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GARMARNA

Prog Folk • Sweden


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Garmarna biography
GARMARNA have a unique sound: firmly based in Swedish traditional music but influenced by the rock tradition they've all grown up with. They ignore the unwritten laws of how traditional music should be performed; they know no boundaries. The music is half new - and newly-written - and half traditional with ancient instrumentation next to sampled drum-loops, suggestive mouth harps, tender violins and distorted guitars.

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Buy GARMARNA Music


Gods MusiciansGods Musicians
Omnium 1996
Audio CD$9.99
$3.97 (used)
VittradVittrad
Omnium 1994
Audio CD$10.84
$0.77 (used)
VengeanceVengeance
Northside Records 1999
Audio CD$44.99
$0.32 (used)
Hildegard von BingenHildegard von Bingen
Northside Records 2001
Audio CD$102.66
$8.93 (used)
Guds SpelemanGuds Speleman
Import
2007
Audio CD$125.08
$11.52 (used)
VedergallningenVedergallningen
Import
2007
Audio CD$18.99
$3.06 (used)
Guds SpelemanGuds Speleman
CD Baby 2014
Audio CD$13.75
$34.83 (used)
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GARMARNA discography


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GARMARNA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.50 | 7 ratings
Vittrad
1994
3.44 | 8 ratings
Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians
1996
3.38 | 6 ratings
Vedergällningen/Vengeance
1999
2.61 | 6 ratings
Hildegard Von Bingen
2001

GARMARNA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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GARMARNA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.47 | 5 ratings
Garmarna
1993

GARMARNA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.44 | 8 ratings

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Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by Katsuhisa

4 stars An addictive music of rhythm and melody

Many years ago I liked the 4th album of Peter Gabriel where you can hear several tribal-like music, and this album of Garmarna gives me excitement similar to that.

Generally trad music is a kind of boring for me as the music is too soft and all the songs can sound like the same. However, Garmarna's music is never such a trad one but it is full of unforgettable melody and tribal beats. So, it can easily be an addicitive. Actually I am listening to the CD whole day repeatedly.

I feel lucky now because I can explore in their music, which makes me excited like when I encountered Samla Mammas Manna or Anekdoten.

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 Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.44 | 8 ratings

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Guds Spelemän/Gods Musicians
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Garmarna’s second full-length release is the one that seems to have really broken things open for the band outside their native Sweden. The album garnered them a Grammy in Sweden for best folk album of 1996, and the supporting tour became their largest to-date and included the band’s first trip to America.

The music isn’t much different than their previous work, but the group seems to have gelled some, and more importantly have given vocalist Emma Härdelin a larger role. The group’s debut EP was almost completely instrumental, while this one includes only one non-vocal track, and that one is also the shortest song on the album. Ms. Härdelin has a voice that doesn’t appear to have great range, but there is a warmth to it that is sometimes lacking in the often melancholy music of Scandinavia.

The band has expanded their instrumentation a bit with the addition of Jew’s-harp and hand drums (darbuka and djembe). I personally find the mouth harp to have an annoying sound and don’t know why you’d want to have it in your music (let alone the two of them Garmarna uses on some tracks like “Hallning Från Makedonien”); but on the other hand the hand drums make for a richer percussive sound so in all things even out quite nicely.

In general the hurdy-gurdy tends to have a very pervasive sound thanks to the drone strings that are almost always too loud and too – well, droning. That doesn’t seem to happen here so much though, mostly because the thing doesn’t get used as extensively as with some bands, and even when it is employed (“Min Man”, “Hilla Lilla”) the drone blends pretty well with the other strings (violin, viola) for a sort of waltz- like effect.

Most of the songs here are rearranged traditional folk numbers. The stories themselves are kind of charming, like “Herr Mannelig” in which a pining female troll tries to bribe a handsome prince into marrying her; or “Herr Holger” which relates the story of an embezzling tax-collector who returns from the dead to try and save his wife from a similar path. Others are more ranging like “Varulven”, the band’s self- proclaimed “only existing medieval ballad in Sweden where a werewolf appears”.

The band shows their bawdy side by including a couple tales of wayward women including “Vänner och Fränder” where a young virgin escapes from her arranged marriage to a prince and beds down with her sailor lover as their ship sails out to sea. And “Hilla Lilla” where young Hilla’s fiancé the Duke is slain by her brothers after being caught ‘inside of her’, apparently in advance of the expected nuptials (oops!). She ends up dying in the arms of the queen to whom she was sold as a servant after having sullied herself.

But the band isn’t just about reinterpreting old Swedish folk tales. They’ve also included a couple of more modern pieces here. “Njaalkeme” is derived from a poem written by Swedish actress Cecilia Persson and sung in south-Saami, an almost extinct dialect from the Barents Sea area of northern Scandinavia and Russia. And the title track comes from a work by Swedish poet Nils Ferlin.

I’m not sure really if Garmarna are a progressive folk band or just a very good modern folk band. And I’m not sure I really care. They are very good at what they do and this is as good as anything else I’ve heard from the band. I already gave them props on my review of their debut for keeping the Swedish folk sound alive though, and I can’t say anything they’ve added here that is really exceptional or innovative, so I’m going to say this is a very strong three star effort and one that is recommended for modern folk music fans as well as that odd group of people who like to collect hurdy-gurdy music.

peace

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 Garmarna by GARMARNA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
4.47 | 5 ratings

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Garmarna
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars In what is probably a misguided attempt to get back to the ‘roots’ I never actually knew I’ve been dabbling in Scandinavian folk music lately, and particularly Swedish which is where my ancestors somewhere in the distant past extricated themselves from when they headed west across the big pond to Kansas. And being a proglodyte it seemed like progressive folk was a good place to start.

Unfortunately I can’t find a whole lot of information about Garmarna’s debut EP, at least not much that is in English. The liner notes of this Northside Records reissue isn’t much help either, as it lists the tracks in Swedish and English along with the player credits, but little else. It’s not surprising that a Minnesota label would be the one to reissue this considering the huge numbers of people of Scandinavian descent in that area.

The band has apparently been successfully in and around their homeland with their more recent records that blend sequenced digital sounds with traditional instruments and a sort of pseudo-medieval sound. But this first record isn’t that: in fact, all the instrumentation is acoustic, and many of the tracks are instrumentals. Most of those appear to be some variant of traditional Swedish polskas, or folk dances. The rhythms are smooth and even and the meters fairly simple but the strings are strident and rather harsh, evoking a mood of the stark and cold Nordic countryside in winter.

Not that this is a bad thing; indeed, the earthiness and pallid emotion becomes quite seductive, but I have to admit it took several spins for this music to start to grow on me.

Of the first seven tracks from the original 1993 Massproduktion EP release three are traditional polskas that sound quite similar, rather short with those harsh strings (violin, viola, lute and bouzouki) along with sporadic jew’s harp and some acoustic guitar. “Jordbyggarlåten” (Earth-digger’s Song) is also a traditional tune, but is a bit softer with strumming acoustic guitar and more violin, almost classical; while yet another folk tune “Herr Olof” features wide-ranging vocals from guest musician Emma Härdelin (who would join the band following the release of this EP). The final track from the original EP is “Klevabergselden” (Kleveberg's Fire), another dance-inspired instrumental written by lutist/guitarist Gotte Ringqvist and multi-instrumentalist Stefan Brisland- Ferner who also employs a hurdy-gurdy here.

The rest of the reissue CD apparently comes from 1992 demo recordings by the band. These tracks are much more animated and upbeat, with noticeably more percussion, some sequenced programming sounds, and extended hurdy-gurdy and violas passages. Most of these were written by Brisland-Ferner or guitarist/bassist Rickard Westman according to the liner notes, although the last two (“Skenpolska” and “Klevabergselden”) are not attributed on the album and sound as if they too are traditional tunes. All the bonus demo tracks are instrumentals, and the production quality is a bit less lush than the original EP tracks, but overall they seem to add to the old-time folk feel of this album.

What little else I’ve heard of these guys is closer to the mainstream of modern folk, and much of it even crosses into an almost dance music area; but this first recording is very conservative, traditional, and quite beautiful. As a folk music fan I am quickly growing to love this record, although as a prog nut I have to say that these guys are probably an acquired taste and may not be for everyone, and especially not for neo or metal fans. If you fit those descriptions you probably won’t be impressed; otherwise, I’d highly recommend this one and give it four stars without much reservation.

fred

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 Hildegard Von Bingen by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 2001
2.61 | 6 ratings

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Hildegard Von Bingen
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars I was unable enjoying of listening to this record. There is technically nothing wrong in the production of this album, and the performers are skilled, but the stylistic characteristics of the electronic trip-hop beat dominating this album makes it a listening experience I don't appreciate. The idea of doing modern versions from the ancient songs of Hildegard von Bingen is interesting, and I suggest this record warmly for those listeners who are not allergic to modern electronic drum beat sound, like I sadly am. I really got crazy (in positive way) about the band's first EP, which had raw archaic improvisational stuff on it and no trip- hop beats, but this CD was a disappointment for me.

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 Garmarna by GARMARNA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
4.47 | 5 ratings

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Garmarna
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars This mini album has some really fine archaic ethnic music on it. The sounds are dominated by violins and acoustic guitars, and the presence of amplified instruments and electronic treatments are revealed more clearly by the instrumentation list than the music itself. The songs are basically improvisational runs restricted by pre-defined rhythmic and melodic themes, so this music should appeal to the listeners of jazzy and psychedelic music in addition to the adorers of traditional folk music. The melodic diversity, human presence borne from the singer and acoustic instruments fill the songs with human emotion, and after playing this to my friends I would claim it being both accessible and intriguing for those searching heavier musical content from the atavist droning's. I believe the musicians were possibly students of the field, or some other impulse immersed them to focus so purely to the ancient traits of their musical cultural heritage. Originally the songs were relating to practical actions of calling back herd from the pastures, or allowing peasants to dance and hear similarly tales with life teachings or conceptions of past events. Some of the used ancient Scandinavian scales resemble quite much Arabic harmonies, and though the roots of the music are in Swedish folk music, and observed through the viewpoints of European classical music and modern Western popular music, there is a peculiar exotic feeling of the East sensed here. These polskas could be seen as North-Western ragas, supporting the universalism of man's efforts in creation of music and the collective unconscious.

After long search I found the extended CD of the EP, allowing the broad vision to this album I really have grown to adore. The later releases of the group moved towards more contemporary grounds by fusing the traditional songs with modern electronic music. I personally liked these warmer acoustic sounds on this first release, and it has truly deep and powerful emotional potential in it. Though their later releases have some nice songs in them too, this is still the singular album I would really recommend from this band to anybody charmed by pagan folk music.

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 Vedergällningen/Vengeance by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.38 | 6 ratings

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Vedergällningen/Vengeance
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3,5 stars really!

Prog or not prog, who really cares? One thing is pretty sure and that is the fact that GARMANA (which means hell's dog in English) is an excellent newer band coming from Sweden (once again) blending traditional and modern rock/electronic music in a brilliant way. They're using some original medieval instruments like hurdy-gurdy or lute and according to a report I read they must be great on stage with savage looking musicians. The songs on this album here are quite mixed and versatile and range from gentle and slow ballads to more hard rocking ones. The female singer has a very pleasant, a bit innocent and maiden voice. I don't understand any Swedish language but as far as I heard the lyrics are about the usual topics in medieval traditional music like werewolves, abducted virgins,murder,love and so on.

The prog purists might stay away but I'd highly recommend this album to any lover of ethnic fusion and Scandinavian folk music with an open mind!

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 Vedergällningen/Vengeance by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.38 | 6 ratings

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Vedergällningen/Vengeance
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by sas

4 stars Garmarna is a great band, Vengeance is an exellent album of modern folk music, mixing traditional sounds with electronics, rock and even drum n bass (which is even more obvious on the Hildegard von Bingen album). But really, this is absolutely not prog , as much as I love this band.

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 Vittrad by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.50 | 7 ratings

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Vittrad
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by 1971

2 stars So Garmarna is prog now? To me Garmarna is typical for the new rise of folk music in the nineties, but I wouldn't go as far as calling it prog-folk (unless if you have a very wide view upon the prog term). I just don't see beyond the folk-rock music that this is, and I fail to see any new or experimental sides of this band. I would be surprised if there will be a lot of reviews on Garmarna (I think it was 2 before this review). If you are a complete addict to Swedish folk-rock you might want to check out this group, but if you're looking for prog - stay away! Try Grovjobb's "Landet Leverpastej" instead (you can listen to them here), MUCH better prog-folk!!!

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 Hildegard Von Bingen by GARMARNA album cover Studio Album, 2001
2.61 | 6 ratings

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Hildegard Von Bingen
Garmarna Prog Folk

Review by Heptade
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Garmarna usually specializes in slightly-amplified versions of Scandinavian folk music, which is quite nice, but they took a left turn on this release. It is an adaptation of the music of medieval abbess and mystic Hildegard von Bingen to what I can only call a trip-hop backing. Lots of stop-start electronic beats, crisp acoustic guitar and fiddle and lush keyboards. Vocalist Emma Härdelin has an ethereal, soaring voice that is perfect for this type of material. This album is a nice contrast to all the early music versions of Hildegard's music by groups like Sequentia, with their perfect, classically-trained voices and sparse instrumentation. Not essential, but an interesting experiment. If you like early music or electronic pop, it will do the trick.

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