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Thursaflokkurinn - Hinn ═slenzki Ůursaflokkur CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.72 | 30 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Between a volcanic rock and a hard place

A lazy trawl of terms that could be conjured up whenever Iceland is mentioned might ensnare:

Geothermal power, Sigur Ros, gaudy knitwear, Sugar Cubes, volcanoes, glaciers, cod warfare, puffins, geysers and tragically, solo Bjork (but like every sensible nation Iceland exports it's waste products)

There is a danger that much of the breadth and scope of Thursaflokkurin will be missed should the listener attempt to dip in and out of this very ambitious record. Such is the vast amount of stylistic ground covered here that a casual listen to just one of the tracks in isolation may lead to a false impression of what this talented band are capable of so please listen to the WHOLE thang at least once all the way through, y'all?.

Einsetumaour Einu Sinni - might prepare the listener to inhabit 'Samla Mammas Manna' territory given it's blend of straight Nordic folksong and comedic interludes a la 'Zappa'. At over 5 minutes without deviating from the pious/irreverent structure, it does run the risk of outstaying it's welcome a tad. Enjoyable and memorable nevertheless.

Solnes - the mood has shifted dramatically to that of a plaintive and brooding slow instrumental which emits a faint scent of 'Focus' featuring a particularly fine guitar solo from Thordur Arnason. This is an excellent composition as it has both a very fine arrangement of strong thematic ideas wedded to a moving and sensitive performance.

Stooum Tvo I Tuni - Strays into the outer suburbs of the Gentle Giant's kingdom and the peculiarities of the Icelandic accent are evident here. I was reminded of hearing Bartok's opera Bluebeard's Castle on this one, as similar to the Hungarian language, the Nordic stresses appear on parts of words we in the west would not readily anticipate. Yep, it takes a bit of getting used to but imbues the vocals with a quirky and idiosyncratic flavour that ends up being utterly charming.

HŠttu ao Grata, H-ringana - Beautiful, albeit rather mournful singing from Egill Olafsson on the intro before we transition somewhat schizophrenically into a jaunty trilled passage. This type of abrupt juxtaposition is a feature of the whole album and I would guess that with much of their source material being traditional folk music, they merely reflect the original and perhaps unique structure of that regions sagas, remir, sagnadansar etc. Does your proximity to either pole make you more susceptible to being bi-polar? Mr Olaffsson also deploys on occasion some vocal techniques that have their distant equivalents in yodelling and throat singing. (To my hopelessly clogged ears at any rate)

Nutiminn - Might this little poppy rockin' strumalong have been the single from the album ? Very catchy but faintly unnerving to envisage your average Reykjavik housewife bopping along to the ironing while this blares from her geothermally powered radio. However, there is a spacey ambient departure in the middle that would probably ensure that hubby's shirts may have some unusual creases in them.

Bunaoarbalkur - A restless and disquieting transcript of what resulted when 'Samla Mammas Manna' had to use Gentle Giant's gear after a baggage handlers strike. Glorious massed choir is faded in from the background and lends the piece a very powerful and foreboding feel. What sounds like Nordic hobgoblins on helium join in unison with the angular guitar part and given that large swathes of Icelanders still believe in elves, who are we to dare disagree? Riveting.

Vera Matt Goour - If Frank Zappa or Bartok had written a Scandinavian folksong, it may very well have sounded not a million miles away from this. Like Mussorgskys Bydlo delivered by the Residents. At less than 1 minute, I just wish they had explored the possibilities afforded by this delightful snippet a bit further.

Graftskrift - Perhaps representative of where Thursaflokkurin would explore on their subsequent releases. This has an austere and minimalistic classical feel that the band would refine still further in years to come. (Relax, it's nothing remotely as numbing as Philip Glass or as piously vacuous as Arvo Part) Desolate glacial winds buffet a steadfast and spectral male choir until Egill Olafsson enters with a haunting and elegiac melody. Drums pick up the unhurried beat and the whole track displays an unerring ability to gradually and subtly build excitement before climaxing with a timpani roll and foreboding single stroke mourning drum fading to the end. This would have been perfect material for a horror movie soundtrack had Ingmar Bergman ever dallied in the field. Play this to the kids when they act up and wanna stay up late (You'll never get them OUT of bed)

Like many cultural phenomena from Scandinavia, there is a residue of wistful melancholy through a glass darkly, and Thursaflokkurin certainly do not betray that tradition. This is a very fine collection of Nordic folk derived material that will come as a breathe of fresh air to many jaded ears out there in progland and I just hope for the following:

That more people get to hear a group that has a healthy respect for the past and an adventurous and questing spirit to forge the way ahead for the living traditions of their homeland.

Special thanks to PA's very own Einsetumadur, without whom this review would not have been possible.

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |


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