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The medieval band Estampie was formed by members Syrah (Sigrid Hausen), Michael Popp and Ernst Schwindl in 1985.  This marked the beginning of a very remarkable musical career for these musicians.  Over the next two decades they would play live in shows and festivals all over Europe.  All of these career building opportunities really set the stage for making a name for Estampie.

It's now more than twenty years later and the band is ready to break ground in other parts of the world.  They have licensed their latest releases Signum and Die Stimme Des Mittel Alters which is their "Best of" album in North America with Noir Records.  This move will further solidify their career as a premiere band focusing on authentic medieval music.  No doubt that listeners in Europe will have heard of this band and are familiar with their style.  However, it's probable that not many in North America were very familiar with this band before these releases.  So for those that are not, it's time to stand up and take note of their unique style and talents.  This group takes their music seriously and researches every piece and instrument to try to make sure they are authentic.  This research and hard work has paid off with their impressive discography including eight albums, each one exploring a new theme that is related to some part of medieval life.

Fans of Corvus Corax, Irfan, Dead Can Dance and their side project Qntal will love this band.  Be sure to check them out and pick up their music.  In the meantime you can hear selections on Gothic Paradise radio.

Best Of Estampie (1986 - 2006)

It's truly a pleasure and a humbling experience to hold this album in my hands and to listen to it over and over again. I am truly in awe of the many albums, hard work and talent that has gone into the career of this group over twenty years and here we have a truly great piece of work to show just a taste of what they've done over the years.  The album comes with a booklet containing a history of the group in English, German and Spanish giving some great information about the band and what they've gone through over the years to come to the point they're at now.  Along with the great packaging we have the eighteen excellent selections to show the work from their awe-inspiring career.

It's interesting to sit down and listen to the music and read through their history to see how they worked hard to do their own thing without copying any other movement or group, but to just try and use their own research and talents to start out making their medieval music.  Each selection is truly a masterpiece from each of their albums with "Disse mi" kicking it all off with that smooth and beautiful music and vocal combination.  The text is all traditional with Syrah taking lead on many of the vocals but with male vocals and the entire group lending their talents from time to time for a full mixture and excellent rendition of each piece.

As a fan of ethereal goth music, those pieces that lean towards these stills often stand out the most in my mind, but the entire album is a real gem.  However, I'll touch on some highlights including the already mentioned "Disse mi" which starts it all off.  I think the somber, somewhat melancholy approach to "Palastinalied" is a definite favorite from this album and most readers will recognize this piece as a club-friendly track from Qntal or The Soil Bleeds Black among others.  The heavenly vocals on "Bluemenrot" and others are beautiful and almost haunting in nature, but truly captivating.  "Al Jorn" and "A voi gente" are two pieces that I've grown to love from Signum and so it was a pleasure to hear them on this release.  I couldn't leave out "O Fortuna", which isn't exactly what you would expect based on the name, but is still powerful and moving and is one where the male vocals take the lead.

With eighteen pieces it would take me several more paragraphs to cover each track and it's unique nature and elements that lend to the completeness of this disc.  It's really a great work and I'll leave it with that and simply say that this is a great opportunity for anyone to pick up a great history of this band, especially if you don't already have the other albums previously released, but even then it's a great collectors item for die-hard fans that can't be missed.

Rating: 4/5

Signum - Review

This latest album from Estampie explores many facets of medieval life.  The overall themes focus on death and the fragility of life along with the expectation of the apocalypse based on the Christian religion at the time.   Containing sixteen excellently composed tracks with these texts and lasting nearly an hour, this album is a journey through time and the various aspects of medieval life.  Along with the great music, the CD comes with an excellent twenty page booklet containing texts and information in Latin, German and English along with some great artwork to really bring the music home.  Look through the booklet while you're listening and it really makes the entire experience complete.

"Al Jorn - Alonso" kicks off the album sounding like a beautiful piece from a monastery or cathedral right out of the middle ages.  The texts associated explain "On judgement day, all who served God justly will be richly rewarded".  This is just a taste of the great album that lies ahead.  "A Voi Gente" is easily one of my favorites as it builds on a steady slow beat and Syrah's beautifully smooth angelic vocals.  The excellent instruments and composition will make any Dead Can Dance fan swoon on this track.  In fact, many tracks on this album will really appeal to fans of this type of music with a mixture of choral and solo siren-like vocals.  "Alle Psallite" and "Razon" are a few of a number of tracks along these lines of the slow and melodic music with a number of excellent authentic sounding instruments.

Fans of Corvus Corax will love a number of other tracks on this album.  Many of these have a fast-paced beat, heavy on the percussion and a number of bag-pipes and other fun instruments.  "Trotto" is one of these starting off with excellent percussion and moving right into a melodic combination of flutes, pipes and other authentic instruments for a festive collection of music.  "Sine Nomine" picks up in much the same way without the percussion, but begins fast-paced and just gets faster as the song progresses until at the end you can hardly keep up with the pipes and it's hard to imagine the work and talent it takes to actually play the music at this pace.

There are two other parts to "Al Jorn" throughout the album, one as a sort of interlude and the last version as a finale to the album.  This is a perfect way to end the album musically and lyrically.

Once again this band has proven their worth and now the North American audience can get a taste of their great music.  Wherever you are, go out and pick up this album.

Rating: 4.5/5

Label: Noir Records (Division of Dancing Ferret Discs)

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