Review: Daughters of Elvin - Galdrbok (2008)


artist: Daugh­ters of Elvin
release: Galdrbok
format: CD
year of release: 2008
label: Self-released
dur­a­tion: 67:02

Daugh­ters of Elvin is a Brit­ish medi­aeval music and per­form­ance ensemble, and Galdrbok is their second stu­dio album. Mem­bers on this album are Katy Marchant (record­ers, pipes, etc.), Stephen Tyler (hurdy gurdy, harp, per­cus­sion), Dhevd­has Nair (hammered dul­ci­mer, per­cus­sion, etc.), Mike Edwards (bass viol), and Jen­nie Cas­sidy and Sophia Brumfitt on vocals. Selec­ted for this release were songs and dances from around the Medi­ter­ranean (France, Italy, Spain), mostly from the 13th and 14th cen­tury, with love and enchant­ment as a theme.

The album starts off very well with “Ondas do Mar de Vigo”, which has a stun­ningly beau­ti­ful vocal melody. Com­bined with the excel­lent arrange­ments for sup­port instru­ments (harp and hammered dul­ci­mer), this track shows that we’re deal­ing with a highly skilled ensemble that can be con­sidered among the best in Europe. And frankly, the rest of the album doesn’t dis­ap­point either. There is an altern­a­tion between songs and dances, where espe­cially the first are excel­lent in my opin­ion. “A Chantar M’er…” is another fine example; like many other tracks on the album a beau­ti­ful sad love song from days gone by. Other favour­ites from the first sec­tion of the album are “Abund­ance de Felonie” (great com­bin­a­tion of vocals, viol, and dul­ci­mer), and “Mandad ‘ei Comigo” (dance with per­cus­sion, hurdy gurdy, vocals). Daugh­ters of Elvin’s ver­sion of “Tristan’s Lament” is also very inter­est­ing: the brood­ing mix of deep drums and flute is a pleas­ant change from other ver­sions of the - def­in­itely beau­ti­ful - tune I’ve heard. How­ever, I didn’t care too much for the ver­sion of “La Rotta” that fol­lows. This one’s always a funky dance, but I find it a bit sterile here. The first half of the track cer­tainly didn’t need this one stuck on for extra dynam­ics, as there’s already plenty of that in the album as a whole. The last two tracks are excel­lent though: “Horamay che Fora Son” is a stately song with some beau­ti­ful recorder and viol work. “Galdrbok” [Old Norse for ‘Book of Spell­songs’], finally, is the ensemble’s only own com­pos­i­tion, writ­ten by Marchant and Tyler on their hon­ey­moon. It’s a nice catchy dance with a big role for per­cus­sion, pipes and hurdy gurdy.

Before I heard this album, I always thought Daugh­ters of Elvin were mainly about per­form­ance, but it so hap­pens that they’ve been able to make an excel­lent stu­dio album as well. I’d love to see them in live action some day, and I ima­gine it will be quite dif­fer­ent from this, but if you don’t get the chance to wit­ness the the­at­rical side of the ensemble, com­plete with gor­geous masks and cos­tumes, Galdrbok is a good com­forter. Recom­men­ded to all medi­aeval music lov­ers.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Ondas do Mar de Vigo (6:38)
2. Domna, pos Vos ay Chauside (3:09)
3. A Chantar M’er de So Qu’ieu Non Vol­ria (4:59)
4. Abund­ance de Felonie (7:22)
5. Su la Rivera (4:27)
6. Voulez Vous que Je Vous Chant (5:27)
7. Mandad ‘ei Comigo (3:20)
8. Ognor Mi Trovo (3:19)
9. De la Grand Joie d’Amors (7:26)
10. Lamento di Tristano / La Rotta (8:27)
11. Horamay che Fora Son (6:35)
12. Galdrbok (5:53)

 

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