cd cover


15 Years

Northside (

Fifteen Years. Has it really been that long? I remember coveting that first Groupa album, treasuring the revelations it contained, that explosion of sound, even in those now primitive, exploratory days. I knew about those fiddlers, from the Nonesuch Explorer records and those "folk dressed" ensembles on the little labels with the pretty covers from the 60s. But this? This was amazing. Mats Edén played fiddle like some spirit from beyond, even then.

Next a friend set Utan Sans, with Simonson's bass clarinet opening up whole new worlds of music, folk-baroque without pretense, with guts and depth (I went back and found the other missed records, all beautiful, all just right.) Next Månskratt came, adding keyboard technology from the hands of Rickard Åström, and a brief first taste of the amazing Lena Willemark's vocals, an addiction yet to be kicked.

Listen! Then somewhere along the line, with them all so busy in other groups, I thought Groupa was past tense, or at least sleeping, and said so in print. One day in the e-mail comes a message. "No, we are not dead. We are busy. We have a new record." They sent me 1995's Imeland (by now it's 1997) and the joy of discovery is again visited. Tina Johansson adds her unique Afro-Swedish jazz flavored percussion and with Edén, Simonson and Åström achieve near-perfection as they go further afield without leaving the ancient muse behind. Fifteen years captured on one little piece of plastic five inches round? Well, almost. Has it really been that long? - CF

See also: Sweden
Sound file: "Imeland," traditional, arranged by Groupa, used by permission.

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