Qntal get’s Medieval on your ass with a heavenly voice and entrancing atmospheres.
When you think about gothic rock, it’s usually images of post-punk bands like Peter Murphy, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy that come to mind. But there’s another strain of that dark, mysterioso sound that draws its inspiration from the real gothic era. Dead Can Dance are the patron saints of this music and among their leading acolytes are Qntal. They’re a band from Germany that’s immersed in ancient times, but is creating a very modern music. Many of Qntal’s musicians are scholars of early music and the band shares many members with a more traditional medieval group, Estampie.
But Qntal is a more contemporary version bristling with modern production and electronic beats. Syrah is the singer of the band. Her real name is Sigrid Hausen which she uses with Estampie. When Michael Popp created Qntal in 1991, he said in an interview for Echoes, that all he needed was a singer who could intone medieval songs in four or five different languages from olde German to Latin.
Michael Popp: Which was not easy to find because most of those singers at that time, they were very puristic and they, for them electronic sounds were just like, like the devil, you know.
It’s a devil that Sigrid Hausen is happy to dance with. Her voice is an enticing, vibrato-less soprano that seems to call out like a siren across the waves. Qntal mixes the medieval and the modern. Michael Popp plays instruments like the oud, the shaum and the baglama, all stringed instruments dating back to the middle ages. But those are mixed with the electronics of Fil who generates grooves and synthesizer textures.
While the music of Qntal won’t make medieval purists happy, Michael Popp says that they always maintain fidelity to their ancient lyrics.
Michael Popp: The lyrics are ancient and this is a law actually. One of our rules we gave to ourselves is that the lyrics are not to be touched, and the music is the opposite. In the music, everything is possible, everything.
Don’t look up a German translation for Qntal or track it down in some medieval tome. Sigrid Hausen says she found it in a dream.
Sigrid Hausen: I really was able to to read it, it was like letters on a ball or something like that. The letters in flames, you know.
Michael Popp [gently teasing]: So she woke up, she was in hell and it was fire around her and out of the fire…
Sigrid Hausen: More or less. (laughter)
Qntal has a half dozen CDs out including Translucida and The Silver Swan on the e-Wave label. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.John Diliberto ((( echoes )))