Garmarna — Garmarna
(NorthSide NSD6056, 1993/2001, CD)
Hedningarna — Hedningarna
(NorthSide NSD6057, 1989/2001, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2001-07-01
Over the last few years, I’ve had several occasions to gush about how wonderful Garmarna is, namely the release of each of their three American CDs (the first two on Omnium, the third on NorthSide). I missed their first release, which came out only in Sweden. That shortfall is now alleviated by NorthSide’s reissue of that first EP, with the addition of six instrumental demos from before that recording. The band in 1993 was a quartet consisting of Stefan Brisland-Ferner (mainly on violin, hurdy-gurdy), Jens Höglin (percussion), Gotte Ringqvist (luteguitar, violin and so on), and Rickard Westman (bouzouki, guitar). Their basic style was established: droning hurdy-gurdy with violin and acoustic guitar playing medieval-sounding Swedish melodies, all backed by aggressive, intense percussion. Emma Härdelin joined in on three of the six tracks as a guest vocalist – it’s easy to see why she became a full-fledged member of the group thereafter. The 1992 demos find the band a little more stripped down but still sounding full of energy.
For Hedningarna’s beginnings, you have to go back to 1989, when multi-instrumentalists Björn Tollin, Anders Norudde, and Hållbus Totte Mattson recorded an acoustic album with a similar base: Swedish folk tunes on acoustic instruments backed by percussion from around the world. Though decidedly on a lower energy level than Garmarna, Hedningarna fascinate with greater variety, adding flute, bagpipe and “PVC bass willow flute” to the stew. Their electronic experimentation was still in the future (likewise the Finnish singers), but the probing spirit is unmistakable.
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more