The German all-female band Die Irrlichter were a huge blip on our medieval radar for some time. And pretty prominently so. This band continues to fascinate this crew with their melodious style and pretty authentic representation of how medieval music ought to sound. Unless other bands that lose themselves in archaic stomping and howling.
Zaubergarten is the (still) newest and 7th studio album of this band. And it had me hooked right from the beginning. Whilst many of their contemporaries go down the leafy path to arcane wisdom or pleasure themselves with abject salaciousness, the girls around Brigitta Jarischek this time really managed to impress me.
Okay, admitted. In the dire beginnings of Die Irrlichter, the tone was indeed still somewhat lighter. But then they added quality and – indeed – complexity to their tune. With Aventiure in 2006 probably taking the lead. Especially this mixture of German and archaic or foreign language texts continues to hook me. With an artful representation with melodies that are soft, yet forceful.
There’s a reason why this band won several prizes already. Like the 5th Falkensteiner Minneturnier in 2010. And that’s a victory to reckon with. As the lore goes, mostly male protagonists usually dominated that contest. But it appears that they were able to impress the jury and go for the top spot.
Zaubergarten is one of their best records so far. With Rauhnächte as a close second. The professionalism apparent on this new disc is – for sure – a new one. Speaking to the quality is the fact that most songs are at least four minutes of length. It is today indeed so that many bands go for bit-size lengths of their tracks to please radios and labels. This is where the iron rule of 3 minutes maximum applies.
But this is luckily not the case here.
Yet, to my displeasure, Zaubergarten starts with Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas. A palindrome that gets endlessly repeated for the length of the track. Well – hells bells – this is not good and will certainly cost them a point or so on the final rating. Even if they present it in a magic quadrant, which – I guess – should counter the rampant sleep attacks this track induces.
Luckily, this assault of abject boredom improves itself massively with this superb interpretation of the Lorscher Bienensegen, an old magic spell from the 10th century no less, depending on the source. A spell that should prevent bees from flying off to the woods and keeping all that honey for themselves, the animals.
As of then, Zaubergarten really lets loose.
Die Irrlichter‘s interpretation of the Merseburger Zaubersprüche is yet another highlight. The one rapping about the Idisi, which also got some attention from Heilung lately. Another noteworthy track is Bergtrollets Frieri, often presented by the name of Herr Mannelig. You might have guessed it. Both of those themes already saw a number of interpretations. But my hat goes off to Die Irrlichter for their thoughtful versions.
Die Nixen (the mermaids) tells a story of a valiant knight who pretends to sleep whilst being kissed by the mermaids. That’s when you really want to be a brave knight. Life’s good, even when you sleep. A poem by Heinrich Heine, by the way.
One of my favorite tracks is Thora und der Lindwurm. Okay, I admit it. The story is a bit simple and simplistic. A sort of a guilty pleasure, from an Icelandic saga.
Oh, and what’s that?
On Die Fee (the fairy) all of a sudden manly voices appear. And indeed, Die Irrlichter produced that track together with Die Streuner, written by Don Martino. The piece consists of some sort of a dialogue between the fairy and her one-night stand. What was that again about salacious content? Ahem.
In the end, Zaubergarten indeed turns out to be the strongest album of Die Irrlichter. A few mishaps notwithstanding, I did not detect any filler material worthy of that denomination. None of the tracks is bad and, apart from the dire beginnings, there’s never a dull moment. The whole record gorges with variation and refreshing content.
Well, now we definitely lust for their next album. Let’s just hope that the band will not take yet another gazillion years or so to produce something meaningful.
Good work, ye girls of Die Irrlichter. Keep it up and do make sure to send us your new album once it is ready.
Ed’s note: This is a new edition of an old post formerly written in German.