Silver Swan by Qntal (Imaginosis/Drakkar/Radar/Noir)

Imagine dipping into a lake that gleams from inner light. You are gliding, streaming through melody: all around, water transforms into a sparkling carpet of stars and moons. Such was my experience of diving into Silver Swan, an album swanlike in grace. Avantgarde German Qntal are tagged medieval rock, electro-folk or darkwave, alongside their medieval ensemble Estampie. Exotic instrumentation includes Saz, Shalmei, Ud & Tar, clad in the captivating voice of Syrah (Sigrid Hausen). Eloquent lyrics, derived mostly from historical sources, evoke caprice of elementals, a contradiction implicit in lyrics by Elizabeth I, Monsieur’s Departure: “I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned, / since from myself another self I turned”. Brian Froud’s faery illumination merges with Jens-Peter Rosendahl’s photography, directed by Robert Gould. Thematically it stirs a cocktail from Silver Swan by Orlando Gibbons (1563–1625) and classical myth of Leda and the Swan, to science-fiction fantasy (Stargate Atlantis, Farscape) and Froud’s design for films The Dark Crystal & Goblins of Labyrinth. Special edition carries a bonus disc linking to Froud’s books (Faeries, etc) with CD-Rom. An evocation of swans sets luminosity against ebony. Sumptuous fusion of eastern-western sounds. Syrah’s voice hints at shadows of moss and gloaming. Like that bird whose name it bears, this music heralds constancy in rapids of a shifting music industry.