Mediaeval Baebes – The Rose

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

Down to a nontet from the original 12, the Mediaeval Baebes continue to make music of beguiling beauty. Combining their collectively cosmopolitan background with the talents of instrumentalist Dorothy Carter, the Baebes have crafted a career best album that even supersedes 2000’s John Cale-produced UNDRENTIDE.

Although they do sing traditional mediaeval songs, the majority of their compositions are their own creations, poems set to Mediaeval music and sung in a variety of languages (Latin, Middle English, Mediaeval French, German, Italian and, on this album, Mediaeval Welsh and Russian).

As with their previous three albums, the harmonies are breathtaking, and many of the songs are driven by rousing percussion (courtesy of Trevor Sharpe, like the Baebes’ founder and musical director Katherine Blake, a member of goth band Miranda Sex Garden), but this time they are accompanied by more lush arrangements – harp, cello, dulcimer and all manner of mediaeval instruments fill the sound out to give it an epic scope.

The crossover potential of this album is huge. The Mediaeval Baebes have reached the top of the classical charts with little effort, and I am sure THE ROSE will be no exception, but it will also appeal to the many fans of bands like Dead Can Dance and Delerium (with whom they collaborated on their last album POEM).

It’s worth noting that, bizarrely, the Mediaeval Baebes will be sharing the bill at Vancouver’s NewMusicWest 2002 in May with Bill Leeb of Delerium’s other main band, industrial electro-terrorists Front Line Assembly- now how’s that for crossover?

5 stars