Listening to Myths And Muses, the new album from British Neo-Folksters Serpentyne, you initially come up with the idea that such its unique sound and individual character it is destined just to appeal to a certain segment of the music world. Yet as each bewitching piece of music spreads its irresistible seduction, there is nothing but a wealth of temptation for varied rock and folk fans through to dance and pop enthusiasts. The release is a spellbinding treat building on an already potent reputation earned by the band but taking everything from creativity to temptation to a whole new level.
Hailing from London and formed in 2010 by Maggie-Beth Sand (vocals, cittole, bouzouki, harmonium, nickelharpa) and Mark Powell (hurdy-gurdy, cittern, electric guitar, vocals), Serpentyne take inspirations from traditional music as well as folk, Celtic, world, and rock onto their own tapestry of adventure. Debut album Stella Splendens in their first year awoke keen attention and acclaim, their fusion of traditional tunes with modern atmospheric and ambient enterprise alongside dance bred vivacity drawing comparisons to the likes of Faun, Blowzabella, Steeleye Span, Gryphon, and Blackmore’s Night. As suggested Myths & Muses is another plateau in imagination and invention for the band with the creative differences between their two albums best offered by Sand, “On our first album, Stella Splendens we took traditional songs and texts in old languages such as Latin, Occitain and Old English, and arranged them in our own way. On our second album Myths and Muses apart from including some new-found traditional songs and tunes, we added original lyrics and music which are sometimes combined with the old tunes. I was particularly interested in writing about women warriors, and other muses that have inspired men and women through history.”
Fair to say our knowledge and experience of mediaeval and traditional folk/ethnic sounds is as limited as honesty in government but there is no escaping what we like and it is a done deal between ears, pleasure, and Myths And Muses from the moment opener Boudicca pulsates into view. Its techno seeded start is swiftly a festive saunter of melodic gaiety and more shadowy rhythms. A rest drops in as Sand unveils the first tempting of her magnetic tones and the narrative but soon the song is swinging infectious hips, physically and melodically as an array of instrumentation and vibrant vocal enterprise breeds a riveting dance nicely tempered by the darker tone of keys. A celebration with tribal fuelling rather than maybe the war chant offering you might expect from the title, the track is simply incendiary to body and imagination, and a stunning start to the album.
There is no diminishing of quality and success either as Alexandria takes over, the song again spawned from a tribalistic seed but sauntering down a Middle Eastern landscape within the swish of a camel’s tail. Sultry and elegant, oozing mystique and warm temptation with every spicy melody, the song is as captivating as its predecessor and indeed the following Valkyries. As you would expect from its title, the track has a more urgent and robust nature which drives certainly its techno revelry and as its swings along with virulence, there is a feel of Landscape meets Arkona to the infection, veering more towards one or the other as it continues to entice ears and passions like the Pied Piper.
The medieval song of praise Gaudete is given the Serpentyne embrace next and initially is slightly reminiscent of the famous Steeleye Span version. It is a kiss on the senses eventually evolving into a bolder and busier chant again ripe with the band’s irresistible shamanic enterprise. Its beauty makes way for Hymn To Cynthia, an enslaving and hypnotic interpretation of the Ben Jonson poem of the same name. There is thick drama to the song, the music and vocals pure theatre alone and reinforced by the force of the words; thick forests and boisterous nature the scenery flooding the imagination. The track is sensational, surely destined to be used in a cinematic affair somewhere and when.
The Parisian chanter that is Je Vivroie Liement has senses and emotions basking in tradition and smouldering festivity next whilst the flirtation of Douce Dame Jolie is a romance on the senses with again a more cosmopolitan essence to the music. Both are enthralling interpretations of 14th century songs by French composer Guillaume de Machaut and sheer mesmerism for ears and passions.
Freya’s Firedance is as warm and sultry as its title suggests, a hymn of mystical suggestiveness and beauty crooning the senses before the poem/song A Rosebud In June is hugged and lit by the band. There is another definite Steeleye Span feel to the encounter, Serpentyne being possibly inspired by the formers’ own recording, yet as with all tracks there is little passing time before things develop their own personality and originality.
Myths And Muses is brought to a close by firstly Pastyme With Good Company, an English folk song written by King Henry VIII in the beginning of the 16th century, and finally the medieval sounding Les Garcons De Montagne. Both proposals separate reality from attention with a mystique of the sounds as the joyful and resourceful imagination of Serpentyne soaks every melody, rhythm, and inescapable incitement.
Myths And Muses is pure delight, a proposition everyone should disregard any inbred reticence over, ignoring any assumptions of sound and their seeding. It is basically a rock album from across the ages and without doubt one of the most enjoyable and thrilling encounters we have come across this year.
Myths And Muses is out now digitally and on CD through http://www.serpentyne.com/#!buy-cds/c2267