Jahrtal – ‘Lichtbuch’ CD

Written by Simon Collins  
JudasKiss Magazine

Jahrtal is the project of Tyrolean musician Ewald Spiss, and Lichtbuch is the debut album, following a single, ‘Zwei Lieder’. All music and vocals are by Ewald, apart from some vocals provided by his partner Christine, and a little bit of birdsong (the birds get a credit!). The usual folk instrumentation of acoustic guitar, violin and flute is augmented with a number of more unexpected instruments, including dulcimer, banjo, psaltery, lute, and a thing called a ‘gzitar’, which is apparently a home-made cross between a zither, a sitar and a guitar.

It’s tempting to lump Jahrtal in with German-language neo-folk bands like Belborn, Werkraum, Forseti and Hekate, but that doesn’t really work for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the variety of instruments employed by Ewald Spiss gives Jahrtal a psychedelic flavour more reminiscent of bands like In Gowan Ring and 60s pioneers such as Donovan and The Incredible String Band. Also, there are several indications within the album booklet for Lichtbuch that Ewald is, in fact, a bit of an old hippy – the dedication to a Tibetan rinpoche (Buddhist holy man), a text calling for an end to hatred and war, and the flourishing of tolerance and peace, and not least the photo of Ewald himself. In any case, it’s clear that he’s not very likely to align himself with the more militant end of the neo-folk spectrum. There’ll be no short-back-and-sides haircuts, marching songs from the 1930s, or dubious runic symbolism here! It’s also worth pointing out that there’s a total absence of drums and percussion on Lichtbuch, which certainly inhibits the development of any aggression within the music. One or two songs have a background element of Neil Young-style electric guitar, but the album in general is very quiet and gentle.

Lichtbuch contains a dozen tracks, totalling 75 minutes. All lyrics are in German, sometimes with Tyrolean dialect words. There are two adaptations of poems by Joseph von Eichendorff, and translations of folk songs from Scotland, England and Romania, as well as a Tibetan prayer. The production is very vivid, intimate and detailed – close your eyes, and it’s easy to believe that these musicians are in the room with you. Other than occasional touches of electric guitar, everything is entirely acoustic, which is a rare treat nowadays when all too many bands serve up electronic keyboards with everything. As mentioned above, I was reminded of In Gowan Ring and Birch Book, but also of artists from well outside the world of neo-folk, people like The Handsome Family and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. The simple, sparse arrangements offer plenty of breathing space to the individual instruments, and Lichtbuch is a very satisfying and engrossing listening experience.

OK, enough praise for now – I also have some (hopefully constructive) criticisms. Firstly, whilst Ewald’s musicianship is immaculate, his vocals are not very distinguished, with all the songs being sung in a low, understated voice without much resonance or range. Adding this musical accompaniment to a stronger, more interesting voice, like, for instance, that of Markus Wolff, would be a dream ticket as far as I’m concerned. Secondly, the music is very nice, but sometimes a bit sparse and dry. A lot of groups would bulk out this kind of acoustic folk sound with swathes of keyboards, but I’m not a fan of this approach. However, I’d like to hear more background drones. It doesn’t much matter whether they come from accordion, harmonium, organ, bagpipes, digeridoo or elsewhere, but I do love a bit of a drone, and I think this music is crying out for some! Thirdly, Lichtbuch stays firmly within a narrow, melancholy, emotional register, and one or two more upbeat songs wouldn’t go amiss. Finally, and this criticism is probably related to the previous one, the album is a bit too long at 75 minutes. That’s very nearly a double album’s worth in old money! 60 minutes would have been plenty long enough to spend in this mournful emotional register.

Having said all that, though, Lichtbuch is definitely one of the most interesting releases to have come my way recently, with many moments of haunting beauty, and it’s never going to have to fight too hard to justify a place on my playlist. I look forward to hearing what Jahrtal do next. Incidentally, one track from Lichtbuch, ‘Innsbruck, Ich Muss Dich Lassen’, is included in the outstanding Wilde Jäger compilation recently released by Percht.







Some albums have all the right ingredients to make it worthwhile. With Jahrtal’s album Lichtbuch this definitely the case. Jahrtal is the Austrian neofolk/folklore project of Christine and Ewald Spiss. With usage of a multitude of instruments like guitar, banjo, flute, organ and many more they manage to adapt folklore songs from England, Austria, Tirol and the Alps. All lyrics are in German and with titles such as Reigen, Wilhelm von Winsburg and Klein wild Vogelein you can guess what to expect. The music itself can be regarded as easy going, melancholy yet serene. Maybe it will take a few spins before Lichtbuch displays its wonders but when it does it is sheer bliss. Ewald and Christine have proven to create enchanting songs with beautiful voices. I can spend hours writing about this release but it is best that you purchase this record and listen for yourself! Also my compliments for the artwork which is also (partly) created by Ewald. Ahnstern has a proven to have a good instinct for quality and with Jahrtal they again prove this fact. Very much recommended.

Band: Jahrtal
Label: Ahnstern
Genre: folk

Review by:

Erik  (Gothtronic)






Jahrtal - Lichtbuch (Ahnstern - 2008)

Jahrtal make rich, soothing and sometimes sombre but always beautiful folk music lined with an earthy and warming 70’s spirit. All finished off with sleepy and hazy mainly male but sometimes female German singing.

Appearing on the always excellent Ahnstern lable, this is a lot more mellow, dreamy and contemplative than many of the labels releasers, it’s also a lot less experimental and daring in it’s mix of sounds, though it does still subtly mix in the odd torches of other genres such as ambient, jazz, discordant rock and haphazard world music influences. It slips and sooths by you, unfolding the tuneful rich acoustic songs at a heady leisured pace. Colouring and warming the songs acoustic guitar treads and picks with electric guitars, lute, banjo, dulcimer, gzitar, harpzither, psalter, flute, duduk, schalm, violin, organ and bird's voices. The tracks more often then not press on towards the 10 minute mark letting their vibe slowly unfold around you, nothing is rushed or raised above a gentle summers day stroll even when electric guitar is added it’s for contrast and never in angry or spiteful form. In all the album comes in just over the 75 minute mark, though it never feels this long as the tracks seem to pull you into their beauty and slumbering wonder so completely.

A album to slip and easy into, giving a feeling akin to lying on a comfy mossy bank miles away from civilisation with mid- afternoon summer sun warming your skin, and you near the edge of a peaceful  slumber.

Roger Batty   (Musique Machine / Multi-Genre Music Magazine)






Jahrtal - Lichtbuch

[Folklore] - Ahnstern  (2007)

Aus dem wahren Leben

Gewisse Publikationen für Sie in Worte umzuwandeln, gestaltet sich wie im Fall Jahrtal äußerst schwierig, weil gewisse Kunst ohne jegliche Werbung auskommt und seinen Hörerkreis selbst akquiriert. Heißt, entweder machen Personen, die diese Art der Musik hören wollen, sie selbst oder reine Konsumentinnen bzw. Konsumenten suchen gezielt danach, aber bestimmt nicht in irgendwelchen Magazinen (auch nicht im Feindesland.de). Durch Artikel wie diesen, dürfte wohl nur eine winzige "Population" auf dieses Werk "Lichtbuch" aufmerksam werden. An dieser Stelle könnte der Verdacht entstehen, dass meine Wenigkeit, dieses Oeuvre als überflüssig empfindet - nein, sondern nur als sehr speziell zugeschnitten für eine Gruppe von Individuen. Daher, wir versuchen unserer Leserschaft seit der Gründung möglichst abwechslungsreiche Kost aus der extravaganten und extremen Musiklandschaft zu offerieren, passt die CD "Lichtbuch" von Jahrtal hervorragend in unser Konzept.

Diese Arbeit "Lichtbuch" von Jahrtal aus der malerischen Marktgemeinde Zirl (Tirol) in Österreich offenbart eine Verknüpfung aus Folklore bzw. altem überliefertem Liedgut, Vertonungen von "fast längst" vergessenen Dichtern und buddhistischen Einflüssen. Im Gegensatz zu anderen Protagonisten publiziert der denkende wie lenkende Kopf hinter Jahrtal Ewald Spiss, die verwendeten Komponisten (den Lyriker) bzw. die Landstriche wo der Ursprung der Noten liegt, die er für seine Tondokumente nutzte. Leider bedienen sich immer mehr Akteure alter Vorlagen, die sie anschließend als ihre eigene Kreation vorstellen - eine echte Unsitte!

Hier für Sie, die Liste der verwendeten Lyrik und Lieder:

- Die Schriften "Der wandernde Musikant" und "Abschied" von Joseph (Karl Benedikt Freiherr) von Eichendorff (1788 - 1857)
- Innsbruck, ich muss Dich lassen (Komponist/ Verfasser: Heinrich Isaac (1450 - 1517)
- "Klein wild Vögelein" (Volkslied aus Siebenbürgen)
- "Es ist verspielt" (Volkslied aus Tirol)
- "Fein sein" (Volkslied aus den Alpen)
- "Totenwachelied" - Interpretation des schottischen Volkliedes "Lyke Wake Dirge"
- "Wilhelm von Winsbury" - Herkunft: nach dem alten englischen Volklied "Willie o' Winsbury" (auch bekannt unter dem Namen: "Lord Thomas of Winesberry"), welches für Kinder entstand
- "Die Welt der Düfte" (eine Gebetweise aus Tibet nach Saschipöki)

Diese Zusammenstellung mutet zuerst ein wenig konfus an, aber wenn die Interessierte bzw. der Interessierte sich mit dem Lebenslauf des Ewald Spiss auseinandersetzt, wird Sie bzw. Er feststellen, dass der vielseitige Künstler Abschnitte und markante Momente aus seinem Leben in Klänge transformierte. Ihnen innerhalb dieser Besprechung einen tieferen Einblick in das Dasein (im positiven Sinne) von Ewald Spiss zu verschaffen, würde den Rahmen völlig sprengen. Weitere Informationen über ihn erhalten Sie unter folgendem Link: http://www.ewald-spiss.de/

Musikalisch offeriert Ewald Spiss Ihnen mit Unterstützung seiner Lebensgefährtin (Frau?) Christine ein Opus, welches im Besonderen den Hörerkreis bezirzen dürfte, der sich für rein akustisch intonierte Veröffentlichungen begeistert. Er verwendete für sein "Lichtbuch" folgende Instrumente: Gitarre, Gzitar, Laute, Banjo, Dulzimer, Harfenzither, Psalter, Flöte, Duduk, Schalmei, Geige und Orgel. Auf dieser CD schlägt Ihnen bestimmt kein Bombast entgegen, sondern traditionell handgemachte Tonkunst, die ohne große Schnörkel auskommt. Im Fokus der Lieder stehen die Texte und die Idee dahinter, welche Ewald Spiss mit seiner "Volksmusikantenstimme" (keine Abwertung!) alleine vorträgt oder im Duett mit Christine.

Die Vertonung vom Text "Abschied" von Joseph von Eichendorff (1788 - 1857) durch Leger des Heils war schon ein Gedicht, aber die Umsetzung des Ewald Spiss gefällt mir persönlich noch wesentlich besser - grandioser Anspieltipp auf "Lichtbuch"!

Gerne geben wir Ihnen Bands bzw. Projekte an, die Ihnen weitere Anhaltspunkte bzw. Vergleichsmöglichkeiten bieten. Jahrtal, die authentischere Variante von Sturmpercht, müsste so ungefähr den Kern treffen.

Die graphische Verpackung bastelte Max Percht aus Bildern, die Ewald Spiss selbst malte. Eine sehr ansprechende Vorstellung, die sich nahtlos ins Gesamte einfügt.
Diejenigen unter Ihnen, die Musik mit echter Authentität suchen, sollten "Lichtbuch" von Jahrtal unbedingt antesten. In meinen Augen eine sehr ehrliche & gefühlvolle Arbeit, die Leuten gut zu Gesicht steht, die sich wirklich mit Inhalten beschäftigen und Musik nicht zur Berieselung nutzen. Durch CDs wie das "Lichtbuch" erfährt das Volkstum bzw. der Volksbrauch Stärkung, deshalb aus kultureller Sichtweise ein Schmankerl.

geschrieben am 08.03.2008 von Raphael Feldmann  (






LICHTBUCH by Jahrtal

Those of you with a constant Jones for dark Germanic folk of the post-Krautrock post-Pilz Records variety should certainly avail yourselves of a copy of LICHTBUCH by Jahrtal, a duo led by multi-instrumentalist Ewald Spiss and accompanied by his muse Christine. Across twelve intimately recorded songs (including both Ewald originals and traditional English, Scots and German ballads) Jahrtal’s extraordinary melancholy permeates the room and electrifies the listener, as Herr Spiss spreads picked Spanish guitar, dulcimer, lute, psalter and organ across an enthralling hour of music. Mostly comprised of long songs of a 5-10-minute duration, the most obvious references for Jahrtal’s sound would be Witthuser & Westrupp and Sergius Golowin’s LORD KRISHNA VON GOLOKA. However, Ewald Spiss’s northern sound is entirely timeless and also reminiscent of some of the Danish and Swedish folk released on the Goddamn I’m A Countryman record label that I’ve been reviewing over the past years. Nevertheless, Jahrtal is –once again – brought to you care of those forward-thinking guys at Austria’s superb Ahnstern label (http://www.steinklang-records.at/), home of Sturmpercht and Allerseelen. Again I salute ye, gentlemen.

Julian Cope (Presents Head Heritage Address Drudion April 2008)






Jahrtal - Lichtbuch

Ewald Spiss is the man behind this project. Those who where into the experimental scene in the 80’s might remember his name from various projects but I first heard of him through JAHRTAL about a year ago when he released a 2 song CDR simply called ”Zwei Lieder”. Both tracks come back here in more or less rearranged versions, on JAHRTAL’s first full-lenght album, together with 10 additional songs, full of both warmth and sorrow. The warmth comes from Ewald’s genuine voice and his love for music that shines through in every song. The sorrow can be found in the slow, dark melodies and some of the lyrics, which are mostly traditional from throughout the world.

What can be said about the music then? It’s acoustic with a wide range of instruments performed; guitar, banjo, lute, dulcimer, organ, flutes and some I have never heard of before like gzitar, duduk and schalmei and all is very nicely played. Not perfect but just the way I like it in this kind of music. Some tracks reminds me of how CURRENT 93 used to sound at their top, and others do have pretty much in common with FIRE + ICE, especially their latest album ”Birdking”, but with broader instrumentation and far different thematic. FORSETI is another band that not seldom comes to mind, which draws with them the entire German neofolk scene but Jahrtal stands out, once again thanks to their instrument arsenal.
Over all, "Lichtbuch" is a very even album, but I have collected three tracks that should be considered my favorites. "Der wandernde Musikant" is a very nice and long song (many of the tracks on this album do pass 8 minutes actually) with lyrics borrowed from the great archive of Eichendorff poems, and with some surprising turns.
"Reigen" is an instrumental and phenomenal piece of psychedelic folk music and the track that follows, "Wilhelm von Winsburg" has an uplifting and catchy melody and is great fun to sing along to. It also includes some vocals by Christine, who can be heard here and there throughout the album, a great singer, and she works very well together with Ewald in this duet.

"Lichtbuch" is a great album that works just as fine with a cup of tea in the sofa, as in the darkest times. Go get it.

Markus Eriksson (






Jahrtal - Lichtbuch (2008)

The Austrian band Jahrtal continue the esoteric folk tradition started by In Gowan Ring, Fit & Limo and Stone Breath in the 1990s who were building on the psychedelic folk of the 1960s and 1970s from such as The Incredible String Band and Comus. This music transferred to Germany and Austria in the 1970s with bands such as Langsyne and Witthueser and Westrupp amongst many others. It is a form of music that has continued to be made with Jahrtal being one of the most recent and accomplished exponents. Their delicately exploratory folk music continues the pioneering of Fit and Limo in Germany rather than the darker neo-folk sound of many artists. After an extended EP for the service we now have a full length album that is musically in the style of Alasdair Roberts. The album brings a combination of self-written songs and their version of traditional songs such as 'William of Winsbury' performed in their native German language. Across the album their music creates a sustained mood of intrigue and anticipation. There is a consistency of interpretation and performance to the songs as though they are performed in front of us. Whether we understand German or not, the care in the songs is evident. It creates a most enjoyable listen which will of course be further heightened for those who do understand German. Such albums are especially welcome as starting to bridge the old divides of traditional music versus modern alternative folk. Here we hear it reconciled naturally in a cohesive whole. The soft explorations of whistles, guitars, dulcimer and chimes adding to the atmospheric portrayals. We are constantly bombarded by music in our modern environment, but Jahrtal deserve your time and reward with a finely crafted album that brings new qualities to traditional music.

WovenWheatWhispers, Folkportal (closed in July 2008)






Jahrtal - Lichtbuch

Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 12:00 AM PDT

Genre: Neo-Folk / Folk

01 Klein wild Vögelein, Reprise
02 Der wandernde Musikant
03 Innsbruck, ich muss Dich lassen
04 Abschied
05 Klein wild Vögelein
06 Es ist verspielt
07 Fein sein
08 Totenwachelied
09 Reigen
10 Wilhelm van Winsburg
11 Abschied, Reprise
12 Die Welt voller Düfte

After their debut CD-r release entitled “Zwei Lieder”, Austria’s Jahrtal is back with a full-length album. Released by Ahnstern, the sister-label of Steinklang records, they have succeeded in creating 12 new Neo-Folk songs for our ears in the same year as “Zwei Lieder”. “Lichtbuch” comes in a jewelcase with a deluxe glossy booklet with all the lyrics in them and additional artist notes. With “Zwei Lieder” Jahrtal was able to show us some of their capabilities, but also showed that there was plenty of room for improvement. Opinions may differ on the fact as to whether happened or not, but with 12 songs “Lichtbuch” gives a more extensive view of Jahrtal’s music than their previous release.

Scrolling through the supplied booklet taught me that Jahrtal’s music is immersed in natural themes in a spiritual dimension while however being limited in a progressive melodic style. Instrumentation on “Lichtbuch” is very basic, but still rather interesting. The music doesn’t hold percussion and is mainly built upon regular and irregular stringed instruments like acoustic guitar, lute and banjo that provide in this instance the necessary rhythmical pulse. The stringed instruments are used in a minimalistic way while other instruments like the flute and an organ is used to play rather simple melodies upon basic chord schemes. While the music is somewhat interesting it stays rather nihilistic and the instruments waver in close melodic unison bringing the listener to a place of progressive expectation where one never arrives. While lacking experimental qualities, the listener is carried away to a place of meditative sounds and pure (Neo)-Folk melodies. A good example of this can be found in the instrumental song “Reigen”, which takes the listener into peaceful forests and natural realms that are echoed in the haunting sounds of the flute.

As the listener…the CD, one notices a shift in the second half of “Lichtbuch” that progresses and expands in experimental value as the melodies broaden and instrumental capabilities become more prominent. All lyrics used on “Lichtbuch” are in German and are written by various writers and poets and there are also songs on it which are based on original traditional Folk songs either originally in German or translated to German. Such an example is the last song of the CD entitled “Die Welt voller Düfte”, which is a religious Tibetan hymn. These lyrics are very interesting because of their poetic and historical portrayal of Folk music. While the lyrics conjure up an artwork of images and poetical nuances through the lyrics, the vocals seem to be unsure of the words they sing and the airy sweetness lacks the depth of the strength and vulnerability of the poetry they want to bring across.

As an overall thought one can say that “Lichtbuch” is a very special release which can be perfect on a few moments in life. The CD is comparable with the wine one drinks with a special kind of food. It provides the meditative backdrop needed for those moments of reflectation and rest. And just as one selects the fitting wine for that certain dish, “Lichtbuch” should be encompassed to enhance ones atmosphere of solitary thoughts and reflectation. Just as a dessert wine is never supplemented for an aperitif; “Lichtbuch” remains captive to pure melodies and simple harmonies and does not provide the energetic stimulus needed to diverge from this tranquil atmosphere.

Gorebatjov (Heathen Harvest)





Jahrtal - Lichtbuch

Label : Brlog Records No. 016
Year : 2009
Artist : Jahrtal
Album : Lichtbuch

Review (HR. only)

Jahrtal je akustični folk duet iz gradića Zirl pored Innsbrucka (Austrija), a čine ga bračni par Christine i Ewald. Oni su već dugi niz godina angažirani u umjetnosti, no navode da nikada nisu bili u mogućnosti zaraditi dovoljno novaca za obitelj premda se uz glazbu bave još crtanjem, slikarstvom i instalacijama u kombinaciji sa živim nastupima.

Sa bandom Jahrtal su startali 2007. kada su objavili album "Anhstern/ Steinklang" sa 12 kompozicija od čega su 3 instrumentala. Imaju još jedan rad "Woven Wheat Whispers" kojeg su u proljeće 2008. dali na download korištenje. Na ovom prilično dugačkom albumu (75 minuta) uvrstili su folk pjesme iz Tirola, Austrije, Rumunjske, Škotske, Engleske i Tibeta, te dvije pjesme otpjevane na liriku njemačkog pjesnika J.v. Eichendorffa.

U njihovom press materijalu stoji da te pjesme sve zajedno nose plemenita značenja i poruke ljubavi upućene ljudima, prirodi, emocijama, te govore i o trenutnim uzročno posljedičnim efektima u onom pogledu koliko to folk pjesme mogu. Pjevane skladbe su izvedene na njemačkom jeziku s podužim tekstovima i šteta je što su čak i one iz ne-austrijskog područja preveli na njemački.

Osnovni instrumenti su im akustične gitare kojima sasvim solidno barataju koristeći 'pleteću' fingerpicking tehniku, a za prateće detalje upotrebljavaju gudačke (violončelo, violina) i duhače instrumente (frula, sax), električnu gitaru, te umješno aranžirane back-vokale i povremene prirodne zvukove poput cvrkuta ptica u Eichendorffovoj pjesmi "Abschied" i odjavnoj "Die welt voller wohlgerueche" koja je odsvirana samo na orgulje.

U nekim skladbama se upotrebljavaju i neki egzotični instrumenti poput table u "Fein sein" (barem tako zvuči), te često znaju adaptirati zvuk akustične gitare da nalikuje na nešto vrlo egzotično sa starinskim prizvukom (banjo, šargija, oud, mandolina, harfa) propušteno kroz stanovitu lo-fi tehniku.

Glazbeni teritorij je otprilike blizak našoj Lidiji Bajuk u onim pjevanim i jednostavnijim skladbama, a veoma interesantan je instrumental "Reigen" u pravom mračnom neo-folk izrazu sa režavim harmonijama električne gitare i violončela, te sama minimalistička struktura svih aranžmana sa fino pogođenim odnosom težišta između atmosfere i melodija. Premda je čitav album u vrlo tromom tempu, on odiše bogatim zvukom koji je vrlo dobro nadograđen minimalističkim formacijama, efektima, povremenim halovima, te su si dali na volju da kroz uglavnom elegičan i nježan ugođaj dozvole kompozicijama da se razmašu svojim duljinama (od 4 do 10 minuta) pri čemu su na konto egzotične atmosfere izbjegli apatiju i monotoniju. 

Bez obzira na njemački jezik koji se ipak ne koristi prečesto u svakodnevnoj dozi da bi bio svima razumljiv, ovo je s glazbenog aspekta sasvim korektan folk album koji je trenutno pravi raritet u katalogu Brlog Records. Uostalom, što se tiče folka i world-music scene ionako ne razumijemo veliku većinu autora Europe, Afrike i Azije koji izvode skladbe na svojem autohnonom jeziku i dijalektu, pa su opet vrlo slušani i rado viđeni gosti različitih festivala širom svijeta.

Bitna je glazba, a ona je u ovom slučaju vrlo sugestivna, emotivna i atmosferična s mnogo različitosti po čemu se osjeća da su Jahrtal profinjeni umjetnici svojeg zanata.