Friday, 9 October 2009

THE FIRST RING Vol. 1 [V/A]



Band: MANWE and URUK HAI
Title: The First Ring Volume 1 - A Musical Journey Into The World Of Tolkien
Format: Private CD pressing by Notturno (Fabien) on his own label (NOT1) in 2009, and available from http://www.myspace.com/notturno69. A compilation CD of 12 tracks of Tolkien-inspired magic and mystery...
Edition: Only 1,000 unnumbered copies

Track Listing:

01. Uruk Hai * Fangorn 4.13
02. Ethel Ivrin * Cold Blue Skies
03. Ainulindale * The Parting
04. Yak * Aragorn
05. Galadhrim * Mormegil
06. Minhyriath * Grohind
07. Herg * Laketown
08. Numenor * Once We Are Kings
09. Fauns * Gunievien
10. Manwe * Great Spirit 3.45
11. Faangrull * Sauron Was Here
12. Jim Kirkwood * Cirith Ungol

This CD is one of the more recent acquisitions in Nazgul's horde, and to be truthful with you it wasn't on the list of items to be posted on the Blog quite so soon - but eventually Nazgul had to bite the bullet and realise that it's such a good album that it would be quite unfair not to feature it in the Blog as to delay might limit your chances of being able to lay your hands on one of only 1,000 units being pressed. And so here it is!

Wonderful in all ways - as a homage to Tolkien, as a compilation of emotive and eclectic music, and in its design and execution - you could be mistaken for thinking that this is the work of a seasoned hand in the CD business. But no - Notturno is (and I don't think he'd mind me saying this) essentially a fan first, and a party in the music business second.

Nazgul was fortunate enough to exchange a few emails on the release of this momentous album, focusing primarily (of course) on the connection with Hugin's two projects. So here, with suitable fanfare and rolling out of red carpets, is another HonourAndDarkness exclusive interview with the man behind "The First Ring":

Q1: Can you tell Nazgul a little about how your The First Ring project got started- it's origin and what you were trying to achieve?

A1: "The debut of this project is a misunderstanding between Alex and me! I wrote him many emails to ask about his projects and new music. One day , he said to me that I could continue to ask, but also to help him with it! This was a strange, a new idea : to help a musician …me, who is not musician, and not a professional in this business …but why not!?

So how to help Alex, and why not to help other musicians too? In time the concept to make a compilation CD was born. I knew Alex would always be there to help me, and he appreciated too the idea to widen this idea to other groups and musicians. I started to see whether indeed others would be interested in a compilation - the answers were positive and with this compilation seemed animated by creative spirit and thus far from being a simple compilation."

Q2: When did you first come across Alex's music?

A2: "It’s not really by chance … I've been a fan of music inspired by Tolkien for a long time (perhaps 15 years), so one day or the other I was to going to discover Alex! In fact It is in fact by wanting to seek out his music that I ended up finding his email, and contacting him. Quickly I started to buy his music directly from him and I became a fan."

Q3: Which project of his (Uruk Hai, B-Machina, Hrossharsgrani, Manwe etc etc) is your favourite, and do you have a favourite track / album of his?

A3: "URUK HAI, alright! I also have bought his other projects where the music focuses on Tolkien. As for Hrossharsgrani, Manwe etc I've not listened to all of these projects! Since I’m a Tolkien music fan I've not the time really to listen all his music …sorry, lol! My favorite album: it's impossible to answer you because each time Alex makes a better album. So my preferred album: the next One!"

Q4: How did the plan to record together happen?

A4: "Being neither a musician, nor a music professional, I had no part in the recording. My role was to negotiate the music with the groups participating (and the same for the Vol 2…) . I wanted to make possible the inclusion in the compilation of the maximum of new music. For that I ran up against impossibilities : money , label, time to record new music. Each group maximised their input to help me, and using the most interesting songs the only other role that I had was to harmonize the CD, and to master it for a better final sound."

Q5: How did the tracks Alex contributed to this album come to be - did you give him a specific concept or theme to work to, or did he compose with you?

A5: "It was my dream but sadly impossible! With volume 2 there is the same problem. Making a personal concept album with many different groups is a pure phantasm. The only way is to use Tolkien as inspiration To have the possibility of managing a specific concept, it would be necessary that I ask each group to return to studio to make 'such or such' music ! With 12 groups on volume 1 ,and more than 20 on volume 2 … well, I’m not Gandalf !!"

Q6 Are you planning to record anything further together?

A6: "Yes…and no, lol! Because as I said ,this is one of my dreams! And I know I've a few enemies : the time …the money, etc. With my family and my work too, I've hope that not I will find time one day to make this dream: to make a label to produce groups. But this dream is more accessible: to make a label of my project, and to try to help other group - Alex, like others, are often in search of label, a matter which I would like to assist with enormously. But time is important to make this project interesting. If volume 1 and volume 2 go well I've another dream too: to make the third instalment not a CD or a DVD but a summer festival in France, in 2011,with 5/6 groups..."

Q7: What would you say about Alex and/or his work for the benefit of the HonourAndDarkness blog readers?

A7: "Firstly, I’m very, very surprised to see this blog ! I knew of it before you [Nazgul] contacted me, but Alex's music is not simple music, and it takes time to discover his music properly - like the Tolkien books! I’m really happy to know that I’m not the one to respect the Alex’s work . I like the idea that Alex makes music for all people, not to make money. This is a fan’s music for fans! So my last words are simply these: the best of Alex is coming ...BEWARE! "

Nazgul is delighted to bring you this small interview, and wishes Notturno all the best with his future endeavours.

And so to the music - opening the album is 'Fangorn' from Uruk Hai [in Tolkien's Legendarium, is a forest located in Middle-Earth and is the home of the tree shepherds, the Ents. It was named after the oldest Ent, Treebeard or Treebeard after it (Tolkien does state there is confusion about the two). The Forest of Fangorn provides an important role in the Third Age, a time where Sauron challenged Middle-Earth to battle and domination] and this is almost as much a natural history excursion into the depths of the woods as it is a musical piece!

Plenty of atmospheric bird, creature and nature sounds abound as the listener is taken down dark enclosed pathways and into overgrown glades. Some delicate keyboard touches add a sense of wonder and danger, culminating in a delightful flourish (strongly reminiscent of Ceremony Of Innocence, actually) before the journey is over, all too quickly.

And hail - the return of Manwe! Not seen on vinyl/tape or any other recording medium you could care to shake a stick at for far too long, the track 'Great Spirit' is a very welcome return and whilst brief, is memorable and most enjoyable. Following a rumble of thunder and a slow, deliberate opening melody the track blossoms into a synth-driven piece with echoing distant screams and some very catchy keyboard sections. A promising dimension to what Nazgul hopes is a new era for this seemingly long-forgotten project.

Nazgul would unhesitatingly recommend all readers of this Blog to point their browsers towards Notturno's MySpace page and enquire about the availability of this particular album whilst you can, as Nazgul has a feeling that it may not be around for long. Support of this nature to musicians such as Alex (and indeed, others on this release) is rare and must be supported by humble fans such as ourselves for it to flourish and grow, so we all have a part to play in this.

And when the 2011 festival dates are released, as Nazgul is certain they will be, look for the castle-like pavilion in the field of tents somewhere in deepest France, with pennants snapping brightly from the turrets and ravens circling overhead - for Nazgul will be there!

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