Elane (left-right): Joran, Skaldir, Nico, Katrin | image © Kalinkaland Records 2004
Elane – The Fire Of Glenvore
album review and vocalist reflections
More Elane: The Silver Falls (2008)
Germany has an established history as the foundary of the heavenly vocals genre. As one band has reached their sunset another superb group is at the dawn of a promising career. Such is the story of Chandeen (feature) and the latest stablemate of Harald Lowy's Kalinkaland Record label. Elane is fronted by the dulcet vocals of lead singer Joran; their sound is indeed likened by some to Chandeen, by others to Loreena McKennitt and in fact to many the band's sound is the perfect blend of Clannad, Chandeen and Loreena McKennitt.
Our exclusive interview with Joran explores the band's background, origins of the music, explores the thinking behind their sound and chronicles the making of their debut album The Fire Of Glenvore. Graced with layers of heavenly vocals and strings, the album presents a mystical journey for the artists. If you have feelings, questions or feedback related to the band, we'd like to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email, o2 phone, text message, snail mail--whatever you like. We hope you have as much fun discovering more about this talented group as we did. Our review of the album is also presented below.
Musical Discoveries: Can you tell us a bit about your own background?
Joran: Well, Skaldir, Nico and I come from "Sauerland" in middle of Western Germany. Katrin comes from Thuringia, which is in Eastern Germany. Katrin, Skaldir and I got lessons over the years, some more, some less. We are all between 24 and 27 years old. I am studying design and multimedia. I also take lessons in photography, video, illustration and so on.
In addition to Loreena McKennitt, who are some of your own major musical influences and how have they influenced your music thusfar?
I'm not really sure if our music is influenced directly, we don't copy anybody but we love music of Anathema, Cruachan, Tori Amos, Blackfield and many more. I like to listen to wave, folk, pop, medivial stuff and so on.
Why have you chosen Joran as your stage name?
Skaldir and I chose these names because with our music we are acting in another world. We want to close up the past, too. I just found the name "Joran" and I liked it very much.
Did you work with any other musicians in the early days?
Yes I did, we were a band with six people. But the intentions, motivation and stiles were too different and so we parted ways. I have sung and recorded since 1993 by myself and with different other musicians.
Where did you meet the other band members?
The first time I saw Skaldir was at a music session in September of 2001 and we decided to record my old songs. After we released "Der Nachtwald" he left Elane to study. A year later I met Katrin and she played the first melodies for the new songs that were also added to this album. Nico, whom I knew before, had as well some ideas he thought of as suitable for Elane and so everything came together. Even Skaldir found time for us again, after he had successfully started his studies.
Please tell us more about the other individual band members and what it is like for you to be working with them.
After we agreed on a basic song idea, Nico created all arangements and orchestral synth instruments. Later Skaldir played the guitars and percussions. Katrin visited us two times during the recordings and played her melodies. It's effective for us.
What is it like working on the vocal arrangements with Katrin?
Katrin does only few vocals and is easy to work with since she has strong ideas as well as a great feeling for melodies and she needed only a short time to record the violin parts. When we were together in our rehearsal room or studio, the arrangements just happened as Katrin and I know each other well.
And what was the vision you all had for the band and the music initially?
We wanted to give something very special to the people. We wanted to show how dreams can be like and offer the chance to escape to this grey world. And of course we have a craving for the reactions of the people who love our music.
How has that evolved in the release of your debut album?
I didn't know if there was anybody who could be interested in the not so usual music of a very small band. With that doubt in mind I first produced only twenty (!) copies. All people who supported us gave me the power to fight for my dream and to record a further album. They helped Elane to stay alive and I just wanna tell them "Thank you!" for their encouragement!
Please tell us about your first recordings. How was that material received?
My first recordings were just taped and given to some friends. The self-released debut album "Der Nachtwald" was a copied CD with 8 page-posterbooklet. The CD-labels looked all different and all CDs were signed.
We received sympathetic and even enthusiastic reactions from quite a lot of people who heard these recordings.
One listener even wrote some kinda short fantasy novel as he felt inspired to do so while listening to our music.
Are all of the songs included in one way or another on the new album?
No, just four songs have been recorded again with better sound and more dynamic arrangements. But we have in mind maybe to rerecord the other tracks again.
Where did the band name "Elane" come from?
From a certain mood I had one day. I just had this idea and I thought that this name sounds simple but melancholic and nice.
Who is Elane? Is she a figure that came to you in a dream? An ancient Pagan Goddess? A fairy that you met in a magical circle cast? Or is it "The Very Soul of The Band"?
Maybe everything. And maybe it's the person you become when you start to believe in a strong dream, when you try to reach the "impossible." Of course she also plays a role in all of our songs, although she isn't present on the surface of many lyrics. Maybe you can really call her "the very soul of the band" in regard to our belief that we can make people discover something more and maybe even magical in our music.
Can you explain what is being illustrated in the lovely artwork that accompanies the CD?
There is the figure Elane in melancholic blue colours. Her hair is moving because our music is (hopefully) moving as well. Her eyes are open because she wants to take a closer look at you. And last but not least she is smiling. She holds a violin and a bodhran which should hint at our musical style. I also painted a magical stone: you hear our music, but everybody will feel something different. There are also the ornaments that should symbolize gracefullness. The flames hint at the passionate character of the music.
There is an epic fairytale quality to your music that seems rooted in mystical influences and traditions. This speaks of conjuring and channeling. Is that what you collectively do as a band?
Maybe. We want to prove that there is more than what we see. Also we want to create something magical. Concerning the fairytale quality you mention: I think all of us have an interest for tales, but certainly we have different approaches. In the band all those influences from books, movies or other music are somehow melted together.
The album includes a very famous traditional song "Shule Aroon" and a cover of Mike Oldfield's "Moonlight Shadow". What led the band to cover them and can you tell us about your own interpretation of them.
I really like the track of Clannad so much. We do like soulful folky songs. We also liked "Moonlight Shadow," so we coverd the track with the aim to stress the melancholic mood.
There are a lot of references to the Earth and its sacred magic. Do you consider your music to be the conduit in which the elementals spring forth?
I do think so. I tried to find out which element could be the theme of our album. For me its definetely fire, but there is also water in some songs--it's all linked together and somehow dependent on each other.
Please tell us about the writing and making of the album. It does have a fairy tale quality and a unique style--where has that been derived from and who is primarily responsible for the shape it's taken?
I think the first idea we developed concerned the "instrumental face" of this album. The fairy tale quality you mention, might have taken shape right from the beginning when I chose a certain overall atmosphere for the music; which does in fact reflect in the usage of specific instruments and the dramaturgy of the songs.
So it was me who had a basic vision, but in the end all of us have introduced new ideas to this vision in quite long process of composing and creating an album which is more than just music.
What bands/artists would you say your music favourably compares to?
Some fans compare us with Blackmore's Night or the Lord of the Rings soundrack. I don't wanna compare myself in order to keep the uniqueness also of other artists, but in regard to the Kalinkaland catalogue I would consider us as somehow close to Chandeen.
How would you characterise the style of the material?
We call it "fantasy wave fire folk." I think we play very emotional music with a mystical touch. Sometimes it's obviously close to a certain soundtrack style and indeed we have already received quite a lot reviews in which the music is compared with soundtracks of fantasy movies. Until now we mainly received friendly responses from German media and listeners, so we'll have to wait and see how the album is received abroad.
How did you get signed to Kalinkaland and how has the relationship been thusfar?
Nico has a webzine and reviewed some of Kalinkaland's releases. And we just asked and sent them the album and soon Kalinkaland said that this must have been "love at the first sight." I really like the other artists and releases on this label and we have a good hand in hand working releationship.
Tell us about the making of the video clip and what you think of the final result.
The video was produced (with, storyboards, organisation, several camera people, actors a.s.o) over about a half a year. I had no budget and so we had to improve. I worked with special effects and several tracks. Our raw material was about four hours--for six minutes in the end! I hope it will find a place on a release. The version that you can see online is not the final version.
Do you have many live performances?
We are still practicing, but we plan to play some festivals and maybe a tour in 2005. I hope the fans will like it!
There is a sensuality in your music and in the accompanying video clip. What emotions are you trying to evoke from your listeners?
You should allways search for some magic in your life, so dance with the flames. Let your heart be a flame.
How do you think your website and the internet have influenced your musical career?
I think the web is a great chance for small bands who don;t have a label which was the case with us as well. mp3 files enable you to offer small jewels to the people without making them have to pay for unknown music.
What are your plans, hopes and dreams for the next couple of years in life and in music?
I hope everybody will be happy and that we can realize our dream. I also want to develop musically and enjoy other creative projects.
The Fire Of Glenvore (Kalinkaland Records (Germany) CD 94658-V22, 2004) is a stunning thematic collection of thirteen primary tracks and four bonus tracks. The first set are woven tightly together like a fine tapestry and work cinematically with accompanying soundtrack to present the artists' vision. The remaining four are drawn from Elane's first self-released album to demonstrate the expansive talents of the band.
The story begins with the layers of wispy vocals in the brief "Return To Armagh" intro with piano sculpting the melody atop rhythmic percussion and gentle Celtic-styled keyboard washes. The more accessible ballad "Trace Of The Flames" features electronic choirs and understated percussion supporting the emergence of Joran's first lead vocal performance on the album. Whispers and Katrin's melancholy violin engagements continue to develop the Celtic styling of the album in the instrumental track "Nebeltanz" which blends into the heartwrenching and Loreena McKennitt-influenced ballad "In Nights Of Rain And Storm."
Album standout "Crystal Clear Water" is an upbeat track that effectively blends Joran's whispers with lovely vocal melodies. Guitars and keyboard washes punctuated by light percussion are everso reminscent of Chandeen's work. Thick orchestral keyboards and other effects provide a lush soundscape while contrasting a range of vocal excursions and light strings in the instrumental "Yanyana." Just as the listener assumes the album's pattern, the gothic texture of "Tears And The Perfect Light" emerges. Layers of vocals and dissonant chord structures further develop the album's texture.
"Come To The Sea" is a duet sung by Nico and Joran. The contrast between the two vocal textures indeed makes Joran's stand out and electronic choirs and rich arrangements add to the powerful cinematic effect of the track. "Passed The Meadows" is a meloncholy sting-based instrumental track constructed along similar lines of "Crystal Clear Water" and "Trace Of Flames." Elane's superb cover of the Clannad classic "Shule Aroon" features Joran singing sweetly in layers atop acoustic guitar.
Elane show their power and dexterity in the rich guitar-laced instrumental "Nightride to Glenvore." Whispy vocalise drifts in and out of the rich arrangements. The rhythmic and upbeat "Sleeping In Flames" emerges as the main set reaches its climax with layers of Joran's vocalise rising atop richly produced instrumental arrangements. The first part of the album concludes with the rich underlying power of "Now And Then," the track is carried by a lovely piano melody and additional keyboard stylings adding to both Celtic and new age sound. An extended atmospheric bridge leads to the final vocal and instrumental elements--with reprises of portions of the preceding tracks emerging--of the journey.
While the first part of the album presents a cohesive journey, the four bonus tracks that follow indeed present different aspects of Elane. "Der Nachtworld" dates back to the band's origins. Acoustic guitar forms the introduction before piano joins to form the instrumental foundation on which Joran's evocative vocal is presented in "Incendium." Harmony layers contribute to the superb heavenly vocals style that emerges in this memorable standout number. The band's cover of Mike Oldfield's "Moonlight Shadow" is equally superb--Joran's evocative vocal is sung in a lower key than either Annie Haslam or Maggie Reilly's but is wrenched with emotion. The album comes to a warm conclusion with the piano-based track "Roseslake," which will remind many listeners of Blackmore's Night not only in style but in Joran's superb Candice Night-influenced vocal treatment. Backing harmonies, a sweeping electric guitar solo and robust percussion treatment add tremendous texture to this final album standout.
Elane are clearly not only love at first site for Kalinkaland but surely the same for enthusiasts of Enya, Clannad, Loreena McKennitt and of course Chandeen. Their first album The Fire Of Glenvore is an excellent introduction to a band at the dawn of a very bright career. We can't wait to hear more from them and see the final production of their video.
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