Ptolemea is a four-piece band from Luxembourg who fuse together elements of Alternative, Rock, and Pagan Folk. They are made up of vocalist & lyricist Priscila Da Costa, Moog player & backing vocalist Sarah Kertz, guitarist Remo Cavallini, and percussionist & drummer Martin Schommer. PTOLEMEA debuted on the scene in 2018 with their very first EP titled “Tome” and followed up in 2020 with another EP, “Maze”. On January 20th of 2023, they released their debut full-length album, Balanced Darkness.
Ptolemea comes from the story of when Priscila was looking for a band name, she wanted something that was related to the Universe and spent hours on Google, coming across the Astrophysicist, Claudius Ptolemeaeus, who also is referred to as Ptolemy. Priscila Loved the idea of how he connected the measurements of the Universe and Music together and decided to take his family name and put an A at the end of it to add that feminine side. “That’s where the name comes from, and it was also because the Universe is always expanding, and people say that the expansion of the Universe is related to the expansion of the human Souls. Ptolemea is also about working on yourself spiritually and to evolve as a human being.”
Priscila began writing and creating songs around age twenty-five. One day a friend asked if she would write a song for an event, and she agreed. “It was like a revelation for me writing a song and express myself in that way. I started writing songs and then I had my five first songs and I thought the next logical step is to create a band and to bring a CD out, so I asked a few friends of mine who were actually Jazz Musicians, and they were super kind and super nice and they really helped me a lot to go on in the studio and record the songs.”
In the beginning, Priscila didn’t know what kind of direction Ptolemea’s sound would take on and worked with various Jazz and Hard Rock Musicians. Fast forward to 2023, the band’s lineup changed, as did the sound direction for Balanced Darkness. For this album, she really wanted to keep Martin Schommer as the drummer, and bring in guitarist Remo Cavallini, who was a guest on the first EP. He’s also based out of Luxembourg and is known as one of the best guitar players in the Blues scene, “it was really funny to see him producing sound with his guitars that are not Bluesy. It was fun and he was open to it, so it was really cool.”
Priscila wanted to get rid of the electric bass and have the sound of a Moog synthesizer and also a second female singer, asking Sarah Kertz to join, “I’m really happy that she’s in the band and I also like to have like that Feminine energy. It’s different when you are with three or four boys in a band and when you have another girl in the band. She’s also into that witchy stuff and it’s cool. I’m really happy that she’s on board now.”
As Priscila was still looking for Ptolemea’s sound before Balanced Darkness came to fruition, some songs on the TOME I and Maze EPs have some Bluesier and Hard Rock elements…She also experimented with a Reggae style song for fun. “The thing with the Reggae song, it was funny because I just wanted to do like a little Reggae version for the Summer. And I wanted to keep it like small, like how can I say that afterwards, like people they were, they really enjoyed it a lot. Like the Reggae song was like, yeah, but that’s not the direction that it’s taking. It was funny. I like to play it during acoustic sets.
For the previous songs, I was trying unconsciously to fit in a box. I was trying to sound like this band, and this band, but it was not really me. Of course, there’s a part of those bands in my songwriting, but it’s not just that. And now I think that I found like the right direction. It’s still room for improvement, but that’s like the right direction now, the sound of the debut album.”
The theme of Balanced Darkness incorporates Nature’s elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, along with the message of balancing and embracing your inner darkness, rather than succumbing and fearing it. It was an unplanned theme that evolved organically when Priscilla isolated herself for a week at a cabin in the woods, bringing her instruments, computer, and microphone with. She wrote almost all of the songs on Balanced Darkness at the cabin; the song Leap of Faith was written after.
Four years prior to recording Balanced Darkness, Priscila went to Peru and took part in Shamanic rituals and ceremonies, which had a big impact on her Life and Music, which gave her the perspective of how to deal with the dark sides of our Souls. “Before I had that experience, I was drowning in my own darkness. I was very depressed, and I really had a very hard time. These experiences with Shamanism really helped me a lot, a lot, a lot. Now I still have stuff that I had to work on, but now I feel that energy I can do my stuff, I have my projects, it doesn’t drag me down anymore. Some days I feel a little bit down and I accept that, and I welcome those emotions, I live them so I can let them go again.”
There were some profound moments while she was in the state of creation for Balanced Darkness at the cabin, “sometimes I was recording layer on after layer and then I pressed play, and I just had to laugh. I was laughing because I really had that feeling that I really liked what I was writing and creating. And I had a few moments like this. It reminded me of an experience I had… I used to take a lot of drugs before, and I had some experiences with mushrooms. One day I took three grams of mushrooms and I was all alone in my bedroom with no lights, no Music, nothing, just darkness and me, nothing else. And it was the first time I felt unconditional Love from the Universe. When I was super high, I really felt that connection with the Universe. I did that twice.”
After taking part in the Shamanic ceremonies, Priscila wanted to reach that state of happiness and satisfaction on her own, without using Psychedelics. She experienced that state of organic bliss while writing this album, “It sounds a little cheesy, but I was really feeling blessed that I could write those songs and it was beautiful there. I had a few moments during that week, and it was the first time that I could access those feelings of Love and connection without taking any drugs. And so that was for me it was very powerful.”
Shamanic Lullaby is the opening track on Balanced Darkness, inspired by the shaman singing at the ceremonies, so you get into the mood and vibe of the album, and it’s a very rhythmic, heartbeat like atmosphere with soft and majestic vocals throughout the song. The next track is titled, Atmospheric Pressure Drop, “that’s the moment where you really have the feeling that the pressure in the room is dropping, that you are going into another dimension, and you realize the mountain of suppressed feelings that are just in front of me. And then you have Fado where you actually feel, “okay, I’m in the right environment, there are people to help me, and I am strong enough, I have that fire in me to confront those suppressed emotions, those demons.” And then you have Inspiration, Universal Feedback, and My Darkest Creature where you are confronted to those fears, to all those emotions that you suppress for years and then you have an easier mind. It’s like, “okay, now it’s time to cool down, to calm down, everything is okay.” Then you have Leap of Faith, so it’s kind of the Hope. You start to feel the Hope and then Balanced Darkness, where you land again, and you realize that you can find balance in integrating those dark parts of your soul.”
Priscila feels that Ptolemea embraces her Portuguese origins, and the band is planning on releasing an album in Portugeuese for 2024.
You can support Ptolemea by purchasing Balanced Darkness in digital format or the vinyl, which is limited to 300 copies, from their official Bandcamp page.