Listen! The first time I heard a record of this band was when a friend in Sweden sent me a copy of their second album. I was so taken aback, so surprised by what I heard that I was on the phone before the record was over, talking to their Swedish label, and getting them to send copies around to friends in radio and the biz here in the US. It's taken almost four years, but someone has finally agreed with me wholeheartedly. Hell, they even started a new label just to get it out! While the compilation that was lost on giant Sony's TriStar roster last year was a nice intro to those few who could find it, a full-blown release (and tour to follow?) is an event.

For the previous two albums (Kaski! and Tra) Hedningarna was five, three Swedish men and two Finnish women. Here they have gone back to their original trio of three men; Anders Stake, Bjorn Töllin and Hallbus Mattsson. All play a myriad of ancient instruments revived; plastic amplified versions of birch bark flutes, electric mandolas, miked drums, synthed bagpipes and a dozen more, each an extension of the ancient traditions into the 21st century. Hipness and musicianship aside, this band has always appealed to me because of their total dedication to research, their understanding of the old songs and the old ways of playing. These songs have a primitive edge that could survive in a totally acoustic mode. But they see the value of technology, the possibilities inherent in using it creatively, and they use it with a vengeance.

They also know a good guest artist when they hear one, and this album includes joikking (an animist vocal style from Lapland) by the world's only joik-star, Wimme Saari, and electric guitar by Norwegian Knut Reiersrud, along with others on didgeridoo (now a required part of any roots record made?), electric bass and fiddle. Hippjokk is a record to be played LOUD, a rock record that has not fallen into the folk-rock trap. The folkies who expect more sweet fiddle tunes from Scandinavia had better beware and if there's an alternative rocker out there that won't listen to this record then they should drop their "alternative" moniker and go listen to some more of the same old Blur, Pavement and Matthew Sweet, nice enough, plenty familiar and ear-friendly. Unlike most of the retread, dinosaur rock on the radio, Hippjokk is genuinely new, unique and unashamedly aggressive. They join fellow Swedes Garmarna and the electric version of Cordelia's Dad (now called IO) as my idea of what real rock is supposed to be.
- Cliff Furnald

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Copyright 1997 RootsWorld/Cliff Furnald