Lief Sjostrom Released a Christmas Record You Should Add to Any Holiday Playlist

By: Norman Hittle

Cellist Lief Sjostrom has just released The Longest Night, an EP of traditional songs centric to winter and the Christmas season, yet far more somber and dark. Take a listen below:

In this collection, arranged by Lief, he performs solely using multiple layers on the cello. At first read this may sound a bit dull, but if you listen to the care he put into these compositions, you’ll soon discover it’s layers of textured plucking, strumming, and slides beneath the more traditionally associated cello sounds.

Lief Sjostrom. Photo Credit: KT Langley

Lief Sjostrom. Photo Credit: KT Langley

The Longest Night is a six-track variation of four more commonly known holiday tunes as well as two far lesser known. But more importantly, Lief’s take on the classics is an interesting divergence in his own melancholic style with compositions that sound like they would fit right at home in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or perhaps in Vikings or on the Skyrim soundtrack. Says Lief, “It’s a darker, more meditative approach to Christmas music. It’s an ode to the darkest time of the year, and a respite from the commercialized joy of Christmas.”  

Aside from this release, Lief put out his full length album Counting Breaths earlier this year, which I absolutely loved and wrote about, so check out that article here.

Keep up with Lief Sjostrom on Facebook and be sure to add him to your extensive holiday playlists!

-Norman

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Denver Cellist & Soundscape Artist Lief Sjostrom Releases New EP 'Counting Breaths'

By: Norman Hittle

Lief Sjostrom, a cellist and guitarist living in Denver, has released his latest cinematic neo-classical full-length album Counting Breaths. Take a listen below!

Lief performs and records his own original, cinematic, and neo-classical/post-rock compositions; he also performs and records with live bands. His first solo EP, Her Prayers Sound Like Warnings, was released in 2017, and according to him, this latest album is a continuation of that EP with a darker edge.

Counting Breaths is a 14-track journey that takes the listener through cinematic soundscapes that alter in movement from track to track. One moment the listener may feel like they’re at the top of a verdant mountain range in Middle Earth, and the next they’ll be guided into the high tension of the misty woods of M. Night Shamylan’s The Village. Next they’ll find themselves gliding through a beautiful glade on sparkling waters along with some Game of Thrones-like heroes all before being taken to the doors of a sepulcher in a Lovecraftian-inspired horror tale. Both beautiful and emotionally captivating, these compositions could easily be on some epic gaming playlists and I know I’ll be adding them to my own.

Lief Sjostrom. 

Lief Sjostrom. 

On the side, Lief has been teaching cello and guitar lessons for four years, and has been a central component of the band PrettyMouth the last six years. He’s also performed or recorded with Edison, Sawmill Joe, King Cardinal, The Patient Zeros, Florea, Chad Price, Tyto Alba, Brianna Straut, Adam Hooks, Poor Me, and The Dead Orchids, to name a few. He’s also crafted music for the score of a documentary by Adam Reynolds.

Keep up with Lief Sjostrom on his social media and make sure to catch his set at Denver’s UMS this week Sunday at 1PM at Baere Brewing Company!

-Norman

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Reinventing the String Band: Darol Anger Forges A New Tradition

By: Riley Ann

String players in the Front Range had a real treat this past weekend. Living legend Darol Anger and the Republic of Strings, which features violinist Enion Pelta-Tiller of TAARKAand Joy Adams of Half Pelican on cello, hosted a workshop at Naropa before performing a concert in the evening on Sunday, April 23rd as the conclusion of their most recent Front Range tour. The full ensemble, which included Emy Phelps on guitar and vocals, Mike Robinson on guitar, and Eric Thorin on bass, played an evening concert the same day.

Darol Anger. 

Darol Anger. 

Darol Anger has made an indelible impact on the evolution of the fiddle. From his early days with David Grisman to the Turtle Island String Quartet, and his 2012 release of Chops & Grooves with Rushad Eggleston and Casey Driessen, Anger is no stranger to stretching possibilities and breaking rules through innovative techniques. His Fiddle-ology workshops are aimed at sharing these techniques that Anger helped developed in contemporary styles, techniques which transcend any particular genre. “I’m a failed classical player,” Anger laughed, “but that’s why I teach: to be the teacher that I wish I had.”

Nearly 50 string players attended the workshop, including fiddlers, cellists, mandolin players, and a harpist. Ages and experiences ranged as well, from kids under 12 who have played most of their lives, to touring professionals who make their living performing music, and adults who have recently picked up their instrument for the first time in decades, or recently picked it up for the very first time. Each participant shared their journey with music. “I played violin as a girl and put it down for a few years, but I just picked it up again after retirement,” said one fiddler, smiling. Another shared, “I’ve played professionally in symphonies for years, but you don’t get much exposure to music like this in Miami.” Despite their differing paths, all of the participants were looking to expand their musical vocabulary, whether it was getting out of habitual solos, diversifying their backup techniques, or even learning to break away from classical training to freely improvise.

Phelps, Thorin, & Robinson.

Phelps, Thorin, & Robinson.

The Republic of Strings are the perfect performers to share these techniques. Philosophically, the ensemble disregards limitations and borders. As articulated in their bio, “Our shared Republic Of Strings’ imaginary borders extend through all geographical or other imaginary borders, and we accept no unsightly cultural boundaries. We revel in variety and seek to deeply understand.” Such is true musically as they blend the folk music spanning the world, including Scandinavia, Africa, South America, urban America, Appalachia, and more with neo-classical, blues, jazz, hip-hop, bluegrass, and postmodern influences, ultimately weaving together a new tapestry of music that defies compartmentalization in any genre or style.

Pelta-Tiller & Anger.

Pelta-Tiller & Anger.

The partnership between Pelta-Tiller and Anger is also unique and longstanding. “Darol and I have been friends for a very long time,” said Pelta-Tiller. “I grew up listening to him in the Bay area and would go see him with my parents when I was really little. After college I was staying at my parents, and I took some lessons with him,” she said. Since then, they have taught at some of the same fiddle camps and see each other at festivals. “We’ve been friends for a long time, and I’m really excited to be able to bring him out here,” she said.

Joy Adams.

Joy Adams.

Although this was the first workshop of its kind at Naropa, Anger and Pelta-Tiller are considering the possibility of doing more area workshops in the future and even expanding what those workshops offer. The full calendar of events can be found on Naropa’s website, including this summer’s Creative Music Workshop, which focuses on improvisation. Pelta-Tiller and Adams are also both teaching at the Rustic Roots campfire jamming camp in Moffat, Colorado this August.

-Riley

Find out more about me on my blog.

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Review: Steady Dreamin' with Sam Rae's 'Bring Us To New Islands'

By: Jura Daubenspeck

Dive into the sweet, moody sounds of Denver’s soul-folk artist Sam Rae. She’s about to drop her new album Bring Us To New Islands this Friday, April 21st and, oh yes, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Sam Rae. Photo Credit:  Art Heffron

Sam Rae. Photo Credit: Art Heffron

Performing on the cello for nearly 17 years and composing for six years, this Midwest native has made waves with her eccentric, euphoric, and explorative music. She’s traveled throughout the country touring and accompanying folk artists artists like Gregory Alan Isakov, Brandi Carlile, and pop duo The Posiesyet she’s established her own sonic blend of looped cello, dreamy vocals, and folk/electric guitar.

Sam Rae’s 2014 album Stories from the Marrow left much to be anticipated for future releases, and Bring Us To New Islands has definitely delivered. It is a bewitching 8-track album that is just as sensual as it is disembodied. With songs like “The Let Go” and “Dragons,” Sam Rae’s music bares resemblance to the visual qualities of a Miyazaki film, while others like “Don’t Forget The Spaceship” have a slightly heavier cello and electric guitar-influenced sound. With constant incorporation of cooing vocals and rhythmic looping, Bring Us To New Islands is a meal that can be sampled one morsel at a time, but is best served whole. With each song comes a new energy shift that will float you on to your happy place, in whatever realm it may be in.

It’s time to harness the power of badass women like Sam Rae and join her on her exploration of music as a universal language. Check out her shadowy music video for “It’s Alright, It’s OK” here:

Connect with Sam Rae on Facebook and Soundcloud and be sure to give her new album Bring Us To New Islands a prompt listen when it’s released this Friday on all music platforms. The album will be a precursor to her upcoming spring tour, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

-Jura

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.