When Shireen came on my radar some time ago, I was immediately intrigued. The Dutch band brands their music as “witch pop” and basically grew around the grounds of the pagan folk festival Castlefest. With quite a few members coming from that other pagan folk outfit Cesair and the ever so enchanting front lady Annicke embodying everything that you’d expect from a modern day witch inspired by Celtic and pagan heritage they’re quite the magical looking bunch. In 2017 they finally released their debut full-length Matriarch and of course I felt the need to give it a good listen and some much needed spotlight on our site!
One of the things that makes this band so tantalizing, is the overall look and atmosphere they seem to breathe out before even listening to their music. Annicke is always dressed in impressive outfits that she designs herself, often combined with rather interesting make-up and hair dress. The look she manages to create is one of an enchantress with a hit of darkness, which in turn is a perfect match with their overall “witch pop” sound and themes of feminine strength, the beauty & ugliness of life and modern paganism. As promotion for Matriarch they played really well with this, releasing a few songs leading up to the official release date that every time went along with a really cool piece of cover art featuring Annicke in one of her magical outfits…
Now over to the music: many of you might be scared off a bit when seeing the word “pop”, but don’t let that fool you. Yes, as good all of their songs have a certain hit quality, catchiness and accessibility to them that is one of the signature elements of pop music. But they manage to mix the poppy element so well with folk, acoustic rock and electronic beats and samples that it creates a unique vibe of both easy accessible and yet so alternative and special music.
Album opener Running from Wolves is a prime example of that combination. The songs starts with very basic music line with strings and percussion and Annicke‘s beautiful vocals over that. Could’ve been any other pop song, but about half way the song the atmosphere turns a bit. Some of those earlier mentioned beats and samples join the folky/poppy melody and together with Annicke‘s voice getting a bit more of an “edge” to it, the music becomes more ritualistic and powerful in nature. And that goes for the whole album, some songs are more poppy, some more folky and some are more powerful, some more intimate. But all have the same perfect balance to them with the strong vocals of Annicke, carrying loads of emotion and passion. The stories that voice is able to tell is comparable to what singers like Björk and Eivør bring to the table every time they open their mouth.
Throughout history women who had a strong presence and stood up to injustices caught by men, were often branded as witches. To my feeling that feminine power was perfectly translated in God, asking God where his woman is, wondering why the world was ruled by only men. More towards the end of the song you get again that more ritualistic feeling that just breathes confidence and strength. The same can be found in the absolute highlight of the record: Umai. Starting with the sound of an aproaching storm and nothing more than some sparse, intimate feeling music and Annicke‘s voice, it slowly builds up when she starts to repeat “Umai” as some form of incantation or prayer, calling for the presence of the earth-mother goddess the song refers to. Then finally it explodes in a force of pagan folk and a more forceful voice as if the strength of the goddess representing feminine power has taken residence in Annicke. A wonderfully crafted song that shows the greatness of this band.
https://youtu.be/CyWUd5Whh9wVideo can’t be loaded: Shireen – UMAI [official music video] (https://youtu.be/CyWUd5Whh9w)
The rest of the album continues in a similar strong manner with the at first much more calm Tiny Boxes with mostly some very minimal beats, strings and vocals. In some parts you could find some similarities with older work from Chelsea Wolfe. More towards the end the electronic music takes over and the passion grows in Annicke‘s voice, making it yet another impressive track that’ll loosen up emotions with several people I’m sure. The end of Tiny Boxes seems to flow flawlessly into the start of Values in Blood, that has a similar feel to it but this time with a stronger folk side and an ecstasy of voice and music at the end of the song. Bringing you back to a calmer state with Threshold, Shireen carefully fades out and concludes what was a magical trip.
Shireen‘s debut album Matriarch is really a top album for anyone who likes empowering and enchanting pagan inspired music. Their original blend of pop, beats and folk or “witch pop” overflows with passion and beauty and I think I can say that Annicke‘s voice belongs along the unique and great ones from artists like Björk, Eivør and Chelsea Wolfe. An absolutely magical band that needs to be known by more people. I can’t wait to see what the future still brings for these wonderful people.
Release date: November 3rd, 2017
Label: Foxy Records
1. Running from Wolves
2. From Fire
3. Have It So
4. So Human of You questioning humans
5. God feminism
6. Bright as Daylight
8. Umai deity
9. Game of Wits
10. Tiny Boxes
11. Values in Blood