There it is, finally, the new Helium Vola Album “Für Euch, die Ihr liebt”, which we have awaited so impatiently. And here I wrote down my first impressions. Before I start to go into the individual songs, let me summarize by saying it is “WOW”, this album is just marvellous.
Ernst Horn is really a unique guy, he demonstrates that there are more levels of “perfect” than you could imagine. At least I thought the previous Helium Vola albums were already perfect. And they were, but this one is even more. So go and get it, if you have not done this already and listen to it.
The first obvious difference with respect to the other two Helium Vola albums is that in “Für Euch, die ihr liebt” there are no “intermediate” tracks with samples linking the songs. I always liked those a lot but there is no need for them on this album since one song is fitting to the other like the stones of a pyramid. This is probably the reason why the album appeared to me to be quite homogeneous at the beginning - which it is not, there are many different ideas worked out and many new, very interesting and sometimes funny samples (e.g. in “Mar(x)s attacks”) can be found within the songs. In the press releases the two CDs have been already discussed as “twins”. But it is not just like one “light” and one “dark” twin. Both have much more depth and reflect different facets of love (to a person or a people/land) and connected emotions (hope, despair, joy, disgust, anger, etc…).
“A voi che amate”/”Preghiera” is the first twin pair opening the album. The connection between the songs is obvious. It seems to me that the two parts belong to the same piece and were recorded like that.
“Saber d’amor” is already known from the Helium Vola site on MySpace. It is a very catchy tune just as “Nummus” and much more a spring song than “Ecce gratum” (more about this later). “Nummus” relates religion and money in a very obvious way and reminded me of Ernst’s radio play “Greed freedom” which describes capitalism as the religion of our days perhaps in a more subtle way. I wonder which piece was written first. (You can listen to “Greed freedom” and download it from the radio station Bayern2.)
“Oh pescador” and “Mayab” pair nicely the theme of the “dangerous beauty” - the fisherman (not yet) seduced by the mermaid on one side and on the other side the song in Maya-language praising the beautiful Maya country but with the knowledge of murderous rituals performed in this culture. So “Mayab” is followed by (or better: fading into) “Mord” (“murder”). A solo by Joel Frederiksen like “Blow, northerne wynd”, written in Middle English by the famous “Anonymus”. (Some comments about the language can be found here.) Joel Frederiksen is renowned for his interpretations of Early Music and English Renaissance songs. Although his “basso profundo” cannot fully unfold in this particular song as it does in others, this piece seems to be written for him. Man, what a rich voice!
With “Mes longs cheveux”, Gerlinde Sämann gives a very nice interpretation of the piece from Debussy. I feel that her subtle vibrato embodies the shy Mélisande much better than the usual strong one used by opera singers. And I came to think how I would love to see a staging of “Pelléas et Mélisande” (the opera this piece is taken from) by Ernst. I guess, Karlsruhe was probably not the place to do that. “Canta me” — does this piece describe the possible fate of Mèlisande if she had not died young? Being far away from home, yearning for rest and peace?
The dawn (“l’alba”) of the communist movement has probably its origin described in the “Manifest der kommunistischen Partei” (“communist manifesto”) which is part of the song “manifesto”. It was originally published in German and thus, I find it quite remarkable that Ernst chose to use Italian here. (This reminds me somewhat of “mani bianchi” on the DL album “White lies”.) The “manifesto” has been set to music before by the Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff in 1932, who was murdered in 1942 in the “camp for citizens of other states” in Weißenburg/Bavaria. I am sure that one should look into this in more detail since I believe that Ernst knows this piece.
“In so hoher swebender wunne” gave me goose bumps. Andreas Hirtreiter is singing head voice almost throughout the entire song, which creates a very fragile atmosphere. In “Quan lo pet” on the other side he sings several voices himself. The text is very ironic, if not cynical about “love”. And Ernst shows that he can be quite a nasty guy, sampling Maggie Thatcher here ;)
“Friendly fire” and “Ray gun” form again a very obvious pair with nice samples. Indeed Ernst is going crazy here (he called it “auf die Kacke hauen” in one of the interviews). If you have not seen the movie “Mars attacks” - do it. “Ray gun” is much more fun if you realize the connections. “We are friends, do not run!” YIKES!
The two Petrarca poems are the pieces Ernst feared to be a bit difficult (he called it “sperrig”). Well, I believe they are simply marvellous interpretations and great “a capella” pieces with the electronic music somehow “sneaking” in. The singers met this challenge easily. The beautiful creation of tension is covered by the blanket of Boris Benko’s voice in “Escoutatz!” and in “Darkness, darkness”.
“Maienzeit” - a truely wonderful, very sad song with the pain reflected well in the music. If I failed to say anything about Sabine Lutzenberger so far, this is just because it should be unnecessary by now. For those, who do not know the previous albums, it should be said that it is her voice which makes the “Helium” fly and reason alone to get addicted to this music. Goose bumps - just again! The twin of “Maienzeit” is the song “Moorsoldaten”, and the only pairing I do not fully understand - besides the fact that it is a strong interpretation. This song was written in the concentration camp “Börgermoor” in the 1930s (more information can be found here) and always makes me extremely sad. Maybe, the link (besides the deep sadness) is the “winter” which started so soon after the short time of May in the first song, while the “soldiers” in the moor suffer what seems to be an eternal winter, not giving up hope that once it will end. Hmmm, difficult.
Last but not least: “Ecce gratum” appears to me more like a piece about summer with its slow, shimmering and sometimes suffocating heat. (There is a more driving version of this song on the “Sonic seducer” CD. A nice demonstration how easily Ernst can pick up and incorporate trends if he wants to. Like adopting oriental tunes which seems to be “in” right now.) Then again, a light and dancing spring song would not match to “Nuestras vidas” with its rather slow, but nevertheless insistent syncopic rhythm. Each of the singers can once more shine before the chorus finally fades into the sea. It is a worthy completion of this album and gave me - unnecessary to say - goose bumps!