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jueves, 17 de noviembre de 2016

Gjallarhorn - Sjofn (2000)


Seguimos con Finlandia en nuestra saga y ahora presentamos el aegundo álbum de estudio de este fantástico grupo finlandés que mezcla el folclore escandinavo con influencias hindúes y australianas. Si bien esta agrupación podría tomarse como una típica banda que realizan folcklore nódico, no son solamente una de las bandas más importantes de folk finlandés sino también que añaden interesantes dosis de experimetación a su música, como la utilización de elementos ajenos a su folcklore, el canto en sueco y ciertas experimentaciones rítmicas que los hacen estar en este espacio. El grupo ofrece música del mundo con raíces en el folklore sueco de Finlandia, mezclando aires y modos tradicionales escandinavos con influencias lejanas de la India y hasta de Australia, por lo que no sólo obtienen la categoría de "folk prog" sino que además tienen un excelente puntaje en Progarchives.

Artista: Gjallarhorn
Álbum: Sjofn
Año: 2000
Género: prog folk / Música del mundo
Duración: 52:00
Nacionalidad: Finlandia


Lista de Temas:
01. Suvetar
02. Tova och konungen
03. Dejelill och Lagerman
04. Minuet from Jeppo-Polska (Intro)
05. Minuet from Jeppo-Polska
06. Jom Helge Ande
07. Näcken och Jungfrun
08. Su Ru Ruskadirej
09. Bergfäst
10. Oravais minuet
11. Lille dansa...
12. HjaõNingaríma
13. Sinivatsa

Alineación:
- Jenny Wilkhelms / vocals, fiddle, hardangerfiddle
- Christopher Öhman / viola, mandola, vocals, kalimba
- Tommy Mansikka-Aho / didgeridoo, slideridoo, Jew's harp, udu, djembe
- David Lillkvist / percussion (udu, djembe, darabuka, congas, bongos, shamantrumma framdrum, shakers, snaredrum, tomtoms, bassdrums, cymbals, triangle, surdo, cowdrum, chimes, tambourine, kalimba)
Guest artists:
Sara Puljula / double bass on 3 tracks




En la mitología escandinava, el Gjallarhorn es el cuerno con el que Heimdal, que según Wikipedia no sólo es el dios guardián de Asgard: es hijo de Odín y de nueve mujeres gigantes que lo nutrieron con sangre de jabalí, y poseía una vista aguda, un fino oído y su percepción era tan extraordinaria que oía crecer la hierba, razón por la cual se le designó guardián de la morada de los dioses, Asgard, y del Bifrost, el arco iris que hace de puente hasta ella. Según los antiguos nórdicos, el Gjallarhorn anunciará el Ragnarök (la batalla del fin del mundo, que será emprendida entre los dioses: los Æsir, liderados por Odín y los gigantes de fuego liderados por Surt, a los cuales también se les une los jotuns liderados por Loki. No sólo los dioses, gigantes, y monstruos perecerán en esta conflagración apocalíptica, sino que casi todo en el universo será destruido). El nombre del cuerno está relacionado con la palabra gala que significa "gritar" o "cantar con voz fuerte".


Gjallarhorn es una banda de folk originaria de la región de Ostrobotnia del Sur, en Finlandia. Puesto que en esta región hay una importante minoría que habla el idioma sueco, la banda canta la mayoría de sus canciones en dicha lengua. No obstante, también interpretan temas en finés. El grupo nace como un trío formado por Jenny Wilhelms, Christopher Öhman (viola, mandola) y Jacob Frankenhaeuser (didgeridoo), pero se convierte en cuarteto en 1996, cuando se les une un percusionista. La formación principal se queda con cuatro componentes hasta que en 2005 se incorpora a la banda el flautista Göran Månsson. El grupo se formó en la zona fronteriza con Suecia, motivo por el cual muchas de sus canciones (relacionadas casi siempre con la mitología nórdica) están interpretadas en sueco.
Gjallarhorn está considerada como una de las principales bandas del folk escandinavo, así como de grandes innovadores en términos de sonoridad y fusión de instrumentos no tradicionales de la región, como el didgeridoo (originario de Australia), con la música tradicional nórdica.
Wikipedia



También en la mitología nórdica, "Sjofn" es la diosa del amor y la pasión. A ella se invocaba en las fiestas de primavera que se celebraban antaño en los países nórdicos en demanda de buenas cosechas.

Pero el grupo Gjallarhorn parte desde la mitología y la cultura nórdica para lanzarse a ofrecer música del mundo con raíces en el folklore sueco de Finlandia, mezclando aires y modos tradicionales escandinavos con influencias lejanas: de la India y hasta de la propia Australia, cuyo típico didgeridoo utiliza en sustitución del bordón escandinavo para reforzar el ritmo chamánico de las baladas de viejas resonancias.
La revista "Folk Roots" había escrito sobre ellos: "Parece probable que el grupo Gjallarhorn sea la próxima sensación del mundillo de la word music". Aunque lamentablemente la banda se quedó en el camino cuando avanzaban hacia la consolidación definitiva luego de su cuarto disco, y se separaron, pero dejaron como legajo cuatro notables discos
 

Violines, viola, contrabajo, kalimba, guimbarda, diversos instrumentos de percusión étnica, gritos de delfines, ruido de mar... y muchas voces, entre las que destaca la de Jenny Wilhelms, que hace de todo y da prueba no sólo de importantes dotes vocales y de muy buen gusto, sino también de una preparación académica notable.



There’s something great about a world where the didgeridoo, butt-kicking percussion, and some Indian-influenced vocals seems seem right at home on an album of Finnish-Swedish folk music. Actually there’s just something great about Sjofn, Gjallarhorn’s second offering. It’s got lush vocals, primal rhythms, richly textured instrumentals, haunting melody, all wrapped up into one of the most beautiful musical packages I’ve heard all year. World and Nordic music aficionados should not miss this disc.
Gjallarhorn are Jenny Willhelms on vocals, violin and hardanger fiddle; Christopher Öhman on viola, mandola, vocals and kalimba; Tommy Mansikka on aho, didgeridoo, mungiga, udu and djembe; and David Lillkvist on percussion and kaliba. Willhelms is an outstanding vocalist, with a soft soprano that is layered throughout Sjofn to create a sense of abandon that is oddly tender and never harsh. She sings in the traditional Scandinavian style, with occasional flourishes from Indian vocal traditions. Wherever it comes from, it’s phenomenal. Think Vartina without the shrill factor; after all, Willhelms doesn’t need to use her voice as percussion because she is supported by an awesome collections of percussive sounds and the drone of the djideridoo.
Sjofn has a nature-loving, almost pagan theme in celebrating the primal nature of northern spring, as personified by the goddess of love. This raw, celebratory element comes through in the spirited melodies that evoke times past, in the occasional use of nature sounds (without any wishy-washy elements), in some great fiddle playing, and wonderful arrangements: the perfect blend of technology and acoustic instruments. Willhelms’ vocals really carry the album, but the superior arrangements that support her singing create the sense of magic about this album. It’s not hard to see why the disc has won awards in Finland and the support of Finland’s Svenska folkmusicinstitut.
There are no weak songs on this album, although several deserve special mention. The opening track, “Suvetar,” sets the tone of the disc, placing Willhelms’ chanting vocals against the drone and African rhythms. This is one of those songs that comes back to you while paused in the elevator or walking down a crowded street; it’s infectious and lush. “Näcken och Junfrun,” about the attraction between a water sprite and a young woman, has a great balance of vocals, a hip, syncopated beat, and the drone of the didgeridoo. “Kom helge ande,” calling a holy spirit, brings in the most obvious Indian vocal influences and percussion, which creates a lovely, contemplative song. “Su Ru Ruskadirej” is the best vocal track on the album. Layers of Willhelms’ wonderful voice describe a suitor pursuing a miller’s daughter. It’s not easy to get this kind of vocal effect outside of the studio, with trained voices creating such precise vocal effects, but it is one I would very much like to hear live. There is also some great fiddling on this album, particularly on “Tuva och konungen” and the instr/pumental tracks, “Menuett från Jeppo/polska.”
Several numbers have a wild, yet mediaeval feel to them, particularly “Bergfäst” about the mountain folk calling a fair young man to the other side, and the instrumental, that follows, “Oravais minuet,” a stately number with lots of barely contained undercurrents. The last number trails off onto a walk on the beach, with their signature vocals and percussion creating a heady mix that slowly winds down over several minutes.
This CD is a “must acquire” item, one that will be difficult to pull out of the CD player. It is beautifully packaged with stunning photography from the band’s video to accompany “Suvetar.” If you doubt my word (but how could you?), check out the samples and poke around the band’s main page for more mdetails on their history, tours, and other projects at their Web site.
Kim Bates


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.
"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


Fans of the progressive strain of Nordic music pioneered by Hedningarna and Garmarna now have another genre-bending band to latch onto. Finland’s Gjallarhorn take some of the elements of those two bands and add some intriguing new twists to make one of the most fascinating sounds of 2000. Nordic music is noted for drones under the ornamental melodies, usually provided by a stringed instrument (violin, hurdy-gurdy and so on) or Jew’s harp, or, in modern cases, a synthesizer. Gjallarhorn incorporate a drone instrument from a very different part of the world – the Australian didgeridoo. Strange as it may seem, it’s an inspired match. The beautiful voice of Jenny Wilhelms floats over the low drone, joined by fiddle and mandola and other acoustic instruments. A wide variety of percussion from around the world, including African djembe and Latin congas, provides a driving pulse on most tracks. Given the incredible power of the music, it’s hard to imagine there are no electric or electronic instruments. Between the expansive tone of the didgeridoo and the percussion, which ranges to spirited but subtle shakers to pounding toms and frame drums, synthesizers and electric guitars become quite irrelevant. For their source material, the band take inspiration from traditional tunes of Sweden, Iceland, and Karelia, but the interpretation is all their own. Other band members Christopher Öhman (viola, mandola, fiddle, kalimba, and vocals), Tommy Mansikka-Aho (didgeridoo, slideridoo, Jew’s harp, and percussion), and David Lillkvist (more percussion instruments than I care to type out) provide a superb level of musical imagination backing Wilhelms’ voice (multitracked in luscious arrangements) and fiddle. It is only with great difficulty that I tear myself away from this disc to review anything else.
Jon Davies


A thoroughly Pagan delight of an album from Finnish ensemble Gjallarhorn who balances the energetic and enthusiastic vocals (and fiddle) of Jenny Wilhelm against a musical structure that draws its heart from Finland and Sweden and its pulse from all over the world; aside from the fiddle, Hardanger fiddle, and viola, the four-piece group utilizes didgeridoo and a staggering variety of percussion. Sjofn is essentially dedicated to the goddess of that name as a way of infusing additional energy into a collection of songs essentially focusing on love and life (though deities of an unsubtle kind do pop in from time to time). The general attitude of Pagan concern (rather than Pagan abandon, as some might assume) is supported quite well by the two videos included on this Enhanced CD, particularly that for "Suvetar" (translated as Goddess of Spring), though the video for "Dejelill Och Langerman" has the local equivalent of Cernunnos/Herne popping up to watch the group performing in a city center. Great stuff, and very, very highly recommended.
Steven McDonald


"Sjofn" is undoubtedly the sort of album that deserves not only your complete attention when you're listening to it, but more than a couple of ears to let it flow into your depths. All you need to do is sharpen up your senses by turning them into one at the time you're closing your eyes and kicking back to the music. This is the band's second album, and yet it sounds particularly strange, like nothing we have heard before by the Finnish quartet led by the celestial voice of Jenny WILHELMS; which to my concern, is one of the most revealing female leading voices of the nowadays prog scene and the one that has been eternally consistent. Sometimes it's quite inevitable to think of Emila DERKOWSKA (who stepped out of Polish band QUIDAM last year as many of you might know) or Magdalena HAGBERG of PLP when listening to Jenny's voice, but each one of them sound off absolutely different when compassed with the very own instrumentation put together by the band to bring out their voices and charisma. And speaking of instrumentation, when I recently discovered GJALLARHORN, I resembled their work to the one accomplished by legendary Swedish band ÄNGLAGÅRD in the early nineties, but surprisingly to me, the Finnish band was also formed during that decade, so maybe it could've existed some kind of feedback in between the Nordic bands due the proximities and the remains of culture both countries share and since GJALLARHORN is part of the ancestral Swedish community settled in Finland. The symphonic arrangements in "Sjofn" are practically impossible to tell apart from the "Hybris" and "Epilog" ones, so you might as well, listen to them separately.
The perfect blend of acoustic instruments and beautiful nature sounds make Jenny's voice carry the whole album away magically with the anticipation of African rhythms or mythical didgeridoo as in "Suvetar" and "Näcken och Junfrun" respectively. In "Su Ru Ruskadirej", Jenny exploits her voice so beautifully that makes the entire album worth-listening and entitles this song as the one standing up for the rest. Apart from the musical numbers I just described, there are many others that deserve special attention because of the difficulty and inconveniences of making instrumental passages convincing; particularly medieval suite "Bergfäst" and "Orvais". As I suggested, the arrangements are exceptional, the instrumentation is sweetly performed and the sensitiveness is in the air ready to be absorbed, even by the most exigent ears. There's nothing but flawless songs on this album.
So original, impressive and fresh, that incites to be imitated; the Finnish band style is as pure as polished that some other folkloric/art rock bands could easily look up to them. I think DJAM KARET or NETHERWORLD could learn a thing or two from the Nordic quartet as well. This production is, fearlessly to be wrong about recommending it; impeccable and a must to unpredictable and audacious proggers. You'll get hooked on their music.
Alberto R.

There seems to me to be something about Swedish musicians (or in this case Swedish-speaking Finnish ones) that really demands attention. Maybe it’s because of my great-great-great grandfather Sven Peter’s bloodlines, not sure, but the attraction is very strong and persistent.
But some of the best folk-leaning music from that region also seems to have a tendency toward broad experimentation in instrumentation as well as both fanciful and regionally-traditional themes, all of which add to the appeal. Gjallarhorn are no exception. This album, though featuring only a quartet of musicians still manages to employ no less than two dozen instruments, many of them falling in the ‘world music’ category. There are of course regional traditional instruments such as the Norwegian (hardanger) fiddle, Celtic tenor mandola, viola and violin. But the band turns to both South America and Africa for their percussion, and this is where they manage to turn what might be otherwise unexceptional folk music into something vibrant and hypnotic. From Africa the band employs the sounds of a kalimba (thumb piano), bongos, djembe, kalimba hand piano, udu; from Arab lands the wooden-sounding darabuka; and from Brazil the surdo drum. The distinctive sounds of the Australian didgeridoo and slideridoo continue from the band’s first album, as does the mungiga (Jew’s harp), which I never noticed before but that instrument actually sounds a bit like a didgeridoo at times.
Lead vocalist Jenny Wilkhelms has a surprisingly soft and melodic vocal timbre, which I say only because most of my previous experience with Nordic female singers is that they seem to tend toward a certain level of shrillness, particularly in their native tongues. Gjallarhorn (and Wilkhelms in particular) have been compared to their countrymen (or is that countrywomen) Värttinä, only without the heavy trilling in the singing. Vocally I think that’s an accurate description, but musically Gjallarhorn are far more adventurous than Värttinä’s basically folk-infused pop music. Just a side observation, but worth noting. One other spurious observation: on “Dejelill och Lagerman” Wilkhelms’ chanting sounds strikingly like Kate Bush’s “Leave it Open” or maybe the title track from ‘The Dreaming’.
So back to the percussion, which really makes the music here stand out from other Nordic folk acts. Petter Berndalen is a classically trained percussionist who actually holds a university degree in Swedish folk music (who knew there was such a thing). When listening to these tracks I try to imagine them without the various drums, bells, whistles and shakers. Frankly they would end up being good music anyway since Wilkhelms is an accomplished writer and her vocals complement the strings quite well, but overall my impression is the songs would sound dated and rather pedestrian without Berndalen.
The vocals here are all (I assume) sung in Swedish; at least I know they’re not in English. The themes are fanciful (goddesses, water sprites, haunted mountains and fair kings), as well as with historical and cultural references. In several places Wilkhelms overdubs herself with her own vocal tracks, and this combined with what sounds like 16-track recording with several percussion tracks gives the impression there are a lot more musicians involved than there really are. It would seem that this album gestated for quite a while in the studio. The strings are also quite exceptional throughout, and especially because they manage to avoid that distinctly Nordic trap of sounding morbid and depressing. These folks get plenty of time in the sun and it shows in their music. The strings are at times languid, even sad, but never mournful and usually quite vibrant. A press photo of the band on their web site’s home page shows them standing in a sunny meadow instead of a dank, dark castle like so many other Nordic bands are cast, and the upbeat outlook also shows in their music.
I’m not sure there is a highlight on the album, but one other track worth noting is the instrumental “Berhfäst” which combines the Norwegian and traditional fiddles with a bit of viola into a really gorgeous string composition that seems altogether far shorter than the nearly eight minutes that it runs. I’ve played this several times over and can’t quite put my finger on what makes it special, but the effect of the strings is very hypnotic.
So I don’t know much about these guys beyond what’s on their web site and what I have read here and elsewhere, but I like their music and am already looking into the rest of their discography. This is an excellent, dynamic, upbeat and multi-layered modern folk album from a band with a bright future. Four stars without a doubt and very highly recommended to both folk and world music fans.
Bob Moore

No album deserves five unconditional stars at first exposure, but the second (and best) effort by Gjallarhorn might prove to be an exception. The acoustic folk quartet inhabits a place where myth and music overlap, but don't expect to hear another unwashed folk art anthropology act. In textbook Prog fashion the group sits easily astride opposing worlds: the contemporary and the traditional, playing in a style far too modern for the Folk Music tag but too authentically ancient for any strictly Progressive cubbyhole.
It's a great combination, arranged here in perfect balance: part medieval austerity, part toe-tapping finesse, locally sourced but with a much wider appeal. The Hardanger fiddles and mandolas give the music its rustic flavor, conjuring images of distant boreal forest under heavy snow. And the didgeridoo (!) provides the unique pagan aura..."the constant shamanistic pulse of the old tunes", as noted in the extensive CD notes...in this instance recalling the drone of a malfunctioning Celtic bagpipe but still evoking backwoods Scandinavia (the group hails from western Finland, but has strong cultural ties to nearby Sweden).
An arsenal of discreet but ubiquitous percussion further enhances the band's global reach, extending far beyond their winter homeland toward India, central Africa, and back-of-beyond Australia. But the real attraction here is the dulcet voice of Jenny Wilhelms, to this Anglophile sounding not unlike a Nordic Annie Haslam, with the same transparent clarity and astonishing octave range. Her multi-tracked choral harmonies are things of mesmeric beauty, whether intoning a pre-Christian hymn to the spirits of air and earth ("Kom Helge Ande"), recalling playful age-old fables ("Tova och Konungen", given extra bounce from some funky upright double bass), or invoking the healing wind deity Suvetar in the song of the same name, which rises from a simple kalimba intro to an ecstasy of elemental power, all the more impressive considering the lack of electronics.
Wilhelms was also the album's primary composer, usually integrating lyrics borrowed from traditional sources, sung in Swedish but helpfully translated to English inside the CD booklet. Progressive Rock has often looked to folklore for inspiration, but rarely with this degree of legitimacy, drawn from songs and stories already embedded deep inside the band's collective psyche, about water sprites, Icelandic trolls, handsome kings and peasant girls, and...dolphins? The latter aren't exactly native to the Ostrobothnia region of Finland, but no matter: the otherworldly sounds (recorded in the South Pacific) only add more texture to an already atmospheric performance.
The album was named for the Norse goddess of love: "the guardian of these recordings", says the band on the CD's back cover. Fair enough, no wonder I'm smitten. If the music of northern European latitudes is like a lodestone to you as well, prepare to be compelled by the irresistible magnetic tug of this innovative group.
Michael Neumann

Un disquito distinto del que acustumbramos a publicar.. aunque ahora que lo pienso nuestro único estilo es el eclecticismo. Y otra muestra que lo llamado "progresivo" está no solo ligado al jazz, a la vanguardia y a lo académico sino también a lo pupular y a los folklores de cada región. Y si quieren otra muestra de ello, hay millones, ya con lo que tenemos en el blog es un montón, pero hay verdaderas cantidades de ejemplo de este tipo de fusión.






Y si alguien quiere algo más de esta agrupación, por favor que avise. Ahora estoy escuchando todos sus discos.




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