Eight years after the release of their debut album, ZiRP, the fusion folk band hailing from Dresden, Germany, comes back with Circle Divine, mixing rock, pop, jazz and dance music with the folkish sound of the hurdy-gurdy.
Named after the German word for the chirp of crickets and related insects, ZiRP was founded by one of the most recognizable hurdy-gurdy players in the scene, Stephan Groth (Faun, Folk Noir), and by guitar player Olaf Peters. The two were soon joined by drummer Florian M. Fügemann (ex-Stilbruch). Together, the trio recorded their debut album in 2012, Drehvolution (named after the German word for the hurdy-gurdy, “Drehleier”).
Today, the original lineup still remains, but with the addition of bass player Florian Kolditz, who even contributed to two songs from the debut as a guest musician, coming to join the band that same year.
The abilities shown by Stephan in ZiRP were actually what caught the attention of Faun’s Oliver S. Tyr, leading to his invitation into the band soon after.
Like Drehvolution, Circle Divine is an instrumental album, focusing — but far from restricting itself — on the power of the hurdy-gurdy as the lead instrument, resorting to various effects in order to explore its limits. It opens with the uplifting 5-4-O, promptly showing us listeners the power of the hurdy-gurdy at the forefront. However, Stephan’s prowess with the instrument do not obfuscate the contribution given by the drums, the bass and the guitar. They mark the rhythm, open the way for all the experimentation with the hurdy-gurdy, while bringing elements from the multiple musical genres that influenced ZiRP’s compositions.
The title-track is another one among my favorites. It starts with a very beautiful guitar introduction, soon joined by the hurdy-gurdy. The harmony between the two instruments create a dreamy atmosphere, interchanging itself with more pop and rock sounding parts. This is one of the tracks where where we can capture more clearly the individual contributions of each of the instruments, without giving up on the band’s hurdy-gurdy signature leading role. We even have a Wah effect for the hurdy-gurdy that will certainly please even the most demanding of the electric guitar fans. Circle Divine also features Elisabeth Coudoux on the cello, enriching one of the most varied songs of a very diverse (albeit coherent) album.
See also: Interview with Le Garçon de l’Automne
On Kaleidoskop, Stephan puts his hurdy-gurdy aside to show another one of his talents, by playing the low whistle. It has an idyllic feel to it that contrasts with both its aforementioned predecessor, and its follow-up, Zirpelloise, a more pop/rock sounding tune.
Next, comes Mosaic, starting off with the epic sound of the French horn played by guest musician Jan Rix, setting the listener on an heroic journey of sorts. It then builds into melodies that definitely make you feel like you are facing and overcoming many adventures and challenges along your path. This is even more evident when you get to the point where the song reaches a more solemn tone, led by both Kolditz’s bass and Stephan’s hurdy-gurdy, before bursting into the more adventurous melodies.
Mosaic is so rich in contrasts that it is — even if deprived of the spoken word — truly a piece of storytelling by ZiRP. The song also features the cellist Elisabeth Coudoux, as well as Stephan’s “brother-in-arms” from Faun, Rüdiger Maul, on percussion.
Odd Bourrée is one of the songs where we can better feel ZiRP’s influences from rock music, while Moon Mazurka is a beautiful ballad… but, what about a single track that mixes many genres in itself? This is the case of the lengthiest of them all, Uhrovec. It starts medievalesque, gets groovy, dancy, dreamy, while still having the folkish feel to it. A very interesting blend of styles.
Circle Divine is a testament to what these talented musicians are able to do, letting the virtuose of Stephan’s hurdy-gurdy at the forefront, while also allowing the individual skills of Olaf, Fügemann and Kolditz to shine in every single piece. ZiRP takes the experimentation even further from what we can hear on their debut, blending even more daringly the medieval with the modern.
- Florian Kolditz (electric bass, double bass)
- Olaf Peters (guitar, cittern)
- Florian Manuel Fügemann (drums, percussion, sampler)
- Stephan Groth (hurdy-gurdy, low whistles, piano)
- Rüdiger Maul (percussion – # 6, 7, 10)
- Elisabeth Coudoux (cello – # 3, 6)
- Jan Rix (French horn – # 6)
2. Bourrée Inkarnation
3. Circle Divine
7. Seven Flow
8. Odd Bourré
9. Moon Mazurka
11. Low Lights