Exposé Online banner

Gjallarhorn — Sjofn
(NorthSide NSD6052, 2000, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2001-03-01

Sjofn Cover artFans 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.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 21, 2000 releases

Related artist(s): Gjallarhorn

Latest news

2018-09-05
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Pinnacle - Meld – Heck, any band that gives thanks to "the spectacular Eliza Dushku for inspiration" deserves the benefit of the doubt, don't they? This American three-piece treads some familiar ground — the...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues