Seven Reizh - Strinkadenn'Ys

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4408.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 73:40:00

It's been way too long that this little gem has been waiting to be reviewed. Probably the large size of the packaging was the main reason why it escaped my attention, as I didn't stack it with the other, "normal" releases. Fact is, this album was originally released by the band Seven Reizh itself, in a limited run of 2000 copies, housed in a real book containing the story, lyrics, and beautiful designs on thick, glossy paper. Obviously the Pentateuch release of Dave Greenslade springs to mind. No need to say this production must have cost the band an arm and a leg, yet it immediately placed them on the map as being enormously professional and dedicated. Only now the CD itself, minus the book, has been released by Musea as well, because for some people the original package became a costly experience, although, to be honest, it is worth every cent. People now have the choice between the Musea release, or forking out a little extra in order to obtain a true work of art directly from the band (see website below).

Now, what about the music? Sung in the French Breton dialect, the story of Strinkadenn Ys comes to you told on the back of the flying gryphon! It's a mixture of lush symphonic textures and folky elements, placing the result in the same department as IQ meets Dan Ar Braz with loads of Pink Floyd references woven throughout. Conceived by Gérard Le Dortz, who wrote the lyrics, and Claude Mignon, who wrote the music, the duo for a long time dreamed about writing a true rock opera, written in the Breton language. In the beginning, a demo was made together with singer Bleunwenn, a girl who is often to be found alongside folk band Tri Yann. Even when this release looks very impressive, it is even more impressive knowing it's the first part of a trilogy. Strinkadenn Ys tells the legend of Enora, a stone-cutter whose old hands give life to the hard granite used to build cathedrals. In between beauty and horror, love and despair, she follows an initiation which almost feels like pure science fiction before it takes her to the deep of the city of Ys (AtlantYS?)

Featuring the brothers Gwendall, Konan and Gwenhaël Mével, the latter two who, together with Gurvan Mével form the band Kad (formerly known as Kadwaladyr), it is needless to say that the Celtic elements are strongly present, resulting in a nice balance between folk and rock, between old and new. The opening track "Selaou" is a perfect example of this, alternating midi Uillean pipes with guitar and choir before the music stops, giving way to a dreamy sequence featuring the fragile vocals of Bluenwenn, who sings the part of Enora, and a guitar, which evokes the best of Pink Floyd. The female voice sounds like a siren when combined with acoustic guitar during "Dornskrid" and switches towards a tribal dance in "Sovajed a-feson." "Hybr'Ys" kicks off like an outtake from Minimum Vital or, better still, Vital Duo, delivering nice touches of medieval inspiration on the guitar backed by stunning piano and arpeggios. Pity it doesn't last too long though. Not really sure whether at all the bagpipes at the end of "Kan K?r'Ys" work with the rest of the music. It's as if Sir Paul McCartney offered Seven Reizh a leftover from his Mull Of Kintyre session!

Whilst the sound of seagulls underline the coast effect, "Linvadenn" also includes an Arabian feel gliding over the repetitive pattern, but then again, singer Farid Aït Siameur has his own band Tayfa that offers a mix between Celtic and Berber influences. The sound of a telephone suddenly links the story with a contemporary feel, which is highlighted by a Genesis-like rock feel. Especially when the flute is introduced, the atmosphere of "Tad Ha Mamm" really goes towards vintage Gabriel-era Genesis before evolving into authentic Camel. The intro for "Enora Ha Ma¨l" sounds very industrial, as if Enora is taking an elevator to descend towards the city of Ys, but then wonderful strings come and greet you leading towards dramatic soundscapes. One of the main themes is then repeated on synth, giving way to an array of different atmospheres in order to lead towards authentic Genesis once again with "Mall Eo Monet Da Ys" the final part of this stunning album and the conclusion to the story. After a couple of minutes of silence you hear what is apparently the recording of the sequence with the telephone, resulting in a hilarious situation between Bleunwenn and the studio engineer. Not really sure what it does on this album but I'm sure it means a lot more to the people involved in the making of this disc!

Lovers of Pink Floyd, Camel, Kad, XII Alfonso, Enya, Loreena McKennit and/or traditional folk like Tri Yann or Dan Ar Braz will marvel when they hear this album. Twenty one years after Alan Stivell's La Symphonie Celtique Seven Reizh has delivered yet another masterpiece of French music. It's up to you to decide whether you'll go for the music or for the complete "arty" package. Whatever your decision you won't regret it!

[By the way, the late science-fiction/fantasy author Poul Anderson has a series of books set in Ys, under the overall title The King Of Ys. The CD/Book version available from the band only. {as of 12/2008, this and the live CD Samsara have been reissued} -ed.

Selaou (10:17) / Dornskrid (3:10) / Sovajed A-Feson (6:02) / Naer Ar Galloud (6:49) / Hybr'Ys (9:35) / Kan Ker'Ys (6:25) / Linvadenn (5:03) / Tad Ha Mamm (8:02) / Enora Ha Maël (4:40) / Mall Eo Monet Da Ys (8:50)

Bleunwenn - vocals (Enora)
Gwendall Mével - flute
Claude Mignon - electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards
Gérard Le Dortz - concept, design, vocals
Konan Mével - midi Uillean pipes
Farid Aït Siameur - vocals (Maël)
Gurvan Mével - drums, percussion
Olivier Carole - bass
Bagad Penhars - arrangements
Gwenhaël Mével - trombone, flute
Cyril Froger - vocals
Thierry Chassang - recording, mix, mastering

Strinadenn Ys (2001)
Samsara (2006)

150907 Live (DVD) (2007)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin FR

Added: November 25th 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1525
Language: english


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