Review of Dowry Of A Troll Woman by Per Kelt
After my previous blog post about Per Kelt, I was very pleasantly surprised when they got back to me and sent me a copy of their second album, Dowry Of A Troll Woman, which I had been so eager to hear, and asked me to review it. Naturally, I agreed, as Per Kelt is a group I have admired for some time and the inspiration I gleaned from their music has undoubtably crept into my own (The Gremlin King from Into the Green springs to mind!).
Dowry Of A Troll Woman is a much more intimate album than previous publications, which explores a trio line up – Pavlina Bastlova championing her usual role as recorder virtuoso; the prolific Stepan Honc on guitar and percussion-wizard Will Connor playing an array of authentic (and probably self-crafted) drums. The trio line-up works well – upon the first listen I immediately felt drawn back in time to some medieval chamber, and Per Kelt kept me there until the end of the album.
The album opens with ‘Velt Leen’ – the first original tune penned by the group back in 2007. They clearly got off to a very good start. This track is exactly what you expect from Per Kelt: a recorder dancing its way up and down the modes with perfect precision, accompanied by an energetic flurry of strumming and percussion. This sets the tone for the rest of the album nicely.
‘Ay Vist Lo Lop’ introduces Pavlina’s powerful vocals which recount a traditional French folk-song with great gusto, sung in the traditional Occitan language from southern France.
We then hear a different side to Pavlina’s voice in the enchanting ‘Willow Song’ composed by the group and our very own Bill Shakespeare.
Next up is my personal favourite on the album: ‘Pilgrim’. Songs about Pilgrims are always belters – it’s just a fact of life – and this one is no exception. There are moments of raw energy contrasted by a dreamy interlude where Stepan Honc shows off his skills on the fretboard.
‘Herr Mannelig’ makes me wish I could understand Swedish. It is from this track that the album takes it’s name and I bet there’s a cracking story unfolding in there. The sleeve notes give us a taster of what’s going on and to be honest I was sold on this one as soon as I saw the words, ‘troll,’ ‘magical gifts,’ and ‘cursed…’
Pavlina sings in medieval Galician for ‘Quen a Festa’ showcasing not just her abilities as a musician, but as a talented linguist. Honc and Connors’ guitar and drum-thrasing brilliance continues to impress, and just when you risk exhaustion from all the mind-blowing, technical brilliance of the trio, the leisurely French dance, ‘Tourdion’ calms the mood and reminds you how versatile Per Kelt are.
‘If My Complaints’ harks back to earlier themes explored on ‘Bertaeyn’ from Musica Mardania but here set to lyrics written by John Dowland in 1597. It is a welcome reminder of the group’s previous work and seems to nod towards a promising future for the brief, uplifting passage near the end of the track. The tune softly swirls to a close and all three instruments ring out in the reverb for a very peaceful close to the album…
Of course it’s not the end! Per Kelt blow your head off with a final blast of medieval madness in ‘Santa Maria’ where it all comes to a swift and punchy stop. The only thing missing here is rapturous applause, which I suppose is why we ought to go and watch this band live. Per Kelt is the result of placing three extremely talented musicians in a chamber and letting them rock out to medieval modes at five-hundred miles per hour. And that’s why they call it ‘speed-folk.’
Dowry Of A Troll Woman is a very enjoyable album, for the strength of its tracks, the precision of the arrangements and the faultless performances of all three instrumentalists, although I would gladly welcome another large production from Per Kelt in the future. Here’s to the next one!