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Werkraum - Early Love Music

Werkraum have matured considerably since Unsere Feuer Brennen! their debut release on Cold Spring. Early Love Music follows Kristalle, their first foray into folk music and continues to draw upon traditional, mediaeval and psychedelic folk music. On Early Love Music Werkraum offer 14 stunning compositions with lyrics culled from disparate sources alongside Werkraum versions of songs by Donovan and Steeleye Span.

Once again Axel Frank, as Werkraum, has enlisted the help of Antje Hoppenrath, Nicholas Tesluk and R.N. Taylor of Changes, Nick Nedzynski of Lady Morphia, with lesser roles for Max Percht, Herr Wind and Hajü of Sturmpercht and Chris Nedzynski (also of Lady Morphia) who make their inaugural appearance within Werkraum. It's a strong supporting cast and Axel Frank does well to ensure that their participation doesn't overshadow his own work. It's interesting to note that Axel Frank didn't author any lyrics herein and provides the lead vocals on only two tracks. His key role is to provide the music and arrangements and marshal the talents of the individuals involved. That he does and does it so well is testament to his vision of Werkraum. Of course, you can detect the presence of Changes and Lady Morphia on their contributions but the output is sufficiently distinct to be pure Werkraum. Though on some of the tracks I'm reminded of the work of Michael Cashmore.

With finger picked guitar, strings and bodhran percussion Early Love Music opens with a cover version of Donovan's 'Beware the Jabberwock!' sung by Nicholas Tesluk in his deep warm tones. 'La Marmotte' and 'Der Schmeid' display a distinctive Werkraum sound: a captivating combination of guitars, whistles and recorders, with a rich assortment of voices lead by the gorgeous refined vocals of Antje Hoppenrath. It touches upon folk rock which isn't too surprising as 'Der Schmeid' is a retelling of Steeleye Span's 'The Blacksmith'. 'Une Jenne Fillette' and 'Slafest du, Vriedel Ziere?' capture a mediaeval feel with their use of archaic stringed instruments and recorders. At times with the massed voices and string sections they almost become religious songs from another era.

'Santy Ano' sung by Lady Morphia's Nick Nedzynski is much more in the vein of traditional folk; a jaunty nautical ballad about sailors destined for California in the heady days of the goldrush. The contributions from Changes tap into a sort of West Coast acid folk sound. On 'Song For Erik' Nicholas Tesluk's deep resonant tones deliver compassionate words from a father to his wayward son over intricate guitar picked sounds, bookended by a dreamy wurlitzer intro and outro. With the melodic voice and familiar quick strum 'The Dream' could almost be a Changes song but here it's accompanied by wah-guitar and wonderous sixties styled organ stabs swathed in huge slabs of synthesizers as it sets off into psychedelic territory. Tesluk's compatriot in Changes, Robert N. Taylor also finds himself in psychedelic terrain on 'Beyond The Evening Star' his commanding voice set amidst ringing electric guitars, accordion drone and piano chords. These rich arrangements offer a wonderful contrast to the plaintive acoustic folk of Changes.

The entire release is tied together by Axel Frank's distinctive guitar playing and the continual use of whistles, recorders and flutes that weave subtle melodies throughout. But there's so much more. Axel's guitar picks and melodic vocal on 'Ein Lied von Leib und Tren' is buttressed by bodhran percussion and accompaniment that alternates between accordion and whistles. Folk tinged dreamy interludes are provided by 'Allgemach' with spoken voice by Max Percht, and 'The Smiling of the Rose' where Herr Wind supplies a short vocal passage amidst zithers and glockenspiel.

Early Love Music is a wonderfully diverse release that truth be told only touches upon neo-folk once - and that's confined to the final track 'Sanctity and Steel'. Don't be fooled by reviews that speak of Werkraum as a neo-folk outift Early Love Music is firmly rooted in folk music and in the branches that have blossomed henceforth. Of course Early Love Music will be taken to the hearts of Changes, Lady Morphia and Sturmpercht listeners though it's one that can be shared by many others as Early Love Music embraces acid-folk, folk-rock and much else besides and is a delight for all discerning folk listeners. Recommended.

Apart from the standard CD Early Love Music is available as a double vinyl set and as a deluxe edition. The vinyl set is contained within a gatefold sleeve with insert. The vinyl edition includes 15 tracks, with some alternate mixes and 1 bonus track. The vinyl edition is released in an edition of 500 copies. Copies of the deluxe edition featuring the CD in a colour printed wooden box, with additional 4 track 3-inch CD in a special wooden tray are still available in limited numbers. The deluxe edition is limited to 300 copies only. For more information go to www.geocities.com/ahnstern or www.steinklang-records.at