Untamed Nordic Folk

Valravn -  Valravn
Valravn – Valravn

Valravn (The Orchard/Gateway Music, 2008)

Folk fans looking for something different might want to check out the group Valravn and their self-titled CD. This Danish group is part of what I like to think of as untamed folk – willing to step soundly on convention, cross over boundaries and fuse genres. Valravn clearly flouts the orthodoxy of Nordic folk with its extraordinarily ferocious takes on traditional songs from Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and the Faroe Islands and magical artistry by its members Søren Hammerlund, Anna Katrin Egilstrød, Martin Seeberg and Juan Pino. Creating a sound that is fiercely hypnotic and freshly edgy, Valravn banishes the simply quaint in contemporary folk music.

Opening with “Hedebys,” vocalist Anna Katrin Egilstrød lets loose with some gritty vocals against a fiery composition fashioned out of sansula, viola, mandola, cajon and electronica. Segueing into the traditional Danish “Drømte Mig En Drøm,” Valravn lapses into the mystical with flute and kalimba by Mr Seeberg, mandola by Mr. Hammerlund, electronica and percussion by Mr. Pino and Ms. Egilstrød’s seductive vocals.

Valravn picks up with a tribute to the wild raven with “Krummi,” a traditional Icelandic song, that literally hums with bold intensity, but it is the hard-driving spectacular created in “Òlavur Riddararós” that is truly astounding. Tracks like the dreamy musical landscape “Marsk” with flute, viola, cello and davul or the richly evocative “Under Bølgen Blå” awash in a sea of santur, viola, mandola, davul and Ms. Egilstrød’s vocals or the eerily enchanting tribute to the ancient forests, “Bialowieska,” Valravn summon up an otherworldly sound that is richly worked and artistically seductive.

Valravn is a whirlwind of goodness, leaping headlong into a new, untamed folk sound that’s bound to capture fans. Special kudos go to Christopher Juul, the CD’s producer and mastermind behind Valravn’s electronica and sound manipulation. Valravn is bound to ruffle the feathers of traditional fuddy-duddies, but sometimes it is often the more provocative journey that is the most interesting, and Valravn is boldly interesting.

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