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Garmarna - Topic

Hildegard Von Bingen Play

During the '90s the new age crowd discovered Hildegard von Bingen, one of the first credited female composers, and gave her work their anemic treatment. Sweden's Garmarna right the balance by presenting the medieval mistress of song in a 21st century light, not always soft and romantic, but often hard, driven by programmed beats, with Emma Härdelin's eerie voice intoning von Bingen's Latin liturgical lyrics over the top. Conceived for a tour in 1998, this project has taken on a life of its own, something that might be not quite a full Garmarna album, but has plenty of their flavors. There's even a touch of Portishead-goes-to-Sweden in the trip-hoppy "Paso," the album's only original piece. But while this might not exactly be the next Garmarna release, there's a real cohesion to it. They've adapted the original works so well, transporting them to modern times but keeping the ancient feel -- always one of their strengths, so that while von Bingen might have been rolling over in her grave from the ministrations of the wind-chime brigade, she's probably smiling broadly at this. ~ Chris Nickson, Rovi

Garmarna Play

Nearly ten year after its first release, this is a CD reissue of Garmarna's Väsen-inspired debut EP. The disc appends to the original EP, the group's six-song demo. This is also the introduction of vocalist Emma Härdelin, who sang two songs for the EP before joining the group. There is a natural darkness to this Nordic folk music of ancient songs and instruments. Adding warmth is the bright fiddle melodies, Jew's harp, and Härdelin's voice. ~ Tom Schulte, Rovi

God's Musicians Play

Keeping solidly to Scandinavia's reputation for gloom is the folk-rock band Garmarna, which mixes traditional Swedish acoustic instruments with electric guitars and the intermittant African drum. Garmarna vaires its attack from low-key telling of horrors to an amplied assault in songs that report of ghouls, trolls, werewolves, and other folkloric denizens of the northern European collective imagination. To its credit, the band maintains a non-ironic, matter-of-fact approach as if merely documenting local history rather than acting out melodramatic material that might even have disturbed the Brothers Grimm. Some surprisingly light and graceful moments arise from this deadpan perspective. ~ Bob Tarte, Rovi

Vittrad Play

Swedish folk styles are expressed through violins, viola, percussion, lute, bowed harps, Jew's harps, bouzouki, and guitars -- not to mention hurdy-gurdy [!] -- in this young ensemble's rich arrangements. Giving them an even more unique style is the almost Celtic inflection of strident vocalist Emma Hardelin. When Rumpelstiltskin was possessed with such jubilance that he gave away his most valuable secret to the night, he must have been dancing to the sounds of Garmarna. ~ Tom Schulte, Rovi

Vengeance Play

Although originally inspired by Swedish traditional folk music, Garmarna continues to show that they are not hung up on traditional instrumentation or arrangements. They have stated in interviews that it is the feeling of the old folk music that they are after rather than the exact form. This has left them freer than perhaps any folk-inspired band in Swedish history. With Vengeance they have cooked up a new sound unlike any ever to emerge from Sweden. With the help of producer Sank, Garmarna have stirred in electronica, ambient, rock and Swedish folk. Unlike a salad where one can focus on each individual taste, Vengeance is a sauce. All of the ingredients have stewed so long with each other that one is only left with a deep richly-nuanced taste on the tongue. This album harkens to David Bowie's Low and The Man Who Sold the World, as well as throwing down some energetic dance grooves, but the overall impression is of a Scandinavian drug trance. It is a perfect accompaniment to lyrics that remind one that the world of fairy tale is not the sanitized Disney version we are familiar with today. It is a world of blood, betrayal and brutishness as well as beauty. As if to illustrate this mix of disparate elements, the QuickTime movie of the video for Gamen/Vulture (included as part of this enhanced CD) depicts lead singer Emma Härdelin dressed in virginal white, a stoic beauty intoning the ancient syllables as waves of stage divers and crowd surfers break against the dais on which she sings. ~ Megan Lynch, Rovi
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