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image © Kalinkaland Records 2004
the definitive sound of heavenly voices
a band retrospective and album review
Review and HTML © Russell W. Elliot 2004
Photos © Michael J. Schwalm 1993-2004
used with permission
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Last updated: 01 June 2004
Chandeen were brought to the attention of Musical Discoveries' editors by CD Services in Dundee, Scotland during the very early days of our publication. The band's Enyaeseque tune "Strawberry Passion" was one of our first exposures to the heavenly vocals genre that Chandeen so eloquently typified. Further discoveries made through the Heavenly Voices series on Hyperium Records were good, but Chandeen set the high water mark among the artists exposed including Single Gun Theory, Love Spirals Downwards, Stoa and Love Is Colder Than Death. Other artists introduced in the series' volumes II-V include Lacuna Coil, Bel Canto, Claire Voyant and Heather Nova, Rose Chronicles and Within Temptation all of whom have been heavily reviewed at Musical Discoveries since. This band retrospective and review of their last release Pandora's Box is indeed long overdue.
For more than a decade Chandeen have managed to artistically steer clear of the stereotoypes of ethereal music. They have moulded a sound that is distinctly their own and instantly recognisable. With Pandora's Box (Kalinkaland (Germany) CD 94653-V22, 2004) the band once again shows the spectacular, epic and also the calm, melancholic moments of their 12 year history. The album also contains the last two unreleased tracks and shows Chandeen's history from Shaded By The Leaves (Hyperium (Germany) CD 391 0094242, 1994) through Echoes (Kalinkaland (Germany) EFA CD 06679, 2003). The band's final release is a compilation from their dozen year run entitled Pandora's Box (Kalinkaland (Germany) CD 94653-V22, 2004). Our review of the album follows the band's history below, although the running order of the tracks on it does not.
Says songwriter Harald Löwy, "We chose the songs that describe our musical journey. They are bridges of our evolution which was everything else than continuous." While significant change underscores the band's development, longtime silent member Michael J. Schwalm has continued to promote the band through his stalwart maintenance of the band's website, stunning band photos and contributing to graphic design of artwork accompanying Chandeen's CD releases. The mystery woman whose photo is included on the back of the Pandora's Box album is not from Chandeen. Says Harald Löwy, "Her name is Jennaea and she is a model of Pandora's Box photographer Emmanuel Volakis."
Chandeen was founded in 1990 by Oliver Henkel and Harald Löwy. Chandeen's first singer--of Iranian descent--was Aline Akbari, who joined the band in 1991. The second singer, Antje Schulz who would be known as the definitive Chandeen vocalist, joined in 1992. Akbari and Schulz shared vocal responsibilities--as two vocalists almost always would for the life of the band--for the first two years. During the same year Oliver Rosch, founder of Hyperium Records, heard Chandeen and offerred them a contract. The group went to record their debut album Shaded By The Leaves, but without Aline Akbari who left the band some weeks before they signed their contract.
We asked a bit more about the band's first vocalist whom we've never heard. Harald remarks, "Well, she was the *first* Chandeen singer from 1991 to 1993 and she wrote a lot of lyrics on Shaded By The Leaves including "Journey to The Land of Wisdom" and "Silent Gods." Her spirit accompanied Chandeen for the first years, even after she left the band, because she was a real poet and she gave our songs meaning." Catrin Mallon joined in her place and sang with Antje Schultz on the first Chandeen album. The band's first maxi, "Lumis" (Hyperium (Germany) CD 391 0080316, 1994) was also released. Pandora's Box includes "The World Of Lost And Found," the definitive Antje Schulz track "Scottish Hills" with its unique Celtic instrumentation and the moody "Silent Gods" featuring evocative vocals by both Cartrin and Antje from the band's debut album.
In addition to the primary band members, Chandeen have incorporated lots of material from guests as well. Notable contributions from Dorothea Hohnstedt (German flutes) whose playing contributed extensively to the sound of some of Chandeen's tracks, Harald Gottschalk (guitars, mandolin), Axel Henninger (acoustic guitar) and Michael Schwalm (sampling) began with Shaded By The Leaves, continued through Light Within Time and into The Waking Dream with additional vocals contributed by Ian Javelin. Additional contributions on Spacerider were made by Florian Walther (guitars) and Joi Härich (backing vocals) and on Bikes and Pyramids Klive and Nigel Humberstone (additional sounds). But the band have relied on their gorgeously attractive and stunning vocalists Antje Schulz, Catrin Mallon and Stephanie Härich along with Harald Löwy's incredible songwriting to carry the band through their dozen year career.
In Autumn 1994, Oliver Henkel and Harlad Löwy moved to Jutland, Denmark for six weeks to compose and produce the second album, Jutland (Hyperium (Germany) RTD 391 0122 2, 1995). They created a deeply atmospheric album which had a lasting effect on the complete Germany underground scene. Ecki Stieg, the eye and ear of the scene in 1995 said, "With Jutland, Chandeen created an album which will be a benchmark for all other band's in this genre. This is the best release in several years." Songs like "Ginger" and "Strawberry Passion" made a mark on female vocals enthusiasts and the band's second maxi, "Strawberry Passion" (Hyperium (Germany) RTD 391.0114.3, 1994) drew attention from Enya enthusiasts at the time. The album reached Top Ten peak positions for more than ten weeks in the German independent charts and until this day Jutland remains the most starling and unique of Chandeen's albums. While neither "Ginger" nor "Straberry Passion," two of our personal Chandeen favourites didn't make it onto Pandora's Box the album opens with the moody "At Worlds Edge". Also included are the instrumental "Drift" and stunning acoustic title track tenderly sung by Antje Schulz.
However, new personal problems emerged within the band, problems which already existed during the Jutland sessions. These problems resulted in Catrin Mallon and Oliver Henkel leaving the band in late 1994. The duo went on to form Edera whose evocatively produced album Ambiguous (Cleopatra (USAy) CLP 9805-2, 1996) was released two years later. Elements of Chandeen's ethereal sound certainly emerge in the recording. It's like the other half of Jutland found a musical outlet.
In Spring 1995, vocalist Stephanie Härich joined the band. Six months later the CD-EP "Light Within Time" (Hyperium (Germany) CD RTD 291 0146 2, 1995), was released. It is truly a crossover between Jutland and Chandeen's stunnning full length third album The Waking Dream (Hyperium (Germany) CD 291 0175 2, 1996). Another maxi emerged coincident with the album release entitled "Paippillion (It's Easy To Fly)" (Hyperium (Germany) RTD 391076, 1996) which, with bonus tracks, and the first cover with both vocalists on it, has become a collectors' item. Chandeen toured extensively in 1996, probably the best year to have caught a live show, and became the spearhead of the German Heavenly Voices-romantic scene. Pandora's Box includes the upbeat standout "Before Sunrise" (sung by Antje) and the evocatively performed heart wrencher "To The Wild Roses" (sung by Stephanie) from the album.
In another twist, Chandeen left Hyperium records in 1997 and signed a new contract with SPV. One year later they released their fourth studio album Spacerider-Love At First Sight (Synthetic Symphony (Germany) CD SPV 085-62-72 CD, 1998) and the accompanying single "Spacerider" (Synthetic Symphony (Germany) CD0555-62083, 1998). The material (review) had taken a sharp turn towards pop music, a major departure from the material on The Waking Dream although still grounded in Löwy's arrangements and the tremendous vocal work of Antje and Stephanie.
The album featured new guitar player Florian Walther. It was no coincidence that the music industry had begun to take notice of the potential of Chandeen's music and in late 1998 the band filmed their first video clip, "Skywalking" which was released in early 1999 on a maxi (Synthetic Symphony (Germany) SPV62193 CDS, 1999). The clip got played extensively at MTV and Viva for several weeks and Chandeen received a nomination for the German clip award. While Spacerider might not have been one of the truest recordings to the band's natural style, Pandora's Box includes selections that are natural extensions. "Siren's Call" is an evocative ballad sung by Antje Schulz while the slow-paced and bluesy "Time Walk" sung by Stephanie expresses a different side of Chandeen. Also included is the track "Love At First Sight," the third in a medley made just for the album. Dorothea Hohnstedt's flute provides allusions to the band's earlier sound but thick bass and vocal processing of both singer's voices clearly illustrates the album's departure.
Meanwhile and almost with nobody watching, a "best of" compilation taken from the band's Hyperium releases entitled A Taste Like Ginger (Cleopatra (USA) CLP 0197-2, 1998) was quietly released. The album also included a couple of live bonus tracks released previously on maxis only. In the spring of 1999 Chandeen began to tour again, while Harald Löwy founded his own record label Kalinkaland Records. The band continued along the axis of Spacerider with some references to their earlier material and released the fifth album (review/interview) Bikes and Pyramids (Kalinkaland (Germany) EFA CD 01353, 2002) in the fall of 2002, the last album to feature Stephanie Härich who had quietly left the band prior to the album's completion. A maxi entitled "My World Depends On You" (Kalinkaland (EFA CD CDM 01352, 2002) with typical Chandeen bonus material was released to accompany the album. That only one track, "The Spacerider Legend," a light atmospheric keyboard-laced instrumental within the medley of the album, appears on Pandora's Box is perhaps a statement that Bikes and Pyramids was the most radical departure from the Chandeen sound in the band's release history.
Chandeen released their sixth studio album in 2003. The album almost snuck up on enthusiasts and it was only after listening to the material that the departure of Stephanie Härich became public knowledge within the Chandeen fan community. Echoes (Kalinkaland (Germany) EFA CD 06679, 2003) was the returning to Chandeen's roots: the meditative, romantic part of their music became the center of their influence again (review/interview). "Echoes is an album full of energy," Harald Löwy remarks. "It sparkles and glows and has the sould which we missed in our later projects." Pandora's Box includes the everso gentle heavenly vocals ballad "A Dream Within A Dream" and the equally delicate title track, laced with Antje's lovely harmonies from the album.
So where is everybody now? Harald says, "Well unfortunately we have no regular contact anymore, but of course I know that Antje sings in several different projects, like In Strict Confidence and Janus. She was even on tour with In Strict Confidence in February ." He continues, "But I guess she does not write songs anymore."
We asked Harald about the two previously unreleased tracks. He told us, "Breathing Spirit is sung by Stepnanie. "Tides of Live" is sung by Antje." He continued, "These two tracks are the last unreleased NEW recordings of Chandeen. We finished the last additional tracks only a few months ago. The lyrics of "Tides of Live were written by Aline Akbari, the first Chandeen singer years ago." Clearly Chandeen have come full circle.
"Breathing Spirit" is a rich and rather long track that includes dense arrangements similar to those on The Waking Dream with the power and depth to support Stephanie's soaring vocals. It is indeed characteristically Stephanie--experienced listeners will certainly understand the comment. The album concludes with Antje's rendition of "Tides Of Life," an mid-tempo percussive guitar-based number. We were especially pleased with the clarity of the vocal production highlighting the tenderness of Antje's evocative voice throughout, even in the harmonies, although the production quality of the instrumentals is equally superb.
And that brings us conclude our article on to Pandora's Box the stunning compilation of the band's dozen years. We could say that Antje Schulz and Harald Löwy were Chandeen, because they may not be making music together anymore. But their songs live on beyond that, in a delicate timeless way. And that's illustrated on this final release, a compendium of the classic Chandeen sound, tender vocals and delicate instrumentation.
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