album review and artist reflections
Interview, Review and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2002
all images © Michael Schwalm 2001-2002 | used with permission
Formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
Last updated: 14 September 2002
The German heavenly vocals group Chandeen are celebrating their ten year anniversary with the release of Bikes and Pyramids (Kalinkaland (Germany) EFA CD 01353, 2002) and a four-track maxi entitled "My World Depends On You" (Kalinkaland (Germany) EFA CD 01352, 2002). The new releases, licensed to several labels outside the band's native territory, mark a return to their original creativity and illustrate development from their final album on the Hyperium label The Waking Dream. This article presents a reviews of the Bikes and Pyramids album and the first maxi "My world depends on you." It also includes an extensive interview with the artists. Our coverage of Chandeen includes a review of their earlier album Spacerider - Love at First Sight.
Chandeen are currently fronted by the two stunning lead vocalists Antje Schulz and Stephanie Härich and Harald Löwy who also provides electronics, effects, guitar and percussion. Additional musicians include Florian Walther (guitars/drums), Antje Buchheiser (violin), Dorothea Hohnstedt (flutes) and Axel Henninger (keyboards). Releases by the 'first incarnation' of Chandeen include albums Shaded by the Leaves (1994) and Jutland (1995) as well as the maxis "Lumis" and (1994) "Strawberry Passion" (1995). Keyboard Oliver Henkel and vocalist Catrin Mallon departed after these recordings.
Stephanie Härich joined the band in the run up to the band's next full length release The Waking Dream (1996) and actually made her first appearance on the "Light Within Time" (1995) maxi. The current lineup then released another maxi entitled "Papillion (it's easy to fly)" (1996) and in their first break from Hyperium Records published the compilation album A Taste Like Ginger (1997) [order] on Cleopatra Records.
Interestingly Henkel and Mallon also released the album Ambiguous [order] on Cleopatra records as Edera in 1996 but it did not seem to enjoy the same success as their earlier work with Chandeen. A track from that album and another featuring Antje Schulz entitled "Air Raid Etiquette" by Prime Sinister both appeared on the Heavenly Voices Part IV album on Hyperium in the same year.
Chandeen switched labels after Hyperium left the business to Synthetic Symphony within the SPV conglomorate. Spacerider - Love at First Sight (1998) [order] emerged with the two maxis "Spacerider" (1998) and "Skywalking" (1999) concluding the band's relationship with the label. Harald comments further on the Spacerider period in the interview below.
Visitors interested in the heavenly vocals genre should also see our review of Heavenly Voices Part V which includes a plethora of licensed tracks including those by Within Temptation (review), Lacuna Coil (review) and Rose Chronicles (review) amongst others.
The Album. Bikes and Pyramids is a dramatic advancement in Chandeen's sound, and obviously re-injects the artists' creative freedom. It continues where Jutland and Waking Dream left off, leaving the heavily commercial influence of Spacerider to one side. Writing credits are shared between Harald Löwy and Antje Schulz or Stephanie Härich although one track is written by the three together and the Syd Barrett "Apples and Oranges" jingle-oriented yet everso accessible musical snippet.
Modern percussion rhythms and progressive dance orientations provide the foundation for the glorious vocal work of Antje and Stephanie who adit to harmonising together for the first time in the simply stunning "You Love Him." While each song still runs longer than a typical single, several of the tracks have clear single potential. That said, the band's first maxi includes extended remixes of the upbeat opening track "My world depends on you" by De/Vision and Electronium. The album version's light but rhythmic percussion and acoustic guitar blends perfectly with Antje's layered vocal.
Heartfelt--with thick 60s style electric guitar in spots providing a melodic backdrop--Antje sings "Pink," which will be many listeners' first exposure to the band's use of German lyrics. Anyone not a fan of Antje's voice will certainly be by the conclusion of this track. The slow and jazzy arrangement of "Heute Nacht" perfectly supports Antje's soaring lead vocal and harmonies provide a lush backdrop between the verses. The singer's power and range clearly emerge within the track.
The evocative and moody "Days in time," is Stephanie's first track on the album. Lightly accompanied, the song showcases the power and energy within the singer's fine and sultry voice. Sweeping electric guitar solos and bass overtones fill out the arrangements. The rhythmic "A Silent Love (Part I)" arrangements blend electronics with acoustic guitar to perfectly underscore Antje's whispy lead vocal. The extended "Lucky Life (Part II)" clearly the bookend piece echoing the lyrics and stylistically matching "A Silent Love." Antje's vocals add tremendous texture to "Lucky Life."
The vocalists' joint project is the mid-tempo track "You Love Him." One will hear a slight processing of Stephanie's lead vocal in the verses but everyone will enjoy the layered harmonies in the upbeat and most accessible choruses. "Walking" is a bluesy yet rhythmic track featuring almost spoken lead vocals by Steffi. Vast and extended guitar excursions grace the instrumental bridge.
"One Way Love" is a lovely and accessible light rock number sung against acoustic and gentle electric guitar with the Antje's vocal arrangements reminiscent, in fact, of numbers by The Corrs. Like "You Love Him," the piece has significant single potential. And in a similar vein, listeners will all be immediately attracted to Antje's interpretation of the short jingle-like Pink Floyd track "Apples and Oranges."
Steffi's edgy vocals perfectly carry the tune over the sparse electronic arrangement of the verses within "Smooth Man's Melody" while the vocalists' combined talents clearly emerge in the track's lush choruses. An extended instrumental completes the piece. The last track of the album is "The Spacerider Legend." A gentle, keyboard-based soundscape opens into heavenly vocalise and flute melodies as the album comes to a close.
Secret Link! The album's artwork has photos of the artists but most interestingly a secret link to some absolutely superb online rarities. "Lullaby"--an outtake from the 2002 sessions--and an alternate version of "One Way Love" are available. The full version of "Reach Another Day" (from The Waking Dream sessions) is also provided in 128 kbit quality. Three tracks from Chandeen's 1992 tape The Twilight Crossing include "Journey to the Land of Wisdom (1992 version)," "Leaving The End" and "Scottish Hills (1992 version)." A live version of "In Power We Entrust The Love Advocated" from the Light Within Time tour and full lyrics for Bikes and Pyramids are also accessible from further links inside the secret page. Interested visitors will need to obtain the album booklet to get to the link!
The Maxi. "My world depends on you" (cover artwork) is the first maxi from Bikes and Pyramids. The two extended remixes of the the title track will interest Chandeen's enthusiasts. The De/Vision remix blends various vocal effects with crisp percussion and a heavier bass line. The Electonium version has extended dance-oriented beats and electronic orientations.
A lovely yet short out-take from The Waking Dream sessions from "Reach Another Day" features Antje's sensual and soaring lead vocal, reminscent of a recent video clip from the band's website that perfectly balances the extended Steffi's evocative performance "To The Wild Roses" (with Antje backing) from the same period. A splendid guitar solo during the instrumental bridge is as notable as the audience's excitement in the recording's production.
Musical Discoveries: Clearly Chandeen have evolved over your ten year career. Please tell us some of the the highlights.
Antje: Chandeen was my entrance to professional songwriting, singing, music-recording and publishing. I had to grow with this band; I think it worked out well, finally! One of the biggest highlights for me was seeing our video "Skywalking" presented on MTV.
Stephanie: By the time I joined the band in 1995, they had already two very electronic albums out. Back then Harald created these bright and inspiring sound-scapes which offered lots of possibilities to a s inger and writer. Already during our very first meeting I was caught by such a creative atmosphere which a kind of forced me into writing my first song. The whole thing turned into a kind of obsession - no matter which way we went with the music.
When looking back to my last seven years with Chandeen, I realize those highlights you're talking about at these moments when I was carried away by the feeling to be on a good way with a song. All in all, I see the evolution in our work in never standing still or sticking to the former, but being open minded and searching for new demands.
My favourite numbers are definitely: "Mirror" for its cute, light and positive expression, "To the wild roses" for ideological, isolated and also positive expression.
Harald: It is not easy to define my favourite Chandeen Number, because every period has its own character. "Lucky Life" from Bikes and Pyramids, "Time Walk" from Spacerider, "To the wild roses" and "Before Sunrise" from Light within time, "Jutland" from that album and "Journeys to the land of wisdom" from Shaded by the Leaves.
There were many important circumstances in the last 10 years. In reflection the first period with Catrin Mallon and Oliver Henkel was a very intensive time without band harmony and with hard studio sessions.
And what about before Chandeen? What led you to Chandeen in the first place?
Stephanie: Working on one of his side-projects Harald was looking for a backing-vocalist and on that occasion I was introduced to him. At that time, other members of Chandeen decided to leave the band. So I was fated to get to know Chandeen.
Antje: I was singing and searched for a garage-punk-band because I wanted to have some fun besides going to school. Oli and Harald answered on my small-add and invited me for a casting. Their electronic style of music and the prospect of a professional recording made me curious for more. That was 10 years ago.
Harald: In the 80s I began to play in some insignificant bands before I founded Chandeen. The band is an important part in my life and I’m sure the music history of Chandeen is a kind of reflection of my life. But I have some other projects beside Chandeen, for example Broken Surface with Ion Javelin.
Spacerider was a stylistic departure from The Waking Dream. What happened to create the change? Have the changes in Bikes and Pyramids been in the same direction or has it been a more radical shift?
Harald: I don’t think so. For me Bikes and Pyramids is a not a departure from The Walking Dream or Jutland. Spacerider was created in a twilight and strange time. Sure, I think there are some good Chandeen tracks on it, but in principle I think Spacerider was a musical stagnation for me. It might not have been for the whole band. There was commercial from our former label SPV. I remember the time a little bit hazy. It was half sleep and half wake. However Bikes and Pyramids was a free creative image of our work again and stands nearly to the music of The Waking Dream and has a close feeling to Jutland. I don’t see a radical shift between that time. We knew what we want, we saw a landscape and a clearly way. I think this wasn’t at the Spacerider time.
What tracks stand out from the previous albums and why?
Antje: On "You love him" Stephanie and I are singing a track together for the first time. We always thought our voices would not harmonize that well together, but now we have proven that the opposite is true. Maybe we will practice this a little more in the future.
Harald: I think "Lucky Life" is the most important song for me. It transports the feelings I had during the production of Bikes and Pyramids.
We've been intrigued with Antje's and Stephanie's vocals for quite some time. Please tell us a bit about your musical training.
Antje: In 1994 I took singing lessons for a couple of years. It helped me control my breathing and to hold the notes. But the best training for singing is singing. So I do it mostly every day in my car on my way to work. Some people are confused seeing me in their driving mirror.
Stephanie: I learn by doing. At the studio, once you have to come to the point, Harald needs a lot of patience with me.
A longstanding question of ours is how do you determine who is going to sing the lead vocal part on each of the tracks?
Stephanie: It depends. Usually Harald has some notion of who should be singing along with the instrumental. But it happens that one of the singers feels awfully attracted to it, so in that case she will give it a try. We are flexible with that.
Where do you draw on the inspiration for the lyrics?
Antje: In my own life, in films, books and dreams.
Stephanie: Accordingly, the inspiration may come from the outside or the inside. But no inspiration will be inspiring just by itself. If you do not feel the urge to express yourself, if you do not find the balance between letting yourself go and concentrating on your process, if you do not become independent of conventional concerns for the moment, you will not come to a satisfying output.
Harald: I have read a lot of British and American literature in the last few years. I am part of the Generation X and I really like soundtracks--Lord of the Rings, or Baraka.
On Bikes and Pyramids are Antje and Stephanie working more together with one providing harmonies for the other and vice versa?
Harald: A difficult question, because we are working very free, with many improvisations. Antje and Stephanie have a lot of arrangement ideas and it’s my part to create a wavy vocals part. Some songs, for examples "Pink" or "Lucky Life" were initially sung by me, before Antje added her interpretation.
Please tell us about the recording process.
Harald: We were in the studio for about four months. It was a great session because we worked most of the time during the night. Everybody felt the returning of their musical freedom. So I think Bikes and Pyramids is actually the most important Chandeen album since Jutland.
It was interesting to hear some of the material sung in German for the first time. What led you in this direction?
Antje: To express myself in my native language pointing out my emotions was far more difficult for me than expected.
Stephanie: As for me, I felt just the other way around. To find the right words was so much easier using my own language. Nevertheless, for a German audience writing in English provides your lyrics--and the author, of course--with some kind of mask. It gives your words that exotic touch, covers them with the artistical demand. German lyrics--to me as I am German--are more straight forward, even more authoritative. Playing with the language happens naturally as I am a native speaker. We took it as a challenge and we were receptive to it, tried out different ways always aware of the fact that, in the end, we still must be able to identify with the result.
Harald: "Heute Nacht" and "Pink" are on the album, because everybody working on the tracks had a good feeling about the result which was not the case with other German tracks we wrote. So these two are a fine compliment.
The style of the material has evolved from the "heavenly vocals" genre and is today more varied. How would each of you describe Chandeen's style?
Harald: I've heard some say that Chandeen is still Heavenly Voices but others would say it is Spacepop. To me Chandeen is a band who are working without frontiers.
And what about the side projects? What have the three of you been involved with?
Antje: It is always fun and satisfying for me to work with other musicians beside Chandeen. My biggest side project is a band called 'Sugarfist', founded by Guido le Fric from La Floa Maldita and me in 1997. We got together in 1996 during our heavenly voices festival tour and decided to try out some electronic rock music like Transvision Vamp, Republica or Garbage. Beside this I have a little supporting part on the next La Floa Maldita release. Stay tuned!
Harald: In the past I have released two Electro/EBM records called Incept Date. My latest side project is Broken Surface with Ion Javelin. Last but not least I remix some other bands, of example Hungry Lucy (feature) who are a really great Heavenly Voices band from the USA--you must hear it!--and In the Nursery.
Do you work outside of music?Antje: I work for a media-agency where I’m responsible for the efficient placement of commercials into TV-programms.
Harald: I have the record company Kalinkaland Records--and two children!
We were pleased to hear the bonus material on the maxi. Is there much else from that era?
Harald: We've got some tracks in a hidden area of our website; the URL is revealed in the Bikes and Pyramids artwork!
So will there be other singles, EPs or maxis?
Harald: No, we are starting with "My world depends on you." And next year we will release a double CD Chandeen 10 Years compilation with many special versions of the older tracks, and two new songs.
The artwork for Bikes and Pyramids and the maxi is a new look. What is the inspiration behind the album name and the artwork?
Michael: While looking for an album name the band came up with this one. We liked it--it's funny, and yet it stands for something that is charactristical with Chandeen's music. Two things that on first glance do not really fit together. Like things in a dream--Pyramids. Bikes--one thing awesome and ancient, and one thing new and trivial. And it's a pretty picture as well.
We always like to have some of the band's personality--the peoples' characters-- reflected in the cover artworkThat’s why we included the portraits. The cover itself picks up the idea of the album's name and plays stylistically with being old fashioned and modern at the same time. I came up with the idea after watching the movie Moulin Rouge. It's a bit kitschy, but that's part of the charm.
Do you plan to tour this autumn to promote the new album?
Harald: No, we won’t tour for this release but maybe we will film a new videoclip.
The new album is widely licensed for production in other territories. How has the interest been outside Europe in the past and what do you see in the future?
Harald: Our former label Hyperium Records was a great export partner. So Chandeen has licensed to many countries in the past and I am happy to work with different labels.
How has the internet helped Chandeen thusfar and do you think the website will continue to expand your audience?Antje: The internet is a fast medium and it can be used from all over the world. We can actualize and spread our news at any times. So it helps us a lot to get/stay in contact with our fans.
Harald: I’m sure our homepage will expand the audience. Everybody in the world has the chance to hear Chandeen at the website because we release complete mp3’s of our work. I can’t understand how the copy kills music campaign. So many bands and other artists profit from this medium.
Clearly Chandeen have returned their style to one more in a line that can be drawn from Jutland to The Waking Dream and the albums between them. The inclusion of bonus material from that earlier period on the new maxi will certainly whet the appetite for the ten year compilation album presently in the works. Bikes and Pyramids and the new maxi will be generally available in a broad range of territories by September 2002. Check back here for ordering links then. With material worthy of a trans-Atlantic journey, these new releases are certainly a must listen!
Return to website contents