“Records like this remind you where the term ‘Heavenly Voices’ comes from.” – Mick Mercer
Mirabilis – the collaborative neo-classical / heavenly voices duo Summer Bowman of The Machine in the Garden and Dru Allen of This Ascension – mixes classical sensibilities with exotic electronics and acoustic instrumentation to complement the vocal depth listeners are familiar with from Dru and Summer. The vocals are supported with a melancholic arrangement of flute, hammered dulcimer, and live percussion mixing with multi-layered vocal stylings to invoke a range of emotional textures.
“These two sirens weave an irresistible spell of seduction with their haunting soprano vocals, and together they create a lush bed of dream-like harmonies.” – Dark Realms Magazine
Sub Rosa is a Latin term meaning secrecy, literally translating to “under the rose.” The rose in ancient times was a symbol of sworn confidence of participants at a meeting. Mirabilis uses these connotations to refer to the subtleties and new layers explored on this release. These unseen, uncharted territories explored on Sub Rosa will draw listeners in to a new musical journey.
Reviews Editor –
From Rosa Selvaggia
Era un po’ di tempo che mi chiedevo che fine avessero fatto le affascinanti Mirabilis, progetto femminile made in USA dedicato all’ethereal con tinte medieval, di cui conservo con piacere un loro vinile in 7″ del 2003 uscita per la Fossil Dungeon. Dru Allen e Summer Bowman, grazie alla gloriosa Projekt, ci deliziano ancora con le loro dolci atmosfere arcane. Tra i brani che mi hanno colpito, ho trovato incantevoli soprattutto “The vastness”, decadente ed oscuro che ammalia l’ascoltatore, e “Undercurrent”, di Deadcandanciana memoria, ma esse sono solo due delle 15 belle tracce che tutti gli amanti del genere troveranno piacevoli in questo album. Il CD contiene anche una bonus track con un mix electro-dark di “World indifferent”, in cui le Mirabilis dimostrano che sanno ammaliare anche con questo tipo di sonorità.
Reviews Editor –
Yet another ethereal array of Renaissance-tinged vocal harmonies from two of darkwave’s most celebrated vocalists.
The duo of Dru Allen and Summer Bowman should need no introduction, both having made names for themselves in the darkwave scene as the vocalists for their respective bands, This Ascension and The Machine in the Garden. Besides that, the pair is known for Mirabilis, a musical collective whose primary instrument is the power of their voices amid an array of medieval-tinged classical music. Their first album, Pleiades displayed their lush and atmospheric style, offering listeners a respite from the goth rock of their other bands in favor of something less abrasive though no less intense. While Sub Rosa may not deviate too dramatically from that formula, it does well to add to their already impressive repertoire of dark and ambient beauty.
“World Indifferent” begins the album with the swell of a two-chord procession of strings and light hand drums as Allen’s and Bowman’s voices dance around each other in a weave of vocal harmonies. The same could be said for “The Vastness,” whose sparse marching drumbeat and brass swells conjure images of armored knights on a campaign across windswept moors as the duo’s vocals hover like sirens chanting poetry, and the danceable yet ambient swirls of the title track with its muted drums and strings. Other pieces like “Nature Boy,” “O Maria Mater Pia,” and “Il est Bel at Bon” further emphasize the operative interplay between the two vocalists, while other songs demonstrate a vivid exhibition of instrumental ability, such as on the dulcimer-laden “A Ballade of the Centre” or the harpsichord arpeggios of “Farce.” Where Mirabilis paid tribute to Simon & Garfunkel on Pleiades, on Sub Rosa they pay homage to The Beatles with a rendition of “Because,” featuring the additional vocals of Rebecca Colleen Miller, enhancing their already verdant harmonies, while Cindy Adzuki Chang contributes her flute and her songwriting to the almost Middle Eastern flavors of “Odyle” and the morose but enticing “The Journey,” on which she takes the lead vocal.
Other points of interest include “Angel Eyes,” a solo vocal produced to sound like it was played on an old vinyl through a vibraphone, and the club energy of the Restoration mix of “World Indifferent” offers an upbeat closing to the album that brings us full circle, while also demonstrating the dramatic connection between modern darkwave with the more classical Renaissance flavors employed by Mirabilis and many bands in the genre. As stated, there’s little deviation from their established style as the music on Sub Rosa once again utilizes a variety of traditional texts and melodies from centuries past, while never straying too far into overly histrionic displays of instrumental virtuosity, preferring to let the power of their voices carry the listener through the album. However, this is hardly a deterrent; the songs presented here are breathtaking in their minimalism and their melodiousness, sure to offer a great deal of enjoyment for those with an ear for passionate and soothing music. -Ilker Yücel
Reviews Editor –
From Mick Mercer
A high quality blend of ethereal and the neo-classical, this is the second album from Summer Bowman and Dru Allen (The Machine In The Garden and This Ascension respectively) which does sound surprisingly different from what you may be used to in either modern ethereal layered sounds, historical ethereal with its structural style usually close to folk, or the neo-classical strains you frequently find heavily dignified or infiltrated by Industrial pomposity. What this duo do, with the help of a few select others, to create very simple settings for subdued vocals, and to create changes in atmosphere by often simplifying things still further.
It’s obviously a world apart from their Gothier existences, and sounds like a thoughtful refuge; an austere landscape warmed by their voices. ‘World Indifferent’ is a sad sounding introduction with a discreet synth wash, dominantly woven vocals and some steady percussive rhythm. ‘The Journey’ seems more emotionally dismal again, as I assumed it’s preparation for death (if not it’s an alarming journey). It sounds like the traditional folk Ego Likeness have tackled.
‘The Vastness’ is striking in its simplicity and double stirring as a result, the vocals almost building an eerie presence and doing quite strange things in their delivery. ‘Nature Boy’ is like a church choir with a lead vocal in front and very brief with ‘The Flowers Pressed Down’ even sweeter. ‘Undercurrent’ offers a complete contrast, darker and quietly oppressive.
The twittering, bubbling ‘Il Est Bel Et Bon’ is like a merry Renaissance joust, with ‘O Maria Mater Pia’ its sadder sister. ‘Odyle’ sticks out like a wiggling sore thumb, with Cindy Adzuki Chang to the fore, the initially droning pulse giving it a bumpier fuselage but it speeds up and slims to a darting gait. ‘Angel Eyes’ then comes over like a plaintive early wax cylinder entreaty come piercing spiritual.
‘Aubade’ is a pleasing plonk of piano and high, airy vocals, and ‘A Ballade Of The Centre’, ‘Farce’ and ‘Because’ take us into more conventional ethereal pop circles, with some cornily witty wordplay and close harmony uniting. ‘Sub Rosa’ veers away in otherworldly beauty, and the album ends weirdly with ‘World Indifferent (Restoration Mix)’ which sort of works, in that it shows how strong the actual piece is that it can withstand the rather unruly, squashy shift in rhythmical assault
An album which is reassuring in its tidy glory, but also holds the listener initially at arms length, being so composed, meaning you need to work with it to feel comfortable with it, or you’re left as a spectator impressed by their control as though they’re set pieces, which can be the clinical effect of some bands (like Qntal). It’s worth the effort, and it’s records like this which remind you where the term Heavenly Voices comes from.
Reviews Editor –
From Liar Society
Mirabilis is a two-woman ethereal supergroup, harnessing the vocal talents of Summer Bowman (of The Machine in the Garden) and Dru Allen (of This Ascension) in service to subtle, yet enthralling, neoclassical arrangements. Acoustic instrumentation such as hammered dulcimer, flute, and percussion gets matched against exotic electronic programming to create a variety of textures; from the Orientalist fantasy of “Odyle,” the otherwordly harmonies of The Beatles’ “Because,” the Dead Can Dance-esque “The Journey,” or the darkwave dance floor ready remix of “World Indifferent,” there is sure to be something for every lover of heavenly voices. And the voices are indeed heavenly. Both powerful and seductive, the duo behind Sub Rosa are the nearest we have to sirens in this age. But you really couldn’t hope for a finer soundtrack to sinking slowly beneath the waves. Rating: 4 out of 5 -Jack
Reviews Editor –
From Heathen Harvest
Mirabilis is a project of Dru Allen and Summer Bowman, which are both responsible for instruments and vocals. Dru Allen as well is a co-founder of the band This Ascension, which performs standard indie rock with tribal elements and a number of vocal styles including opera, medieval, and traditional folk. Summer Bowman is a half of darkwave duo the Machine in the Garden. Apart from those projects they both took part in acts oriented on classical music.
Mirabilis is a duo, but from time to time they invite other musicians to take part in recording their album, like in Sub Rosa, where participated the following musicians: Rebecca Colleen Miller – additional vocals on “Because”, Cindy Adzuki Chang – lead vocals on “The Journey” and flute on “Odyle” and Pete Murray wwho did additional programming on “Aubade” and “World Indifference”. “World Indifference (Restoration Remis)” is recorded by The Machine in the Garden, another band of Summer Bowman. Sub Rosa is their second full-length CD, after Pleiades in 2004, also released on a well-known label Middle Pillar Records.
The word “Mirabilis” means strange, amazing, unusual and it suits the music quite well. Actually looking at the cover artwork I waited to hear something …”completely neoclassical”, with all the atributes of the genre – harps, violins, cellos, preteding to be academic vocals – sometimes boring, sometimes bearable. But fortunately it occured to be not that simple and even difficult to define. Somehow Mirabilis turned to be indeed mirabilis: the album is built upon vocals, mostly. Vocals of different kinds. First it all sounded to me as an album full of experiments, experiments with vocals mostly and other instruments which only emphasize the style of Mirabilis. You may hear anything here – from tunes put in ornament of oriental-styled drumming (World Indifferent), medieval-sounding ones (as Il Est Bel et Bon) to dark-cabaret-styled sensual singing “through the old microphone” (Angel Eyes track) and famous “Summer Time”-like(Nature Boy), as well as versions of well-known melodies, like “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return” (Nature Boy). And I have to say that I really enjoyed acapella and this magic spirit that pierces through the whole album. The music is tender, gentle, from time to time it reminds sacred celtic folklore, music filled with the spirit of tradition (as The Journey) and sometimes pathetic and majestic (The Vastness).
I like the idea of ornaments on booklet pages as a background that together with general dark blue colour used and cartoonish font (that made me think to Charly and Chocolate Factory, don’t critisize me severely for this association, please!) give this pleasant presence of magic, but exactly because of that my mind refused to perceive human and nature images.
As for the Remix, I liked the original version more, maybe because the mix doesn’t fit into acoustic and “traditional” conception, but I marked out the idea of openning and closing the album with the same track. -ZG
Reviews Editor –
From Grave Concerns
Dru Allen (This Ascension) and Summer Bowman (the Machine in the Garden) weaved their gossamer honey voices, and bewitching lyrical talents to form Mirabilis. Their second album Sub Rosa, is where wildflower and forest fairies, the seas and the mountains, the spiritual entities, and the innocence of all life from which inspiration develop, go to seek comfort and rejuvenate their magical gifts, so that they, may continue to show us how special, peaceful, unique, and truly beautiful from within, and out, our world and the goodness of humans are to the heavens.
Sub Rosa offers 16-tracks of gothic, ethereal, classical melodies; hauntingly moving vocals of sweet, ghostly, and beautiful joy, all which opened my heart, and my respect toward Mirabilis’ artistry. Some of those songs are, “World Indifferent”, “Undercurrent”, “O Marie Mater Pia”, “Aubade”, “Because”, “Sub Rosa” and “World Indifferent (Restoration Mix).”
Visionaries; believers; painters of the written word; songbirds from another time, are what make Mirabilis such musical and poetic goddesses. Their new album Sub Rosa solidifies that Dru Allen and Summer Bowman have unlocked realms, and submerged themselves into the colorful and surreal bliss, then awoke with lucid stories of those dream journey interpretations.
Reviews Editor –
This is the second album of the heavenly voices duo Mirabilis, consisting of Summer Bowman from The Machine in the Garden and Dru Allen from This Ascension. Pleiades, the debut album of this duo was originally released in 2004 by Middle Pillar Presents, but thereafter it became very quiet. Therefore I was happily surprised to see that Projekt records signed Mirabilis and in cooperation with Middle Pillar decided not only to release this new album, but also to re-release the Pleiades recording. Perhaps this will result in some more recognition for Mirabilis, which they certainly deserve based on the quality of their music. Mirabilis creates wonderful neo-classical music with ethereal vocals from both ladies. The warmth and slightly exotic electronic sound has been given more depth by the use of flute, dulcimer and live percussion. These musical ingredients create a warm and crystal clear sounding musical spectrum in which the melancholic vocals sound seductive and lush whilst weaving their dreamy harmonies.
Mirabilis takes inspiration from classical vocal pieces of various different times in history. On Sub Rosa we even are treated on a composition by Lennon & McCartney. Highlights are hard to mention since everything has been performed on such a high level, yet i personally find the Arabic sounding ‘Odyle’ something special with regards to atmosphere. ‘World Indifferent’ ends the album quite surprisingly because a heavy thumping beat has been added in order to take it to the dance floor.
The combination of voice and music of Mirabilis is interesting for fans of heavenly voices and neo-classical music as well as fans of world music. Fans of Lisa Gerrard, Loreen McKennit, Mediaeval Babes and The Machine in the Garden will certainly love this.
Reviews Editor –
From Gothic Paradise
Ahhh… it’s great to finally have the follow-up full-length album from these angelic muses. This album is everything that we could have hoped for from these two and more. The music is accompanied by a beautiful package of lyrics and info, photos and artwork. On the disc we get no less than 16 stunningly beautiful tracks hearkening back to old-world medieval and folk songs of ages past, though many are original pieces written by this duo and a couple of guests.
From beginning to end the music is haunting and captivating as they spin their web of subtle synths, old-world instruments and lush vocals. Starting with “World Indifferent” the percussion is moving and the music is stunning on this piece as it immediately sets the stage and gives way to the haunting piece “The Journey”. Mesmerizing vocals become the solid foundation for the album, especially on mostly accapella tracks like “Nature Boy” and “The Flowers Pressed Down” amongst others. Though this foundation remains true and an anchor on others when the percussion and instruments kick in.
The album has a nice range and depth to it as we drift through these pieces and musical styles. I think it’s apparent they had fun on several songs like the accapella track “il est bel et bon” which is a fun little play on the vocals, or “odyle” which is more of an ancient treasure and then the piece “angels eyes” sounds like an old record playing on an old phonograph player from the 40’s. So it’s not only a beautiful work, but fun and enjoyable in many ways.
As the album winds down we’re featured with a cover of “Because” from The Beatles which isn’t exactly something you would expect to hear on an album of this style. With that we’re left in much the same way we began the album with subtle percussion and synths accenting the lamenting vocals on the title track “Sub Rosa”. This provides a nice finale in and of itself, but it’s not over yet as we get a great dance-friendly remix of “World Indifferent” to wrap up the album in style. I love medieval ethereal music like this duo does, but I have to admit that when you throw it together with some modern electronics and a dance-friendly beat, it’s really hard to do better than a remix like this, or the previous remix from this band “In The Dark”. I hope it’s not ironic that my favorite tracks from this duo are their two remixed pieces. But when you start with something excellent and add a nice mix to it, it can really be something unforgettable.
With that we wrap up the album and the listener is left breathless from the stunning beauty on this album. I think this will go down as yet another classic from this group to be remember for many years to come. Rating: 5/5
Reviews Editor –
From Gothic Beauty
Sub Rosa explores various genres of vocal music, incorporating poetic original songs with selections as diverse as a lively sixteenth-century round, a nostalgic jazz record crackling lightly under the phonograph’s needle, and a dreamy cover of the Beatles’ “Because.” Uniting it all is the mellifluous harmony between Dru Allen and Summer Bowman, whose rich voices bring refinement and passion together and connect even the most differing songs in an organic flow. Musical accompaniment is understated but vibrant, with sparkling dulcimer in “Undercurrent” and unexpected percussive pulsation in “Odyle,” framing but not overwhelming the texture and clarity of the vocals. As introspective and as polished as it feels, Sub Rosa is also a bold endeavor, carried off with grace. – Carolee
Reviews Editor –
Even more organic and earthy in tone is vocal duo Mirabilis, comprised of notable darkwave/ethereal artists Summer Bowman (from The Machine in the Garden) and Dru Allen (of This Ascension). Their second release Sub Rosa (following 2004 debut Pleiades) continues to demonstrate their ease at breaking ranks with their original bands’ electro/Goth backgrounds and entering territory familiar to fans of Loreena McKennitt and Lisa Gerrard. Though brimming over with period instruments (hammered dulcimer, flute, and assorted rustic percussion) and a light touch of electronic coloration, the delicate and lush interplay between the two vocalists is the driving force of this outfit; as in the days of old, the human voice is regarded not only as the main lyrical component, but as a distinct instrument in itself. Sub Rosa (from the Latin term for secrecy, literally “under the rose”) continues many of the same themes as its predecessor – melancholy journeys of mind and body through love, pain and wonder, with a reverence toward singing and songwriting styles that span the centuries – including a few modern twists that may surprise you.
Graceful, low-key instrumentation serves as an effective bed for the lyrical warmth of Allen and Bowman’s vocals for several tracks – harpsichord drives much of “Farce,” while dulcimer colors “A Ballade of the Centre.” But there’s also some instrumentally robust cuts, including the title track and epic-sounding “The Vastness,” showcasing the duo at their most cinematic. Guest vocalist Cindy Adzuki Chang steps to the forefront for “The Journey” (a heartfelt memorial piece) and the Middle Eastern-inflected “Odyle,” to which she also contributes a snake-charming flute. Traditional passages “The Flowers Pressed Down,” Il Est Bel Et Bon” and “O Maria Mater Pia” demonstrate the duo’s impressive skill at layering vocals into a rich tapestry without the need of additional instrumentation.
Skipping forward a few centuries, most unique is the inclusion of timeless standards “Nature Boy” (probably best known to modern audiences from the Baz Luhrmann musical Moulin Rouge) and torchy crooner “Angel Eyes” (treated to sound like a degraded vintage recording), as well as an effective cover of the Beatles classic “Because.” They then catapult us into the 21st century to close the album with an offbeat dance mix of opening track “World Indifferent,” demonstrating how a well-executed song can serve many purposes, including a bumping tribal-fusion groove (this mix is reportedly a favorite in the routine of many professional belly dancers).
A testament to the enduring strength of quality songwriting and expert vocal skill, Sub Rosa is a melancholy but ultimately affirming work that weaves a powerful spell, transcending genre boundaries and transporting the listener to another time and place. -Gregory S. Burkart
Reviews Editor –
Mirabilis è la femminea creatura nata dall’incontro spirituale tra Dru Allen (This Ascension) e Summer Bowman (The Machine In The Garden): una delicata silhouette che, con movenze appena accennate, frastorna l’attonito osservatore con la sua incontrastata leggiadria, come una ninfa che, avvolta dalla prima nebbia mattutina, danza sulle rive d’un irreale lago. È un side-project dall’imperturbabile eleganza quello imbastito dalle due heavenly voices statunitensi che, dopo averci regalato Pleiades, il primo e significativo full-length del 2004, si affacciano nuovamente sulle scene pubblicando il nuovissimo “Sub Rosa” attraverso la storica Projekt di Sam Rosenthal, una delle label pioniere nel campo della musica ethereal. Nel lussureggiante giardino dell’Anima silenziose danze ancestrali celebrano il congiungimento delle due entità mistiche, cori arcani si levano al cielo per decantare il miracolo della creazione artistica: da questi rituali sgorgano placide ed accarezzate dalla rugiada le sedici canzoni di Sub Rosa, un’opera totalmente priva di connotati spazio-temporali, un luogo interiore dove le più ineffabili passioni sovrannaturali si schiudono, una fonte inesauribile di grazia e purezza dalla quale attingere senza timore.
Bastano poche note, pochissimi ascolti per lasciarsi soggiogare dal lirismo di questi dolci madrigali che, richiamando la classicità greca e romana e raccogliendo la preziosa eredità dei Dead Can Dance e dei lavori solisti dell’insuperabile Lisa Gerrard, risvegliano fremiti da tempo assopiti. La musica di Mirabilis partorisce melodie incantevoli che afferrano l’anima e la lasciano volare, libera dai legami terrestri e dalle catene della quotidianità, nell’infinito cielo di una notte stellata, verso percezioni lontanissime ed oscure. In queste canzoni, per scagionare la possibilità di comporre un lavoro autoreferenziale e privo d’originalità, e per abbellire ulteriormente la propria opera, Dru e Summer hanno messo tanta farina del proprio sacco: le voci profonde, multiformi e cristalline, adoperate come fossero veri e propri strumenti, il cullante canto del dulcimer, la malinconia inquieta del pianoforte, l’immensità turchese del flauto, il richiamo atavico e silvestre delle percussioni… La cosmica “World Indifferent” (presente anche in una piacevolissima versione elettronica) e la disincantata “The Journey” meritano innegabilmente una menzione particolare per le eminenti vette di perfezione che riescono a toccare, ma è doveroso segnalare che ognuna delle varie tappe della tracklist presenta delle peculiarità a sé stanti, che fanno adorare l’album nella sua serafica sublimità e consacrano queste due artiste tra le novelle dee della musica neoclassica. La bellezza sempiterna, nascosta sotto i petali di una rosa. Rating: 8.5 out of 10. -Lovelorn
Reviews Editor –
From Bliss Aquamarine
Second album from Mirabilis, who consist of members of This Ascension and The Machine in the Garden. Their music brings together both the dreampop and neomedieval sounds the Projekt label is known for, to impressive effect. World Indifferent combines ethereal pop, sombre synth and medieval percussion. The Journey is a lullaby with hammered dulcimer, flute and atmospheric layered vocals. The Vastness sets a delicate dreampop song to brooding orchestral synths and bombastic drumming. Nature Boy is indeed the well-known eden ahbez-penned track; its near-mystical, philosophical lyrics fit well with the overall theme of the album, and the addition of the kind of beautiful echoey choral vocals that typify the ‘heavenly voices’ genre works really well. The Flowers Pressed Down is an exceptional Renaissance-style a cappella number. Il Est Bel Et Bon and O Maria Mater Pia are astonishing renditions of 16th century compositions, the vocals multi-layered in choral style. Odyle introduces Middle Eastern motifs alongside distinctive percussion and chanting. Angel Eyes, an old jazz song, is stripped down to simply a solo vocal processed to sound ‘hollow’, like it was recorded on very primitive equipment, and includes added crackly vinyl noises in the background for extra ‘authentic vintage’ effect. Farce is a neoclassical, slightly theatrical song with piano and harpsichord. Sub Rosa is an evocative, atmospheric track with some very fine medieval drumming. Finally, World Indifferent appears again in remixed form with electro-goth synths, dance beats and industrial sound effects. Lots of very beautiful material here, from a band I’m keen to hear more from.
Reviews Editor –
From All Music
To say that Middle Pillar act Mirabilis also fits in on Projekt with its second album would be to understate a bit — they almost seem designed for it, at least that part of the label that has consistently shown a soft spot for medievally inclined performers via the Dead Can Dance template, no bad thing when done right (and no question they do it especially well on the instrumental/wordless vocal piece “Undercurrent”). So if the photos of the core duo of Dru Allen and Summer Bowman, both singers as well as instrumentalists, suggests a session either for Propaganda magazine or an SCA flyer, that shouldn’t put off anyone not dyed in that particular wool.
A mix of originals and reinterpretations suggestive of new labelmates Unto Ashes on their many albums, Sub Rosa hits all the expected sonic marks — moody, minimal arrangements, stately drumming — but relies on Allen’s and Bowman’s excellent vocals at the core. Their singing has the same clear, strong feel to it as the underrated Lynn Canfield’s does, and on a cappella songs like “The Flowers Pressed Down,” one of several such pieces on Sub Rosa, the effect is entrancing. Among the other originals, a standout is “The Journey,” sung and co-written by guest performer Cindy Adzuki Chang in memory of a departed relative. The covers, meanwhile, include two jazz-age standards — “Nature Boy” and “Angel Eyes,” both given gently unnerving takes thanks to more a cappella arrangements (the latter also given a fake vinyl scratch for effect) — as well as a faithful take on the Beatles’ “Because.” The fragility and calm singing of the original is thrown into fine relief by the singing here, suggesting less obvious roots to their approach. -Ned Raggett