both titles: Caprice Records, Sweden
Riding in on the tidal wave of great new music coming out of Scandinavia, Swedish bands Draupner and Kalabra add their own fresh sounds to the mix.
Draupner has been together since 1994, yet this is their debut recording. The trio, hailing from Hälsingland, consists of Tomas Lindberg (guitar and mandola), Henning Andersson (fiddle), and Görgen Antonsson (fiddle and 5-stringed fiddle). Much of the time this little ensemble sounds like many more than three. The fiddles have a full, richly harmonic sound, and Lindberg's work on guitar is driving and often orchestral. At other times, they weave delicate counterpoints, playing the lilting melodies off one another as a seasoned chamber ensemble might do. They have the ability to get to the core of a melody, be it traditional or newly composed, and bring out its essence. They do it with arrangements that eschew complexity in favor of character. It all has a lively pulse and sweep.
Kalabra reaches into the ancient stories and songs of Sweden, Iceland, and even the Balkans for much of its textual material. Then they mix together elements of jazz, rock, fusion, and folk into a breathtaking swirl. Lead singer Ulrika Bodén's voice is at the center of it, and it's a powerful instrument. She sings in a sparking soprano with a trace of Maddy Prior's tone color and phrasing. Yet the roller coaster arrangements erected by the rest of the band are far more than mere accompaniment. Using nyckelharpa, willow flute, bouzouki, electric guitar, bass and unexpected touches such as mbira and harmonica, the arrangements are so painterly as to almost negate the need for translation. Two companion pieces, "Galen Man (Crazy Man)" and "Före Gryningen (Before Dawn)" are particularly evocative. In the former, Bodén's coolly detached voice lays over a bass ostinato and nyckelharpa squeaks. The latter takes its text from three Icelandic and Swedish proverbs, all having the theme of darkness. Its deep, plodding backdrop is perfectly suited to the motif.
These are two very different listening experiences, yet these bands have in common a deep understanding and mastery of their material. - Peggy Latkovich
Kalabra "Före Gryningen"
Draupner "Ante Sundin"
©2000 Caprice, Sweden, used by permission
Both CDs are available from cdRoots