Gjallarhorn
Sjofn
Finlands Svenska Folkmusikinstitut (Finland)
released North America by Northside (www.noside.com)

cd cover Gjallarhorn is a quartet of musicians from the Swedish side of Finland who delve deep into the earth for their wild, unfettered sound. Much of what is here has a tribal/global quality, with didjeridu, various African percussion, and Jew's harp. The roots of the music, however, are completely Scandinavian, pulling from Swedish and Icelandic sources as well as Finnish. Jenny Wilhelms' clear, flexible vocals are layered and contrapuntalized and then laid over deep didj, popping percussion, and grinding fiddle and Hardanger.

Many of the texts are traditional, based on Swedish ballads, Icelandic rune poems, and dance tunes. Most of the melodies are newly composed yet they meld beautifully with the texts. The tight yet unfettered quality of the arrangements will bring to mind the work of Annbjorg Lein, albeit without the synths and sampling.

"Dejelill och Lagerman"
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"Bergfäst (Mountain haunted)" is an epic tone poem about a young man being seduced by mountain-folk. It begins with a lively fiddle groove, then segues into Wilhelms' voice overdubbed into haunting sonorities. It all ends with a simple waltz tune on fiddle and Hardanger. "Dolphin calling" is a piece that could have degenerated into New Age mush in less skilled hands. Yes, there are the requisite dolphin and ocean sounds, but a jazzy kalimba ostinato and Wilhelms' precise vocals give it meat and spirit. The mystery of the Icelandic rune poem gets the Gjallarhorn treatment on "Hjaðningaríma," a poem about trolls, witches, and giants. It begins and ends with liturgical chant-like harmonies. In between, fast-paced whispered and hissed vocals give the dichotomous feeling of both light and menace. "Dejelill och Lagerman (Dejelill and Lagerman)" is an elopement song from Turku, with the sounds of escape conveyed by swirling fiddle and a galloping rhythm. It all ends with wild, high-pitched shrieking; very chilling.

Though an untamed earth spirit runs through the whole thing, Sjofn is a meticulously crafted piece of work. - Peggy Latkovich

 

Buy it at cdroots.com

Gjallarhorn web site: www.gjallarhorn.com
Read Andrew Cronshaw's interview with the band from Folk Roots
Contact the Institute of Finnish-Swedish Traditional Music: fmi@syi.fi

Audio: "Dejelill och Lagerman"
Composed and ©2000 Gjallarhorn
US release ©2000 Northside
Used by permission.

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