image © fairymusic.no 2011
Nine and Fifty Swans (2011)
Tales from Tranquil August Gardens (2011)
A Dance with the Shadows (2003)
Interview and Photos (2004)
image © fairymusic.no 2011
(05 November 2011) Tirill Mohn's Tales from Tranquil August Gardens (FairyMusic (Norway) FAM001, 2011) is the independent Norwegian re-issue of the artist's debut solo album A Dance with the Shadows originally released in 2003. Changes in the reissue include the digipak, booklet and addition of three additional audio tracks.
The ambience throughout is one of haunting beauty--of mystery, longing and calm. The tone is set even before the CD is removed from its case, by a wonderfully presented booklet, with its subtle, ghost-like eroticism. This is continued as the album weaves through an almost impossibly beautiful hour long experience. Though the songs maintain the same, tranquil atmosphere, the arrangements are amazingly varied. Tirill and Oystein Vesaas' wonderfully liquid production lifts each instrument from the speakers, especially the vocals which are delightfully intimate.
The album opens in broody, melancholic fashion. Strange, ambient noises and hushed voices introduce "Nights are Colder," which makes excellent use of a lower male voice singing in unison with Tirill. "Don't Dare to Love You" begins with Tirill's voice and an acoustic guitar singing a lovely, simple tune over lush keyboards and percussion, with subtle interventions from Ketil's flute. This tone continues on "Winter Roses" with its delightful chorus. "June's Flowers" employs cello, guitar, flutes and lovely harmony vocals to articulate a delightful, simple arrangement.
Highlight of "Dressed in Beauty" is the fragile theme played by Tirill's overdubbed violins during the vocal sections, while the songs mid-section adds an unexpected sinister note. "Heavy Heaves" again allows Ketil's breathy flute to dominate over funereal keyboards and more surreal noises, while Tirill sings a mantra-like refrain. The brooding "Vendela" is the song in which listeners will find most parallels with White Willow. Lead vocal duties are here handed over to Odd Hakon Solbakken and White Willow's Sylvia Erichsen, and the edgy backing builds to something bordering rock music for the only time on the album, except the final remix track.
The last few songs are lighter with a more traditional folk feel. Wailing flute and gentle piano introduce the quiet "Gold's of Morning," which its superbly intricate arrangement. Highlight, here, is Ketil's flute which breaks into a half-familiar folk tune as the song concludes. "It was Blue" has simpler, yet equally delightful instrumentation--light and melodic with Espen Lette's accordion to the fore. Trekkspill (an accordion-like instrument) and gypsy-style violin give "Ruby" a sensual, Eastern European feel, and the album finishes in similarly Southern European style with the playful "When you sleep" featuring the impressive bouzouki of Christos Sarakatsianos.
The reissue includes an instrumental version of "It was Blue" that appeared as a video only track on the 2003 release. Tirill's "Signs," which was originally released on White Willow's Ignis Fatuus has also been included. A flute melody and White Willow instrumentals add great contrast to Tirill's voice. The airy track provides an essential view into the artist's background. The album concludes with the stunnnng Parenthesis "Hole in the Soul Remix" of "June's Flowers." The thicker dance-oriented arrangement provides a wonderful contrast to the reissue.
This is a stunning album, which rewards repeated plays and considerable concentration to unpick Tirill's intricate, sensitive arrangements and each song's subtle melodies. On the other hand, as the root of each song remains Tirill's nylon-stringed guitar, it is not difficult to imagine them performed entirely solo. Lyrically, the album considers simple themes, moments of melancholy and joy, the sadness of passing seasons and remembered love.
Whether you choose to concentrate on every moment or allow the general mood of the album to wash over you, this is an exceptional album by a hugely talented musician. Buy it for those quiet, contemplative moments. Read our interview with Tirill as well.--original manuscript by Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, UK and revised for the reissue by Russ Elliot in Boston, MA