SERPENTYNE – Myths & Muses
aaamusic | On 28, Apr 2015
The Middle Ages are not over yet. They still survive, suspended in an underground limbo populated by an imaginary of symbols, myths and legends. Now and again, they come to light inspiring artistic works and revealing an enviable originality, despite the centuries on their shoulders. The latest work released by the London-based sextet Serpentyne can be easily ascribed to this commemorative process, but it also represents a step forward compared to similar Medieval-revival albums.
Next to a deep musical research and an absolute devotion to the historical period, the ensemble captained by the multi-instrumentalists Maggie-Beth Sand, adds contemporary elements, state-of-the-art arrangements and peculiar accessories, which give vigor and brilliance to their second album: Myths & Muses.
In this way, side by side with classical instruments like the cittern, the hurdy-gurdy and even the citole (the Medieval guitar), the band present modern ones like synthesizers and keyboards or exotic like the didgeridoo, the bouzouki and the bağlama (a Near Eastern lute).
But, it is when considering Serpentyne’s attitude that their artistry jumps out at you. The band members have finally become the authors of their music and lyrics: they are still moving from a lost in time period and its repertoire of images and characters; but, unlike their first work Stella Splendens, they’ve decided to update those themes and to transpose them in the current age.
Doing so, next to revising 15th century traditional tunes like ‘Je Vivroie Liement’ and ‘Gaudete’, Myths & Muses also discloses original ones. For example, the opening tune, ‘Boudicca’ which is, as the band explains, “a tale about the Queen of the Iceni tribe, who bravely led an uprising against the Romans in Essex”, can also be easily identified as an epitome of a modern heroin and the female self-determination and emancipation.
While ‘Alexandria’ is an intriguing blend between Middle Eastern textures with a more Western oriented vocalising. The outcome is an atmospheric ballad able to instill a dreamy “Arabian Nights” effect in the listener.
Despite old Norse mythological themes (‘The Valkyries’ and ‘Freya’s Firedance’), Occitan music patterns (‘Les Garcon de Montagne’) and omnipresent Celtic references are still crucial elements when considering the band’s inspiration, what deeply marks the ensemble’s new compositions is the addition of a decisive electronic environment, which rejuvenates and revamps Serpentyne’s artistry.
In this way, Myths & Muses outwits the genre’s borders: if on one hand, it still bewitches Medieval music fans with its traditional music outlook, on the other, thanks to its unpredictability, its eccentricity and its alluring dancey moments, it can easily intrigue music lovers at large.