody. The chorus is clearly reminiscent of October Project's earlier work. Marina adds, "Its also exciting to hear Julie's voice so clearly. When we sing together, sometimes our vocal lines cross in such a way that neither one of us is certain who is who when we listen back." She says, "We have very different voices, and yet, because we know each other so well, there's a sister quality that sometimes makes us indistinguishable.

Marina opens the powerful ballad "Always Wanted You" and is joined by Julie in harmony almost immediately. In addition to Marina's solo vocal lines, the constrasting melodies of the two singers work extremely well together. "I Surrender" is actually the most stripped back of the Uncovered songs except in Emil's warm piano breaks. Listen for October Project's vocalists tender interpretations of this stunning track. Harmonies alllude to some of the band's earlier work together.

The EP's bonus track is a version of the band's well-known track "Something More Than This" performed and recorded in Uncovered format. Listen carefully to the stunning new vocal arrangement. October Project reports that the next five tracks will be released on the first day of spring, March 21, 2012 in More Uncovered (cover artwork). We shall wait for it expectantly. Their fans will continue to wait patiently for the next full length album and surely be thankful for the EPs in between.

 
October Project - More Uncovered - CD Cover Artwork
click on artwork for OP's website
image op(iii), LLC 2012


More October Project:
Unplugged with Karnataka (2002)
Three (2002)
Different Eyes (2003)
(above article with interview)
Covered (2006)
Uncovered (2011)

More Marina Belica:
Marina Belica One Sky
Marina Belica decembergirl
Marina Belica decembergirl Interview

November Project:
A Thousand Days

 

(09 June 2012) The second EP in October Project's Uncovered series is aptly entitled More Uncovered (op(iii) (USA) 8 88019 00000 2, 2012). The EP is comprised of five brand new acoustic tracks sung by Marina Belica and Julie Flanders backed by Emil Adler on piano and backing vocals.

The Uncovered series was originally envisaged as a collection of songs that October Project would share with their most staunch fans in the run up to a future studio album. At this writing, October Project is well into the production of their next studio recording. This EP also includes a stunning a capella rendition of "Eyes Of Mercy" as a bonus track.

More Uncovered opens with the folky "Angels In The Garden." Marina's and Julie's vocal harmonies work extremely well and compliment the lead vocal parts. This track has a somewhat distinct mix of the harmonies that is certain to draw significant attention from listeners outside our editorial staff as well. Marina's lead provides a brighter edge to the darker arrangement in and lyrical content of "Rage Of Days." Julie's harmony not only adds texture but deepens the arrangement of the ballad.

The song "Lost" will pull at hearstrings not only lyrically but in the October Project style and sound of the song. While the EP's first two are stunning folk and ballad tracks, "Lost" is the first track with extremely strong allusions to the sounds of the band's earlier work making it a clear standout in our view. Listen to the richness of the vocalise that accompanies the piano in the bridge. We can't wait to hear the fully arranged version on the band's forthcoming album.

"Reason To Forgive" has a similar texture and style to "Lost" and accordingly delivers the "former October Project" allusions to listeners. Emil's piano is bright and upbeat. Marina's and Julie's vocals are tenderly delivered and sound simply tremendous. The last new track on the EP is entitled "This Is For You." Emil's backing vocals clearly emerge alongside Marina's lead and Julie's harmony in the folk style ballad.

The EP's bonus track is an a capella version of the band's well-known (and our favorite from the band's debut album) track "Eyes Of Mercy." Listen carefully to the stunning new vocal arrangement. October Project's fans must now continue to wait patiently for their next full length album and be thankful for the release of these stunning EPs in between.

 
Chandeen - Blood Red Skies - CD Cover
image Kalinkaland 2011

Julia Bayer
click on image for Chandeen FaceBook
Julia Beyer (lead vocals)
image Kalinkaland 2011

.: More Chandeen :.
Spacerider-Love at First Sight (1998)
Bikes and Pyramids (2002)
(review, interview, photos)
My World Depends On You (2002)
Echoes (2003)
(review, interview, photos)
Pandora's Box (2004)
(illustrated retrospective)
Teenage Poetry (2010)

Harald Lwy and Julia Beyer
click on image for Chandeen MySpace
Chandeen: Harald Lwy | Julia Beyer
image Kalinkaland 2011

 

(10 November 2011) Three years since Chandeen's last album, Harald Lwy and Julia Beyer have returned with their new offering entitled Blood Red Skys (Kalinkaland (Germany) KAL40, 2011). Between this and their last studio album, Chandeen released a digital album entitled Pyramids with demos, unreleased tracks from their Bikes and Pyramids era.

Chandeen continues to evolve in their band's eighth, and certainly their most mature sounding, album. They call it "a delicate, devotedly arranged sound adventure." We are told that an elaborately designed tri-fold Digipak with a 16-page full color insert containing lyrics, photos of the musical artists and another booklet girl. Harald told us, "The [booklet and the other] girl emblematize the visual aspect of our music on this album."

Julia Beyer's lead vocal work fronts Chandeen on Blood Red Skies. Guitars on the album are played by Florian Walther except on "World Between I" and "New Morning II," where they are played by Harald Lowy. Florian Walther also plays drums on the album. All tracks were written by Chandeen/Lwy, except "Stars Can Frighten," written by Lwy/Walther. All lyrics by Chandeen/Beyer. The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Harald Lwy.

Asked about the influences for Blood Red Skies, Chandeen mastermind Harald Lwy names, "Brian Eno, Generation X of Douglas Coupland and the cult movie Donnie Darko." The eveolution of Chandeen's sound is evident as band acknowledge these elements of the past culture movement on their new album, to the fullest.

Blood Red Skies is a tremendous album and a significant development since Teenage Poetry while remaining reminiscent to the style that the band has developed since forming twenty years ago. Kalinkaland suggests that Chandeen have created a tribute to their development on the album calling it "a blissful indulgence in nostalgia, that takes the listener to different spheres in beguiling ways."

The shimmering guitar-laced instrumental "Stars Can Frighten" serves as a warm introduction to Chandeen's new album. Dense keyboards and crisp percussion provide a foundation for Julia's first vocal appearance in the sensual ballad "Shadows Face." The contrast between her powerful lead vocal part and the highly textured multilayered choruses is outstandingly produced. Vocalise carries the melody through the keyboard washed instrumental from the instrumental bridge to the song's conclusion.

An extended brooding instrumental introduction precedes the piano-laden torch ballad "Farewell To Love." Julia's solo is joined by very lightly layered harmonies when the keyboard wash is added to the mix. In sharp contrast, "Blood Red Skies" is an accessible and highly memorable rock tune with delicate keyboards providing the backdrop for Julia's powerful soaring lead vocal. Electric guitar and drums add volume with textured harmonies in the verses.

The acoustic guitar backed ballad "Kiji" highlights the singer's talent at mesmerizing listeners with her sensual vocal delivery but is an equal testament to Chandeen's songwriting. Julia's vocalise is added to the delicate electronic arrangement of this track. The acoustic guitar and piano backed foundation of "Air" gives the song an indie sound. Coordinated with the lyrics, lush vocalise layers and electric guitar further define the material clearly as Chandeen's. "Rabbit, Run" is a brief piano backed ballad sung entirely solo. Lush keyboards in the brief "World in Between I" instrumental provide the segue into the next chapter of the album.

Warm harmony vocals and keyboard washes set the mood for Julia's lead in the light piano-backed ballad "Citylights." Guitars enter the mix in second half of the song adding depth and power to the production. The singer is brought right to the front, sensually delivering the lyrics way on top of the light arrangement, in "The Longing." Electronics and percussion add texture in the instrumental passages.

The keyboard washes, light acoustic guitar and atmospherics in the "New Morning II" instrumental set the stage for the extremely delecate "Sunset Serenade" ballad. Only keyboard washes and chimes back Julia's evocative vocal delivery. Listen for atmospherics and the additional harmonies tucked behind her lead. "Floating to the Stars III" is the powerful keyboard-laced instrumental preceding the album's very brief ballad "Until The Dawn." Julia's vocals make a final tug on heartstrings in the album's stunning conclusion.

There is a significant evolution in Chandeen's sound on Blood Red Skies. In this album that is all about the sky, Chandeen have clearly moved on from the darkwave resurgence of Teenage Poetry to develop a more mature sound that favors sensitively delivered ballads over upbeat electronic numbers. While the mp3 version will satisfy many, the physical will have a booklet that long time fans will prefer. This enchanting album was clearly worth the wait.

 
Annie Barker - For A Better Place - CD Cover
click to visit Annie Barker's website
image Beautiful Revolution 2011


More Annie Barker:
Mountains & Tumult (2007)
(review, interview and photos)

Annie Barker
click to visit Annie Barker's MySpace
image Beautiful Revolution 2011
 

(12 November 2011) Four years following Annie Barker's debut, the singer songwriter has emerged with a new five-track EP entitled ... for a better place. (Beautiful Revolution (USA) 7 21762 62307 7, 2011) and is, like her debut, produced by Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins). The EP features four new titles plus a remix by Danish Electronica / Ambient / Shoegaze artist Manual (aka Jonas Munk).

Not long after the release of Annie's debut album Mountains & Tumult (feature), the artist relocated to the UK where she has been based the past four years. The new EP ... for a better place. is a mini journey across the Atlantic, dealing with the hope and fears that surround a desire for change. She looks at how our decisions affect those who cant speak for themselves and gives agency to those without a voice.

After Mountains & Tumult's more cerebral and intricately singer-songwriter styled songs, for a better place. sees Barker fit into the Dreampop and ethereal genre seamlessly, with its rich synth and electronic production elements and smooth songwriting style. Annie's significant vocal prowess -- power and range -- truly glisten atop the arrangements. Sung and spoken layers are used to great effect.

The new EP opens with "Cruel" which echoes the bright arrangements and tones of the artist's debut album. Annie's very sensual lead soars above the arrangement as additional vocal layers are textured alongside. Sparkling guitar repeats the song's melody. "So Refined" is more densely arranged with guitar and percussion more prominent in the mix however Annie's vocals are ever present and draw the listener further into the song.

We asked Annie what she had been doing since she moved to the UK. She told us, "I've been doing a lot of songwriting as well as studying production techniques in order for my next body of work to be self engineered, produced, mixed, mastered, etc. As you can imagine there is going to be a lot of time and work dedicated to this task."

Annie told us about the photo on the back cover of the EP. "They boys symbolize my cats which I brought over from the States with me to the UK and the vulnerability they represent in that move with me." She said, "Two of the tracks on the EP are songs about giving a voice to our companions when they can't speak for themselves. This image is also about why I make music, with a view of hopeful expectation for the future, and the boys represent a part of that as well."

Listen for the thick but not overstated bass line in the more upbeat track, "Coat Off." It provides a gentle but rhythm for layers of Annie's tender vocals and bright keyboard arrangements. We were instantly reminded of the sound of the artist's debut album. The EP's final track is the very delicately arranged "Ghetto Birds." Lush keyboards and light guitar provide the foundation for Annie's whispy sensually delivered lead and additional vocal layers.

The "Cruel" remix is slightly shorter but as one would expect in a remix, more densely arranged and full of swirling effects. We appreciated the numerous enhancements that were made to Annie's vocal lines. The build in the last half of the song creates incredible power making it clear why the artist chose to include it on this EP.

Annie Barker's new EP is a tremendous project that has a a variety of tracks that are consistently produced. The five tracks are produced and performed flawlessly and provide a perfect segue to the artist's next full length project. Our only criticism is that the project is too short! The EP is available exclusively from Annie's website. We keenly await the next full length offering from the stunning Annie Barker.

 
Sofia Talvic - The Owls Are Not What They Seem - CD Cover
click on image to visit Sofia's website
image Makaki Music 2012


More Sofia Talvik:
Florida (2010)
Jonestown (2008)
Strawberries on my Tongue (2008)
interview and photos (2008)

Sofia Talvik | photo by Kirk Stauffer
click image to visit Sofia's facebook
Sofia Talvik plays in Seattle
photo by Kirk Stauffer
image Makaki Music 2012

Even More Sofia Talvik:
Bandcamp
CDBaby
MySpace

 

(12 February 2012) Sofia Talvik has released her fifth complete studio album while embarked on an extensive tour of the United States. In 2011, the fiercely independent Swedish artist sequentially released a four EP set, funded through Pledgemusic, of her own music entitled L.O.V.E via Bandcamp that was a combination of reworked tracks and all new material. She was also involved with recordings of another EP set of metal covers of the songs in the L.O.V.E. suite entitled H.A.T.E. With a vast discography of special singles, EPs and remixes, she runs her own label, is very active on FaceBook, keeps after her own website and MySpace. Sofia is a very busy young woman, and is surely an inspiration to many independent artists.

The new studio album is a collection of twelve folky tunes and is entitled The Owls Are Not What They Seem (Makaki Music (Sweden), 2012). As with her former material, the album is available at the artists own Bandcamp page and other reputable online retailers. Physical copies of the album included Sofia's own craftwork and were distributed during her tour. Sofia's fans will recognize some of the songs on the new album from the L.O.V.E project.

Says Sofia, "For The Owls Are Not What They Seem I went back to basics. After having done an acoustic solo tour for my album Florida Acoustic in 2010 I felt I was in my best element when I was playing and singing at the same time without the restrains of headphones and click-tracks. So I decided to make an ablum that was the essence of that me. Just something I could record in my bedroom without the pressure of a big production, time and opinions from others."

The album was written, mixed produced and edited by Sofia with collaboration from others on only one or two tracks respectively. Sofia sings all of the tracks and also contributes guitar, piano except the final track where Martin Hederos plays, and various other instruments. The bass is played by Janne Manninen except two tracks where Sofia plays the instrument. Further contributions include Christian Hrgren (cello); Joakim Lundgren (percussion); Mattias Bth (flute); Kristoffer Jonsson (trombone); Anders Pettersson (pedal steel guitar); Hanna Ekstrm (violin).

The guitar-based "Delusional" picks up where the acoustic version of Florida leaves off yet adds vocal layers and flute to brighten the arrangement. A more rocking track, "The Garden" is more richly arranged with prominent bass and guitar underscoring Sofia's layered vocal delivery. The lovely duet with Pontus Borg on "7 Miles Wide" delivers a lovely Americana-styled sound complete with pedal steel guitar echoing the primary melody and crisp percussion punctuating the sound.

Listen for Sofia's crystalline vocals and her lovely backing harmonies in "The War," a gentle folk number punctuated by a very crisp electric guitar part. "If I Had A Man" is stripped way back with only pedal steel guitar echoing Sofia's soaring vocal lead and gentle acoustic guitar backing. The artist builds the album with additional arrangements -- listen for the violin part -- and further vocal production in the catchy tune "Glow."

The additional reverb in the lead vocal production and flute-rich arrangements in "Circle of Friends" begins the turning point of, and adds significant depth to, the new album. The more powerful acoustic guitar-based arrangements and warm guitar-laden washes add depth to the album's short standout track "To Watch Bridges Burn." In addition to Sofia's stunning lead and warm backing harmonies, listen for the strings, especially the cello, here. The especially crisp acoustic guitar and string-based arrangements in "Everyone's Favorite Concubine" perfectly support the artist's crystalline lead vocal and add to harmones that contribute to the track's overall sound.

The final quarter of the album begins with the bluesy "Bittersweet Bliss." Sofia attains the sound by mixing her lead vocal way up and adding trombone to the downtempo arrangement. Her additional harmony layers and seaside sound effect combine with the flute part contribute a brightness that lightens the overall arrangement. "Awfully Aware" is a blues-folk crossover track. Listen for the bright vocal work and warm strings supporting it. The album concludes with Sofia's powerful vocal lead atop a gentle (real) piano melody in "Nothing Quite So Gentle." The lyrics are delivered alongside arrangements that build with Hammond- and string-washes to perfectly accompany Sofia's lead.

Sofia adds, "All the songs on The Owls Are Not What They Seem were recorded [with] Me - playing and singing at the same time, then sparsely adding other instruments to enhance and highlight where I thought it was needed. My goal was to keep it down and make an acoustic album with a live, organic feel to it. I had no interest in changing the world or inventing something new. I just wanted to make a beautiful acoustic album." Sofia has gotten the balance just right. It is amply- but neither under- or overly-produced. Vocal layering and instruments add just the right amount of texture to the material. Stunning.

Sofia Talvik's fifth studio album is a wonderful addition to the artist's discography and clearly delivers her intention for the project. The new album is also available as a CD through CDBaby. delivers her intention for the project. A very strong independent artist indeed, Sofia Talvik continues to delight her audiences worldwide. Bravo.

 
Rachel Sermanni - Black Currents - Front Cover
click image to visit Rachel's website
Black Currents front cover image
Middle of Nowhere Recordings 2012


Rachel Sermanni
click image for Rachel's FaceBook
image Rachel Sermanni 2012

Rachel Sermanni
click image for Rachel's MySpace
image Rachel Sermanni 2012
 

(11 February 2012) For more than a year now, the name of Rachel Sermanni, a singer-songwriter from Carrbridge in the Highlands of Scotland has been cropping up with increasing regularity, often uttered in suitably hushed and impressed tones. Sometimes, with an artist that has yet to release any music to the public, such a buzz is created by clever publicists, but in Rachel's case it's definitely been a case of "street up" rather than "industry down," based on her extensive gigging, mostly in the UK and Europe, but also in the US. And, usually a good sign, the whisper has been particularly strong amongst other songwriters and musicians.

"Dreams are a good reflection of what songs are. It's quite a nice way to think about it. When I have a good dream, things are sorted out in my head, and when I have a good song things are sorted out in my head. And everyone has their different interpretations of dreams and its the same with songs." -- Rachel Sermanni

I don't know if Rachel considers Black Currents (Middle of Nowhere Recordings (UK), 2012) to be her proper debut CD or whether that honour goes to last years Bothy Sessions EP, but Black Currents certainly provides the first opportunity for a wider audience to hear this Scottish 20-year-old.

Rachel's songs and voice have an intrinsic eeriness which creates a dreamlike, otherworldly atmosphere. The best way I can describe it, is that it's like being alone, deep in a vast forest on a warm, sunny summer's day, when suddenly the birds stop calling, insects stop buzzing and small furry creatures stop foraging in the undergrowth. And then, into this ominous, anticipatory silence comes a clear voice, singing, and you get this shiver, this primeval, visceral thrill, shimmering down your spine. That's the music of Rachel Sermanni.

Of course when it comes to recording, that magical atmosphere can easily be lost or buried by thoughtless arrangements or an over-enthusiastic producer, but mercifully on this EP, produced by Ian Grimble, the material is the recipient of sympathetic and blissfully understated acoustic-based accompaniment creating an almost cinematic feel, whilst, crucially, leaving plenty of space for Rachel to weave her spells. This is folk noir, and it will take your breath away.

Her literate song-writing and unusual subject matter show an originality and maturity far beyond her years, and each of the four songs on the EP are quite different. "Breathe Easy" is a gorgeous opener. Growing from a simple acoustic bass line and with Rachel's lyrical vocal melody front and centre, it builds with guitar, piano and judicious strings into a fully rounded and immensely satisfying piece. Its a beautiful song with a superb, emotive vocal performance.

"The Fog" which has understandably been chosen as the EP's first single, has an insistent chorus which, once it gets its claws into you, wont let you go. It's also where the darkness seeps in as she sings: "Must I hold my hands up / my bloody hands up.. / mercy, mercy Ive been caught / lying with my darkest thoughts." It's a terrific, original piece and hopefully it'll get the radio play it so richly deserves. Title track "Black Current" has an intimate, almost spoken, story-telling feel to it. In many ways it's an extremely ambitious and, at times, weird and unsettling three and half minutes of music, passing, as it does, through a number of moods and rhythms as the lyrics unfold.

Rachel's sometimes vulnerably innocent vocal delivery together with clandestinely dark lyrics has a mesmeric quality which draws the listener deep into the songs, so that you "live" them as much as you hear them. A number of her songs also have something of the essence of a folk ballad, albeit more explicit in the atmosphere she creates than in the nature of the music itself. "Song For A Fox" is such an example, beginning with a minimalist sound-scape before Rachel introduces this urban fairy tale by singing, in a chillingly pure voice, "Balanced on the railway track / I felt your eyes upon my back ..." Both lines contain an implicit danger, introducing the trademark unease that pervades her songs.

All the recordings use the same basic musical palette of voice, guitar, piano and strings with the occasional unsettling sound-scape, which together, gives the EP a sense of unity despite the commendable variety in the nature of the four songs. Rhythms are subtly plied and never forced, in most instances any power and dynamism required is cleverly supplied by the imaginative string arrangements.

Rachel uses vocal harmonies sparingly which gives them all the more impact on the occasions they are employed. Melodies are wisely left almost exclusively to the sublime instrument that is Rachel's voice, which is nicely to the fore in the mixes, exactly as it should be. The official video for "The Fog" can be viewed here. It's early days of course, but this is a stunningly impressive and original debut.--Jamie Field in Kington, England

 
Annie Crane - Jump With A Child
Jump With A Child's Heart
image Constant Clip Records 2011


Annie Crane
Annie Crane delights her audiences
click image to visit Annie's MySpace
photo Howard Linton 2011
 

(03 December 2011) Americana singer/songwriter Annie Crane calls to mind folk legends Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch and Sandy Denny and is, according to Nashville documentarian and music writer Craig Havighurst, "fashioning folk music in a modernist and urbane guise." She writes of immigrant histories and of personal love. Annie has toured internationally, spreading her voice and poetry from Copenhagen to Kentucky, from Berlin to Albany, NY, and from Paris to Nashville where she shared the stage with folk icon Emmylou Harris at the inaugural Music City Roots Live from the Loveless Cafe. Based in NYC, she has played some of the citys most celebrated venues such as Rockwood Musichall, The Bitter End, Sidewalk Cafe, and The Living Room and has shared the stage with The Bowmans, The Wowz, Jill Andrews of the Everybody Fields, Au Revoir Simone, Jean Ritchie, The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, and Emmylou Harris.

Classically trained in her hometown of Rochester, New York at the Eastman School of Music, Annie Crane is now a New Yorker whose blend of folk, Americana and traditional Celtic sounds transport listeners to worldly locales while retaining an urban edge that is the unmistakable influence of her adopted city. The theme of Crane's sophomore album Jump With A Childs Heart (Constant Clip Records (USA), 2011), the follow-up to her 2009 debut Through The Farmlands & The Cities, explores what it means to come to the city with the dream and what it takes to make it come true.

The albums title track speaks to those dreamers directly. "The song reminds them that without giving time effort, time will owe you nothing," Crane explains. "It is me asking them to do it without complaint, to do it honestly and with the purity of a childs heart. This sentiment is what this album is for me; committing to a goal and seeing it through in the face of self-doubt and practical thinking, knowing that time will one day tell me the outcome, but that I am the one who can define it."

Crane's own commitment to her goals has resulted in mythical songs that weave together classic 60's folk, indie pop and rock, traditional Irish music and Americana influences arriving at a unique sound that is confident and all her own. Reminding of legends such as Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell and Gillian Welch, Crane has reached far and wide with her music with live performances logged from Copenhagen to Kentucky and from Berlin to Albany. In Paris, Crane was recognized as "one of the most pure talents from the real New York scene" and in Nashville she shared the stage with one of her icons, Emmylou Harris.

Crane has also played the essential NYC venues that have launched so many beloved songwriters before her. Rockwood Music Hall, The Bitter End and The Living Room all saw Annie Crane performances soon after her move to New York in 2006. "It was really with my move that I began pursuing a music career," Crane says. "I worked a 9AM to 7PM day job, came home and practiced guitar every night." It was at the famed Sidewalk Cafe that Crane began to climb the ladder. "I started hitting open mics and by the end of the year I was attending the Sidewalk's 'Anti-Hoot' every Monday night for about a year. It was there that I gained recognition and support."

Two of the supporters Crane met during that period include fellow songwriters Frank Hoier and Eric Wolfson. Hoier went on to co-produce and perform on Jump With A Child's Heart and Wolfson not only plays on the new record, but he is now Crane's husband. Of the new album, recorded at Red Hook, Brooklyns Ohm Studios and released on Constant Clip Records, Crane says, "I see this album as a step towards the kind of artist I aim to be. One that is true to what I have to offer. I feel more at home with this record than I do with anything Ive done before."

In addition to Hoier and Wolfson, guests include trumpeter Jason Benjamin, founder of The Red Hook Ramblers, Sarah Bowman of internationally acclaimed Americana duo, The Bowmans, and banjo maven Alexa Woodward. Along with the title track, other songs on the record detail many of Cranes New York City experiences including "Money Only Hates Me" about a period in 2008 when Crane lost her voice. "Instead of it coming back in a few weeks, it remained somewhere far away for nearly three months which caused me to lose my job as a tour guide," Crane remembers. "I eventually started working at a chain restaurant where I did my best to keep talking to a minimum and creeped out many a customer by leaning in too close to speak. As my voice slowly came back, I wrote this song."

"The song 'Hells Gate' was written for a benefit compilation after the BP oil spill In it, I compare the oil to the Biblical creature Leviathan, the monster that guards Hell's gate and who, in old sailor myth, is the monster that attacks ships at sea." Additional album highlights include "Ghost Body" which Crane describes as her "Flannery O'Connor-influenced literary piece; dark and painfully truthful. Its the story of an old mans ghost looking down on his dead body and hearing what his wife has to say about him when she thinks no one else is listening."

"Copenhagen Heart" is a true story of Crane's first European tour, a trip unexpectedly extended due to the volcanic ash from Iceland which closed down all air travel in Europe for nearly a week. "I was struck in Paris, which would normally be a dream, but it was a month or so before my wedding and I desperately wanted to be home." The solo track "Salinger Said" takes the idea from J. D. Salinger's Franny & Zooey, that it is harder to be an everyday, regular person than it is to be someone in the limelight.

"Am I good enough to pursue what Im pursuing or should I take the harder road and just be normal where I get no applause for, say, cooking?" It's a reasonable question and one that is succinctly answered when spending time listening to Annie Crane's Jump With A Child's Heart album. It is a record that shows off the talents of an accomplished singer potand songwriter continuing to fulfill her ential. Chances are that she would probably earn plenty applause as a cook too.

 
Tirill - Nine and Fifty Swans - CD Cover
image fairymusic.no 2011

More Tirill:
Nine and Fifty Swans (2011)
Tales from Tranquil August Gardens (2011)
A Dance with the Shadows (2003)
Interview and Photos (2004)

Tirill
image fairymusic.no 2011
 

(05 November 2011) Tirilll Mohn released her first album entitled A Dance with the Shadows through Michael Piper's label The Wild Places in December 2003. The record got some brilliant reviews in international music press, and this first edition was relatively quickly sold out, thanks to Piper's love and enthusiasm for this album.

During the years that followed, Tirill prepared songs for a second album, but in 2008 Michael Piper sadly died after a short period of illness. He left an empty space in the hearts of many a music lover, being a rarely sympathetic and sincere man in the US independent music industry. In the wake of this, Tirill decided to start her own Norway-based label for future releases.

A Norwegian reissue of the debut album also became part of the plans: a copy of the master tape was found, and ideas for new cover artwork took shape. Read our review of the reissue here. Tirill's second album is presented in a lovely sepia-hued digipak with a removable illustrated eight page booklet.

Nine and Fifty Swans (FairyMusic (Norway) FAM002, 2011) is Tirill's second album of all new material. Says Tirill, "The music has been categorized as Norwegian feminine gothic folk with progressive elements, a description that mostly covers everything." All lyrics for the album are by W. B. Yeats. Tirill wrote all but one song, arranged and produced the music herself and is credited for vocals, acoustic guitars and mellotron as well as percussion on two tracks. The ten tracks have a running time of just over 37 minutes.

Tirill has employed a vast array of musicians for the recording as well: Audun Kjus (flutes, additional vocals); Nils Einar Vinjor (electric guitar, electric bass); Nils Herman Schultz (double bass); Sigrun Eng (cello); yvind Srensen (percussion); Nick Jones (violin); Dagfinn Hobk (vocals); Jan Tariq Rui-Rahman (piano); Johanne Gallagher (Gaelic vocals); Wandering Finn (spoken words); Kostas Stefanopoulos (vocals) and Tonje Ettesvoll (backing vocals). Listeners will clearly recognize that the musicians played together before the music was recorded.

About the album Tirill says, "It is atmospheric music with worked through arrangements, while the selection of instruments this time is giving this album more space and air in the feel of it." The album opens with the Tirill's delicate delivery of "O do not Love too Long." The string arrangements, hint of electric guitar and backing vocals perfectly complement Tirill's sweet voice. The instrumental break features a lovely flute solo and presents the strength and sensibility of Tirill's arrangements.

"The Cap and Bells" is a lightly arranged folk ballad with sweet vocal work and a good selection of instruments. Listen carefully for the outstanding cello and flute parts in the mix. In "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven," Tirill and the musicians deliver a stunning yet short folk ballad. Vocals are whispy while the arrangements are crisp--with progressive influences coming through in the electric guitar passages. Audun Kjis' flute melody in "To a Child Dancing in the Wind" gives the standout a Celtic flavor. Rich strings and percussive elements add texture to the arrangement supporting Tirill's sensual vocal delivery.

"Parting" is a melancholy track whose melody is carried by cello. Tirill sings the lyrical passages alongside Dagfinn Hobk. Listen for the White Willow-styled dissonance in the arrangement. Audun plays the dominant flute melody in "The Fisherman/Carolan's Ramble to Cashel" which is further supported electric guitar that backs Tirill's spoken word vocal. The electric guitar based instrumental build is tremendous. Tirill sings the stunning "Before the World was Made" atop acoustic guitar and double bass. The softly played singer songwriter folk tone clearly pulls on heartstrings.

Dense arrangements with lush vocal harmonies are found in "The Song of Wandering Angus," a tremendous duet sung by Tirill with Wandering Finn. Tirill sings "The Song of the Old Mother," a folky singer songwriter track atop acoustic guitar. Backing vocals by Kostas Stefanopoulos and Tonje Ettesvoll add a lovely texture to the delivery. The album concludes with the gentle ballad "The Wild Swans at Coole." The string arrangements provide a foundation for sung parts by Tirill and Audun Kjus. The flute part is stunning and this track makes a superb bookend for Tirill's second album.

Although it has been eight years since the artist's last solo release, she has been actively working on this wonderful second project. Tirill's selection Yeats' poems alongside her arrangements complements her voice and demonstrates the significant talent she has honed for this second album. Bravo!

 
Chandeen - Blood Red Skies - CD Cover
image Kalinkaland 2011

Julia Bayer
click on image for Chandeen FaceBook
Julia Beyer (lead vocals)
image Kalinkaland 2011

.: More Chandeen :.
Spacerider-Love at First Sight (1998)
Bikes and Pyramids (2002)
(review, interview, photos)
My World Depends On You (2002)
Echoes (2003)
(review, interview, photos)
Pandora's Box (2004)
(illustrated retrospective)
Teenage Poetry (2010)

Harald Lwy and Julia Beyer
click on image for Chandeen MySpace
Chandeen: Harald Lwy | Julia Beyer
image Kalinkaland 2011

 

(10 November 2011) Three years since Chandeen's last album, Harald Lwy and Julia Beyer have returned with their new offering entitled Blood Red Skys (Kalinkaland (Germany) KAL40, 2011). Between this and their last studio album, Chandeen released a digital album entitled Pyramids with demos, unreleased tracks from their Bikes and Pyramids era.

Chandeen continues to evolve in their band's eighth, and certainly their most mature sounding, album. They call it "a delicate, devotedly arranged sound adventure." We are told that an elaborately designed tri-fold Digipak with a 16-page full color insert containing lyrics, photos of the musical artists and another booklet girl. Harald told us, "The [booklet and the other] girl emblematize the visual aspect of our music on this album."

Julia Beyer's lead vocal work fronts Chandeen on Blood Red Skies. Guitars on the album are played by Florian Walther except on "World Between I" and "New Morning II," where they are played by Harald Lowy. Florian Walther also plays drums on the album. All tracks were written by Chandeen/Lwy, except "Stars Can Frighten," written by Lwy/Walther. All lyrics by Chandeen/Beyer. The album was recorded, mixed and produced by Harald Lwy.

Asked about the influences for Blood Red Skies, Chandeen mastermind Harald Lwy names, "Brian Eno, Generation X of Douglas Coupland and the cult movie Donnie Darko." The eveolution of Chandeen's sound is evident as band acknowledge these elements of the past culture movement on their new album, to the fullest.

Blood Red Skies is a tremendous album and a significant development since Teenage Poetry while remaining reminiscent to the style that the band has developed since forming twenty years ago. Kalinkaland suggests that Chandeen have created a tribute to their development on the album calling it "a blissful indulgence in nostalgia, that takes the listener to different spheres in beguiling ways."

The shimmering guitar-laced instrumental "Stars Can Frighten" serves as a warm introduction to Chandeen's new album. Dense keyboards and crisp percussion provide a foundation for Julia's first vocal appearance in the sensual ballad "Shadows Face." The contrast between her powerful lead vocal part and the highly textured multilayered choruses is outstandingly produced. Vocalise carries the melody through the keyboard washed instrumental from the instrumental bridge to the song's conclusion.

An extended brooding instrumental introduction precedes the piano-laden torch ballad "Farewell To Love." Julia's solo is joined by very lightly layered harmonies when the keyboard wash is added to the mix. In sharp contrast, "Blood Red Skies" is an accessible and highly memorable rock tune with delicate keyboards providing the backdrop for Julia's powerful soaring lead vocal. Electric guitar and drums add volume with textured harmonies in the verses.

The acoustic guitar backed ballad "Kiji" highlights the singer's talent at mesmerizing listeners with her sensual vocal delivery but is an equal testament to Chandeen's songwriting. Julia's vocalise is added to the delicate electronic arrangement of this track. The acoustic guitar and piano backed foundation of "Air" gives the song an indie sound. Coordinated with the lyrics, lush vocalise layers and electric guitar further define the material clearly as Chandeen's. "Rabbit, Run" is a brief piano backed ballad sung entirely solo. Lush keyboards in the brief "World in Between I" instrumental provide the segue into the next chapter of the album.

Warm harmony vocals and keyboard washes set the mood for Julia's lead in the light piano-backed ballad "Citylights." Guitars enter the mix in second half of the song adding depth and power to the production. The singer is brought right to the front, sensually delivering the lyrics way on top of the light arrangement, in "The Longing." Electronics and percussion add texture in the instrumental passages.

The keyboard washes, light acoustic guitar and atmospherics in the "New Morning II" instrumental set the stage for the extremely delecate "Sunset Serenade" ballad. Only keyboard washes and chimes back Julia's evocative vocal delivery. Listen for atmospherics and the additional harmonies tucked behind her lead. "Floating to the Stars III" is the powerful keyboard-laced instrumental preceding the album's very brief ballad "Until The Dawn." Julia's vocals make a final tug on heartstrings in the album's stunning conclusion.

There is a significant evolution in Chandeen's sound on Blood Red Skies. In this album that is all about the sky, Chandeen have clearly moved on from the darkwave resurgence of Teenage Poetry to develop a more mature sound that favors sensitively delivered ballads over upbeat electronic numbers. While the mp3 version will satisfy many, the physical will have a booklet that long time fans will prefer. This enchanting album was clearly worth the wait.

 
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