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Garmarna


Country of origin:

Sweden

Type of music generally:

Electrified folk/rock, traditional (and trad-based)

Status:

Most recent release, Garmarna (1993 ep re-released with bonus tracks, 2003); most recent release of new material, Hildegard von Bingen (versions of music by Hildegard von Bingen, 2001); most recent new album of traditional folk material (their usual material) Vedergällningen/Vengeance (1999)

See also:

Official Garmarna site

NorthSide Records' Garmarna site

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for Triakel, another band singer Emma Härdelin participates in

Comparisons:

Hedningarna operates in the same area, but they are much louder or 'meaner' than Garmarna. (Marion)

I would say they are closest in sound to France's Malicorne, but they also resemble an updated version of England's Steeleye Span to some extent. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Mostly traditional Swedish ballads, occasionally they write their own music or lyrics

General comments:

Garmarna put old Swedish ballads in a modern jacket. Dark lyrics, dark driven melodies. (Marion)

The singer has a powerful, clear voice that is easy to fall in love with. I prefer Garmarna to their country-mates Hedningarna, though I like the latter band, too. To me Garmarna's electric folk sound is very like that of Malicorne, possibly because of the distinctive hurdy-gurdy sound, but also in spirit. Also could be described as a speeded-up Swedish Steeleye Span. The sound is mostly fast and hard but it's all based on traditional Swedish songs and instruments. Lively, entertaining, and haunting. Very contemporary in some ways, yet with the added depth of their traditional material and instruments. This is a band I'll get everything I can find of. (Neile)

Garmarna is definitely a great band—their album, Vengeance, is especially good.
     Their combination of folk music and modern alternative music is great and well-suited to their lyrics—which tend to be dark, fairy tale, story type songs. (jjhanson@att.net)

One of my absolute favorite bands. Their first proper album, Vittrad/Crumbling Away, has lots of great instrumental heavy-folk tracks and a few brilliant sung tunes. The second one, Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians, features more of Emma the singer, which can hardly be a bad thing. The new album Vedergällningen/Vengeance, which many people (including myself) seem think the best one, is more, well, Ectronic.
     No matter what album you start with, chances are you won't be disappointed—they're all great. The important thing is that you get started with one of them...the rest will follow. (Okay, so I'm biased.) (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)

Comments about live performance:

We saw them play live in August 1997, and this was one of the weirdest concerts I've seen. The musicians in the band were all very energetic, running and jumping all over the stage, most of the songs have a hypnotizing beat, and yet singer Emma Härdelin stood motionless in the middle of everything, stepping up to the microphone when she had to sing, stepping back when she was done, and moving nothing but her mouth. No expression on her face, nothing. Hypnotized, bewitched, or just plain stage fright? :-) Only after the concert was over and the audience called for an encore she managed a careful smile. But her voice is so beautiful. (Marion)

My experience of seeing Garmarna in concert was the same as Marion's. I was fascinated by the contrast between the lively musicians who are all male and play with their whole bodies, really throwing themselves into it, and Emma Härdelin's motionless, deadpan singing—except her voice is anything but. I don't know if the contrast in intentional or not (from the way she hung back, I suspect stage fright). But her voice is pure magic, and so is the combination with these musicians. A great show! Anyway, it's traditional folk but fast and loud and great singing—what more could anyone want? (Neile)

If the songs on their albums sound like menacing, mythological beasts prowling the shadows just beyond your field of vision, the live versions have got the critters seriously pissed. And they make a lot of noise when they roar. I had assumed Garmarna would be loud, and they were. Heavy guitars, heavy violins, heavy drums, and heavy "primitive samples". The already intense music from the records was turned into aggressive, fierce power folk that worked very well for me at least, even with the loss of some subtlety.
     What did come as a disappointment was Emma Härdelin's role. On the albums, her singing is an integral part of the music, but now it was trampled under the charge of the instruments (it wasn't physically inaudible, but she couldn't match the energy of the rest of the music), and she seemed almost lost at times, looking uncomfortable with being there and supposedly fronting the band. It's not like there was something horribly wrong, but she was the weakest link in the band...which is a shame as her voice can be truly beautiful, but that wasn't enough this time. When I commented on this to someone afterwards, he told me that Emma suffers from severe stage fright, which is why her live performance is so mild. (I don't know how exaggerated this claim is, but after seeing the show, I can easily believe there's at least some truth to it.)
     So, it wasn't a completely divine (well, that would be the wrong word in Garmarna's case, anyway) show, but definitely not a disappointing one either. (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)

The Vedergällningen/Vengeance CD contains a video which depicts their characteristic performances—the band flailing wildly, audience moshing and Emma Härdelin standing absolutely still in the center of it all, singing with such a powerful voice, but totally inanimate. (06/99, jjhanson@att.net)

Speaking of loud live sound, Jeff Wasilko and I saw Garmarna in Somerville at Johnny D's tonight. What an excellent concert it was. After all those raves this past summer, I can see that the reviews were justified.
     So, the concert tonight was loud and raucous and full of energy. It was odd to have a female vocalist who would not be the center of attention. She had a beautiful voice, but she was quite motionless and, compared to her bandmates, seemed like she didn't want to be up there. Meanwhile, Stefan Brisland-Ferner, the violinist/violist/programmer/hurdy-gurdyist was going nuts all the time, rocking out and fiercely attacking the music; Gotte Ringqvist, the guitarist/violinist/backup vocalist who looked sorta like a handsomer Tom Cruise was playing with his own level of frenzy; and Rickard Westman on guitars, ebow, and bass was providing backbone and drone. The drummer, Jens Hoglin, gave a very hard-rock gung-ho performance which was tempered in the first encore with his playing the Jews harp on the tune "Halling from Macedonia."
     The music seemed to be some sort of thrashy heavy metal meeting up with Scandinavian folk melodies using some sampled and looped beats and bass. And it was always genius and fun. Stefan had two violins, at least one of which was in an alternate tuning, and a viola; and Emma Härdelin, the lead vocalist, shared a violin with Gotte. Emma seemed to be quite classically trained in her handling of the violin while Gotte and especially Stefan were a little more folk influenced. (09/99, paul2k@aol.com)

They absolutely *rocked*, and put on one of the best shows I've seen this year.
     The last (and only other) time we saw them was during a short CMJ set a few years back, where the sound was awful and the band was obviously not happy—and yet it was an amazing show. This time the sound was great, they played for over an hour, and it was unbelievably good. (There's just something so cool about witnessing a hyper Swede jumping around a stage playing the hurdy-gurdy through a wah pedal. ) They did a surprising number of songs from Vengeance, which is one of my very favorite albums ever, including "Vulture", which is one of my very favorite songs ever, so I was even happier. :) (9/02, meth@smoe.org

Recommended first album:

Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians. (Marion)

Vedergällningen/Vengeance—this band just gets better & better. (Neile)

Recordings:


Garmarna (E.P.)

Release info:

1993—Massproduktion, Box 377, S-851 06 Sundsvall, Sweden—MASS CDS-54; reissued with additional tracks, 2001—Northside Records

Availability:

Sweden, U.S., and mail order from Northside Records

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for lovers of electrified traditional folk

Group members:

Stefan Brisland-Ferner—fiol, vevlira, mungiga, altfiol
Emma Härdelin—sang, fiol
Jens Hoglin—slagverk, Death Grunts
Gotte Ringqvist—lugitan, fiol, mungiga
Rickard Westman—bouzouki, gitarr, lutgitarr

Produced by:

Garmarna with Christer Sunesson/Crash Ljudproduktion

Comments:

This is an excellent introduction to Garmarna's sound and their take on traditional material. Lively and hypnotic both. (Neile)

Vittrad

Release info:

1993, 1994—Massproduktion, Northside Records/Omnium Recordings, Postbox 7367, Minneapolis, MN 55407, U.S.A.—OMM 2008D

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for lovers of electrified traditional folk

Group members:

Stefan Brisland-Ferner—violins, viola, hurdy-gurdy, bowed harp, Jew's harps, background vocals & rhythm
Emma Härdelin—lead vocals, violin & flute
Jens Hoglin—drums and percussion
Gotte Ringqvist—lute, violin, bowed harp, Jew's harps, background vocals & rhythm
Rickard Westman—bouzouki & guitars

Guest artists:

Hans Lebanzski & Nicklas Holmgren—sampling & rhythm
Elina Nordvall-Meijer—vocals
Jorgen Fahlberg—additional guitars

Produced by:

Nicklas Holmgren, Hans Lebanzski & Garmarna

Comments:

A wonderful recording! Even though I don't understand Swedish, I find myself caught up in the lively music and haunting vocals. Emma Härdelin has a stupendous voice and the musicians are all excellent. This album is highly recommended. (Neile)

There was a time when I much preferred Guds Spelemän with its many lovely, sung folk-songs, but somehow, I've grown to love Vittrad more and more, and it just might be my favorite now...this album is a wild animal.
     The last song, a revamped version of the debut E.P.'s "Klevabergselden", is included only on the U.S. version of the album, which is a shame, since the song truly rocks. Despite not having any real vocals, "Klevabergselden" is one of my favorite Garmarna songs. Yes, it's simple; yes, it's repetitive, but damn, it's powerful. Try listening to this shamanic masterpiece on headphones while walking through a dark forest or park. Wow. (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)


Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians

Release info:

1996—Massproduktion, Northside Records/Omnium Recordings, Postbox 7367, Minneapolis MN 55407, U.S.A.

Availability:

Wide in U.S. and Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for lovers of electrified traditional folk

Group members:

Gotte Ringqvist—luteguitar, viola, backing vocals
Emma Härdelin—vocals
Rickard Westman—guitars, e-bow & jew's-harp
Stefan Brisland-Ferner—hurdy-gurdy, violin, viola, jew's-harp, samples, backing vocals
Jens Höglin—drums, darbuka & djembe

Guest artists:

Sank—programming & bass
Bjorn Eriksson—bass
Pal Torbjorn Doj—voice

Produced by:

Sank

Comments:

This cd is quite good, though there are some tracks I don't like that much. But the haunting atmosphere of their concert is there in a couple of tracks, especially 'Herr Mannelig' or 'Vaenner och Fraender'. I also like Emma Härdelin's clear pronunciation—I studied Swedish for a couple of years a long time ago, and I can really make out what she's singing, even without reading the lyrics. Though the translations in the elaborate booklet (with translations and explanations for each song) also help. :-) (Marion)

Where most of Vittrad was instrumental, almost all songs of Guds Spelemän strongly involves Emma Härdelin voice. And hers is a voice well worthy of being highlighted. An atmospheric, beautiful, scary, energetic album. (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)


Vedergällningen/Vengeance

Release info:

1999—Massproduktion (Europe)—MNW CD-337; NorthSide Records, 530 North 3rd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401, U.S.A.—NSD 6028

Availability:

Available in stores that carry world music

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for lovers of electrified traditional folk

Group members:

Stefan Brisland-Ferner—violins, strings, hurdy-gurdy, programming, guitar
Emma Härdelin—vocals
Jens Höglin—drums
Gotte Ringqvist—luteguitar, guitar, violin
Rickard Westman—guitars, e-bow, bass

Produced by:

Sank

Comments:

The two first songs, "Gamen" and "Euchari", stand out as the album's most generally accessible songs—not surprising choices as the opening tracks and lead singles. Myself, I remember being taken aback by Garmarna's live performance of "Gamen" with its the fast, prominent drum track, and the first impression has only partially faded with repeated album listenings. I don't feel that the techno-influenced arrangements contribute much to the song, beyond making it sound really hectic. Other than that, "Gamen" is pretty much a fast-forward version of your standard Scandinavian folk ballad with brutal lyrics.
     Of the Hildegard von Bingen-folk-fusion songs that Garmarna played on their church tour last year, only one made it to this album, unfortunately. The lovely second track on the album, "Euchari" became an instant favorite of mine. It, too, has been given the techno treatment, and features programmed drums similar to those on "Gamen". I'm not ecstatic about the drum sound here either, but this time, the singing is so beautiful, and the melody so engaging, that I couldn't possibly mind too much.
     After the first two songs, things calm down quite a bit. In a way, Vedergällningen is a somewhat more subtle album than Guds Spelemän for example. Even more than before, the songs rely on the general intense atmosphere and Emma's breathtaking vocal delivery rather than catchiness or blasting at you full-force. The album has a quieter feel than its predecessors...kinda ambientish. Another general trend on the album is that Garmarna's soundscape seems to be slowly moving ever further away from traditional folk and incorporating more completely synthetic effects into their music.
     Besides "Euchari", my personal favorites include (among others) the very touching ode to friendship, "Bläck", which relies almost completely on Emma's singing, and the ballad "Herr Holkin", which features some lovely vocal harmonies as well as some of the more successful experiments on synthetized sounds on the album. All in all, Vedergällningen is another great piece of work from Garmarna.
     Having spent a solid three weeks spent with the album now, I can say that it has become my favorite. In my ears, there are a few awkward electronic moments on the album (including a really lame bridge that almost manages to mar the loveliest song on the disc), and I don't find the hectically thumping lead single to be all that brilliant, but overall this is Garmarna's most thoroughly excellent record. (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)

Their best and most unforgettable effort yet. I love this, and it has become my favourite album of theirs. It's a little more contemporary-electronic based than their previous releases, but still the same great traditional material. I think they handle the combination extremely well. A knock-out—it's really wonderful. (Neile)

Just had to post a note to say how much I'm digging the new Garmarna CD, Vengeance.
     The first song, "Gamen" ("Vulture") is one of those set-on-infinite-repeat kind of things. (There haven't been too many of those yet this year.) ...And the album just rolls on from there. Very, very tasty.
     I was completely addicted to this album for the entire summer. Even though I haven't listened to it in several weeks (way too much other stuff to concentrate on!), I still recognize it as one of the best things I heard all year. The modern marriage of Swedish folk tunes and electronica here is perfect. The sonic textures aptly evoke the frozen land of the songs' origin, and the vocals are hauntingly beautiful. Excellent stuff.
     I very highly recommend this disc! (meth@smoe.org)

An exciting mixture of folk and electronic. I don't know how often I listened to the first two tracks. I bought this album and I can't stop listening to it. The power of the music and the singer's voice are incredible. Vengeance definitely is a candidate for my album of the year. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

Very unexpectedly, this has become my favourite album of 1999. During a visit at my place by my friend Marion I heard two or three tracks from this CD which she'd just bought and I was fascinated instantly. It didn't take long for me to buy this CD and then I played it almost non-stop throughout July and August. I've listened to this almost 100 times already and I'm still not tired of it. A truly outstanding piece of work. (marcel@kimwilde.com)


Hildegard von Bingen

Release info:

2001—Northside Records—MNWCD 365

Availability:

Sweden, U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans only

Group members:

Stefan Brisland-Ferner—violins, hurdy-gurdy, programming, guitar
Emma Härdelin—vocals
Jens Höglin—percussion
Gotte Ringqvist—guitar, violin
Rickard Westman—guitars, e-bow, bass

Comments:

For several years European ectophiles have been talking about what a great experience this was live and so I was really looking forward to this album, but it was quite a disappointment—the electronic sound overwhelms the music and feels quite perfunctory/mechanical. On the disc there is a video of them doing one of the songs live and there is a world of difference—it's wonderful. If only the whole album could have sounded like this! (Neile)


Thanks to Marion Kippers for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2008-10-26 18:51:10.
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