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Review: Riddle Songs by Stef Conner

October 24, 2020

There’s always been a medieval and folk music influence in our own label’s releases although often neglected for long periods. Recently, we’ve been exploring a little of that again, particularly the “Viking” sounds made popular by such artists as Wardruna and Eldrim.

Old English
I first heard Old English in a track released in 1982 by a gospel progressive rock band called ArkAngel, Praises in the Old Tongue. Couldn’t figure out what language it was until digging deeper revealed it was Old English and was the oldest recorded poem in the English language, Caedmon’s Hymn.

Which brings me to this new release by Stef Conner. Some of you will know her from her work with Northumbrian folk band, The Unthanks.

Riddle Songs
Riddle Songs is a collection of songs in Old English, despite no songs in Old English having survived from the period in which the language was originally used. This is a is a concept album in a time when such things aren’t fashionable. The tracks explore concepts from Anglo Saxon culture: hymns, spells, mythology and riddles. Conner accompanies herself on a strummed lyre for some tunes and is joined on harp by early music specialist Hanna Marti for some. There are tracks featuring Conner alone
and some with a choral backing from the Everlasting Voices.

The album
There are a generous 20 tracks, although some are short “rune poems”, with a total playing time of just over an hour. There are copious notes on the music (one of many reasons I still like CDs with booklets). Old English lyrics and modern English translations are provided. It was interesting to me to hear Conner’s take on Caedmon’s Hymn, very different melodically and musically from the version mentioned above, as expected, but also with subtle differences in pronunciation of the language.

What does it sound like?
Too many album review don’t actually tell you what the music sounds like. If you’ve heard recordings of monks singing plainchant in echoing spaces, this is a little reminiscent of that but the individual voices here are clearer, the reverb not so overwhelming on the choral pieces. Tracks with Conner and her strummed lyre only are more intimate.

This is a good chill-out album; you can allow it to wash past you or you can listen in detail. There is much to focus on in terms of harmony and texture and skilled arrangement.

In short, a beautiful and well crafted collection of unique tracks, well worth acquiring. I’ve written this review from a downloadable press pack version but I’m ordering the CD – one to keep! Oh, and here’s a tune!

Release date: 23 October 2020
https://www.delphianrecords.com/

New video for older tune – Beloved

October 23, 2020

Here’s a video for a track we released way back in 2009. In this case, we found the source video footage and this was the track we had that it fitted the best. We’re really happy with this video; it’s heading towards that professional look we aspire to but can’t afford!

New video – Beauty As Resistance

October 23, 2020

We’ve been finding some video footage that suits our music so we’ve been revisiting some tunes that didn’t have videos previously. This one came out at the start of 2019.

Four Rider Survivor – new video

October 21, 2020

We released Four Rider Survivor in April 2020 but have only now got around to making a video. Here it is!

It’s always tricky finding footage that works with our music and that is free or cheap to licence. We’re very happy to have found this collection of clips although we’ve done quite a lot of editing and processing.

If you know any film makers who might be interested in working with us (for little or no money, unfortunately…), please put them in touch with us. Thanks!

Two new videos from our latest release

September 20, 2020

Here are two videos from our latest release, Three Wise Women. Made, as ever, on an ultra-low budget, we think they’re OK!

Three Wise Women – new release

September 17, 2020

We’ve just released a three track collection called Three Wise Women.

2020 has been a year when we’ve mostly released single tracks as we used the COVID-19 pandemic to get busy in the studio. During this time we’ve started to add some northern European and medieval influences to our already eclectic mix of bass electronica and eastern sounds. We felt it was time for (what used to be called) an EP.

Here, we think about the passing of those who crossed before us, their wisdom and what has been lost.

Please note that each track has its own artwork. We love the interaction of artwork and music and we try to find images that complement the music.

Three Wise Women – an update, September 2020

September 10, 2020

Here’s a short video about our current musical explorations and thoughts on where we’re heading. Also, first details of our next release!

Dark Forest

August 28, 2020

Here’s a new tune.

Dark Forest
We have no idea what kind of music this is. We’ve used an Arabian 7/8 rhythm called Dawr Hindi. We’ve used an Arabian mode/maqam called Hijaz. There’s Viking and Shamanic frame drums, a vulture bone flute, a plucked medieval lyre and a medieval gittern. There’s some dubstep-style bass wobble, synths and drums.

Explorations
This does, therefore, capture many of our musical influences in one place. We’re currently bringing some European folky influence into our usual middle-eastern favoured mixture. We’ve always been interested in medieval music and have, on occasion, recorded medieval tunes. All of these strands are coming together now – we finally have the studio resources and musical knowledge to create the music we’ve always wanted to create.

Video

Our videos remains very low budget! This one uses free footage from the internet and we have fun turning it into something.

Undreamed

August 23, 2020

Thousand Yard Prayer
Thousand Yard Prayer started off in 2002 as a side project of Secret Archives of the Vatican that allowed us to release more music more often in the days when the music industry worked very differently. These days, of course, we can do whatever we want.

Vive la difference
We try to make Thousand Yard Prayer‘s music a little more acoustic than Secret Archives of the Vatican‘s, although that doesn’t always work. None of our music is aimed at commercial success (heck, if only we knew how…) but TYP tends to be our less obviously mainstream tunes.

Undreamed
This one’s perhaps an anomaly. It sounds quite melodic and accessible to people who might not like our usual releases.

Instruments
This track doesn’t sound like most of our recent releases. No plan, it just came out this way. We’re exploring medieval and pre-medieval instrument sounds at the moment. This tune uses a Scandinavian tagelharpa, a Persian frame drum, a viola da gamba, a gittern, a kaval and a Trossingen lyre. There is a very subtle hint of Croydon electronica. We don’t know what musical genre this is, if indeed it fits one at all. Most of our music seems to write itself.

New website for Loga Ramin Torkian

August 21, 2020

Loga Ramin Torkian is one of our favourite musicians. You may know him as one half of the most excellent Niyaz or from Axiom of Choice but that’s not all he does.

He is an award nominated, gifted Iranian-born composer, greatly respected for his ability to adapt the Persian classical repertoire to his own unique and modern compositions. He has always pushed to expand the sonic capabilities and range of Iranian music, believing that this could further widen the possibilities of his rich musical heritage and bring it into a modern platform.

He’s just launched a new website which has music, videos, a store and much more information. Check it out.

WEBSITE: Loga Ramin Torkian

And in case you’re not familiar with him, here’s an introduction.


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