Shamanic chants & murder ballads

Wimme - Gierran
Wimme – Gierran
Wimme – Gierran (NorthSide)

Garmarna – Vengeance (NorthSide)

Wimme’s second CD, Gierran features both a cappella chants (Snow Grouse, Draft Reindeer and Whirlwind which were recorded live by Smoju at club Subsirkus, Tromso, Norway) as well as, trance-inducing electronic-yoiks. I have heard three of the four CDs by Wimme, including Barru and Cuga; Gierran is the one I like best. It’s not just other worldly, it’s from another universe and if you’re
lucky, it might take you to that universe. The electronic effects provides by Jari Kokkonen, Tapani Rinne (who also performs on woodwinds and percussion), Pauli and Kajasto act as a light and spaced out frame work for Wimme’s vocal range, stretching from baritone to tenor and diving into throat-singing
territory. Matti Wallenius further enhances this exotic tapestry with ukulele and mandolinI have read a few times that the Sami people believe that their real home exists behind the sun/stars. This idea manifests with the track, Vision (Oainnahus) and this concept goes further with Angelica Archangelica, a song that recalls Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon meeting an Inuit throat singer. This is
followed by the cooky The Importance of Moss which features birds chirping and cartoon type vocals. I guess the humor brings listeners back to earth. And by the end of the recording, it is a bit of a struggle to remove your head from the Milky Way. In any case, you don’t need to be shamanic to enjoy this disc–you just need to have a mind that likes wandering and a heart that hears the call of
indigenous people.

Garmarna - Vengeance
Garmarna – Vengeance
The Swedish group, Garmarna would be no stranger to fans of global pop (folk-roots meets rock-pop). The CD-ROM video that comes with Vengeance focuses on a frenzied youthful audience as band members sweat it out on stage and vocalist Emma Hardelin stands frozen on the stage, delivering chilling lyrics. Dressed in a white gown, she resembles the doomed maidens she sings about or a Swedish Venus rising out of the sea as the waves crash around her. It is a startling image that can best describe Garmarna’s marriage of traditional Swedish roots with rock music sensibility. Yet, despite the use of electric guitar, bass,
drums and programming, we couldn’t call this Swedish rock. The songs feel more like bedtime stories for dancing and these bedtime stories feature murder ballads, tales of parted lovers and spirituality.

Musically, this quintet falls somewhere between the Swedish-Finnish groups, Hedningarna who also marries rock instrumentation with traditional music and the acoustic Gjallarhorn. And in fact, Emma and Gjallarhorn’s Jenny Wilhelm share the same honey soprano vocals, clear, crisp and haunting. No one would mistake these vocalists for sweet, although angelic does come to mind on occasion. I was
captivated by Emma’s vocals the first time I heard her singing a song entitled, Halling Jaron (which appears on this CD). I have since read the lyrics to the song which is about a tiny old mad woman that has sex with lots of lads. However the song with its primal electronic sounds, acoustic guitar that resembles David Bowie’s Space Oddity and high pitch vocals still manages to captivate my ears every time I listen to it.

Gamen (Vulture), the song featured in the music video, is the rocker and the opening track on the CD. However, I can’t say that Vulture sets the pace for the remainder of the recording, since the following track, Eucharia veers off in the opposite direction. Listeners might feel that they left a rock arena and then entered a church since Eucharia possesses a ceremonial atmosphere in which
Emma’s voice rising heavenward.

Other tracks meander in traditional territory. The murder ballad Vengeance falls into Goth-rock territory and Nine Years features a more ambient arrangement. The traditional songs, Stomped Bread features a healthy marriage between programming and acoustic instruments as does The Robber. Ink again focuses on Emma’s immaculate vocals backed by light instrumentation and Stefan Brisland-Ferner’s
hurdy-gurdy which appears throughout the CD.

Normally, I shy away from folk-roots music with pop sensibility. But groups such as Wimme and Garmarna use programming to create a backdrop for the acoustic instruments and vocals. I feel that a lot of other groups embarking into this territory could learn a few lessons from these Scandinavian groups.

(Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music. Visit the CCWM Scandinavian music page).