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THURSAFLOKKURINN

Prog Folk • Iceland


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Thursaflokkurinn biography
Ţursaflokkurinn is an Icelandic progressive rock group from Reykjavík, founded in late 1978. The group was mainly active from 1978 to 1984.

In the beginning the band played mostly folk rock using traditional Icelandic tunes as a fundament for psych/progressive folk compositions which can be heard on their debut album Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur. Later on they added a rather jazzy note to their music (Ţursabit) and ended up playing a blend of jazz, classical music and progressive rock on their live album Á hljómleikum.

After they made a detour into the New Wave/Post rock direction in the early 80s the group split, but had a short reunion in 2008 (few gigs in Iceland for their 30th anniversary with the orchestra Capút) and in 1991 when longtime hammondorganist Karl Sighvattson died.
In 2008 all the albums were reissued as a well-made, noble box set - with an additional bonus CD (Ókomin forneskjan...) with a bunch of outtakes and live recordings.

What is striking about the music of the band is - apart from the excellent interaction between the musicians - the timeless sound, the exciting compositions and beautiful arrangements of traditional tunes, the charismatic voice of bandleader Égill Ólafsson, the colorful instrumentation and the independence of the music.

Comparisons for that music are hard to find, but Focus, Gentle Giant und Genesis would be the three popular bands which fit best, but there aren't any pieces which really remind the listener too much of those bands.

The members:
Egill Ólafsson (1978- ) - vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, electric piano, accordeon
Tómas Tómasson (1978- ) - bass, keyboards, vocals
Ásgeir Óskarsson (1978- ) - drums, percussion, backing vocals
Ţórđur Árnason (1978- ) - acoustic and electric guitars and other stringed instruments, backing vocals
Rúnar Vilbergsson (1978- ) - bassoon, percussion
Karl J. Sighvatsson (1979-1984) - Hammond organ, electric piano, accordeon, backing vocals

Einsetumadur

Thursaflokkurinn official website

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THURSAFLOKKURINN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.69 | 17 ratings
Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur
1978
4.24 | 15 ratings
Ţursabit
1979
4.00 | 7 ratings
Gćti Eins Veriđ...
1982

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

3.83 | 6 ratings
Á Hljómleikum
1980
4.09 | 4 ratings
Hinn ?slenski ?ursaflokkur og Caput
2008

THURSAFLOKKURINN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THURSAFLOKKURINN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.95 | 3 ratings
Ókomin Forneskjan
2008
4.00 | 3 ratings
Ţursar
2008

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

THURSAFLOKKURINN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hinn ?slenski ?ursaflokkur og Caput  by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Live, 2008
4.09 | 4 ratings

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Hinn ?slenski ?ursaflokkur og Caput
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 12.5/15P. A rare example of a band that has actually gained power over the years - and a rare example of an orchestra'n'band arrangement which doesn't lend the music a cosy background, but rather a fair amount of catharsis and Celtic gloom. Questionlessly essential material, not only for the half-a-dozen of fans, but for *every* fan of folk/jazz rock. It actually can't get much better than that!

I've already highlighted the several qualities of this amazing band in my seperate reviews. Take this album as the document of a fascinating reunion concert with a kind of 'best-of' set-list. I don't know if the CD/DVD is still available somewhere (please contact Charly Heidenreich from Germany or Gregg Walker of Synphonic to obtain this gem), but if it is, you should definitely get it soon. There are plenty of reasons to do so. Firstly (and profanely), this band is totally exotic and makes a fine addition to an unconventional record collection (it's not that this is the main reason, of course!). Secondly, among all the releases by bands of such a slight publicity I've rarely seen an album as affectionately designed as this one: immaculate sound and video quality, a silk-mat cardboard box, lots of photos and extensive comments. Unfortunately, the texts are in Icelandic - unsurprisingly the band is better known there than on mainland of Europe or the US.

Thirdly, and most importantly, all of the qualities of this exciting band have survived - and, in a way, ripened - until 2008. The excellent little orchestra named Capút adds a lot to the sound and provides welcome changes, for sure, but the biggest surprise might be how the new-wavey songs from the early 1980s are treated here. Seven of nine Gćti eins veriđ songs appear here, and those who disliked the sparse synth-pop sound will definitely be more contented with the new versions: they're a lot more organic, bassoonist Rúnar Vilbergsson plays some of the formerly synthesizer-played lines on his bassoon (most notably in Gegnum holt og hćdir and the orientalisms in Nú er heima) whilst ţorđur Árnason plays totally heartfelt guitar solos in Ranimósk and Vill einhver elska? with the kind of inspired melodies and biting harmonics which also enriched Ćri-Tobbi in 1979. The refined arrangements prove that Gćti eins veriđ was a jazz rock album after all, even though the jazz was hidden amidst all of the synthesizers - I really started to appreciate Gćti eins veriđ after listening to the orchestral versions.

Égill Ólafsson's voice, just like David Gilmour's, has become deeper and more sonorous over the years, but - as a voice - sounds better to me than before. It might be due to his professional singing techniques used in the musicals which he sang over the 1980s and 1990s, but the range is there, the power is there, the accuracy is there - a fabulous singer all the way through. Interestingly, he presents some unknown tunes from his musicals here. Apart from the more contemplative Draumasöngur Grettis and the ballad version of Gegnum holt og hćđir (both available as rough ţursaflokkurinn recordings on Okomin forneskjan) it's especially the jaunty Upphafssöngur ur Gretti/Álagaţula Gláms which stands out as one of the most Canterburesque tunes here, with all of these weird chord voicings and swirling jazzy Hammond organ chords - a great song. Drummer Ásgeir Oskarsson does a great job as well: powerful, accurate and imaginative drumming.

Those who already know the studio albums will find some pleasant changes in the arrangement from time to time. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but to say the least all of these little (sometimes humorous) alterations always stay in line with the positively native and astonishingly consistent atmosphere in this concert. Granted that the landscape and atmosphere in Sigur Rós' Heima is a true representation of what is 'quintessentially Icelandic', I feel that this Ţursaflokkurinn album is rooted as firmly in the culture and nature of Iceland, representing both the jolly folk aspect (Bruđkaupsvísur, Einsetumađur einu sinni) which we also know from Swedish RIO bands and the more reflective and sombre ballads (Grafskript, Skriftagangur). Surprisingly, exactly 50% of the songs have a traditional folk background. You won't notice that if you concentrate on the arrangements or the rhythms because it's mainly the lyrics (which you probably won't understand) and the melodies ('tunes') which are derived from the traditional material.

The encore, Jón var krćfur karl og hraustur, is the expection to the rule as a genuine punk rock song by bassist Tómas Tómasson, first released on the first ţursaflokkurinn live album in 1980. It's always been inspiring to me to see an 'art rock' band ending a concert with such a lot of enthusiasm. (Of course, the orchestra doesn't play here.) Bassoonist Rúnar Vilbergsson, however, moves over to a second drum kit, Hammond organist Eyţór Gunnarson engages in some free-form organ bashing ŕ la Mike Ratledge while Tómasson yells his lungs out, including a maniac scatting-plus-bass improvisation. Cathartic and hilarious at the same time, especially if you know that Tómasson is a critically acclaimed opera baritone who sang for the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth in 2011.

Again I have to say: this group deserves its late appreciation. These guys aren't some of the many third-row prog plagiarists, and it also ain't no neo-prog band which winks at Genesis and Yes all of the time. Especially those who enjoy Samla Mammas Manna, Gryphon, Camel, Magma, Mike Oldfield, Focus, Caravan or other artists with a sense of melancholy, reflection and creative individualism might at least listen to the little MP3 tasters on the Progarchives page. Highly recommendable!

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 Ţursabit by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.24 | 15 ratings

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Ţursabit
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Second album of this unknown and yet very strong band from Iceland from late '70's, Ţursabit issued in 1979, is quite diffrent then their first opus. This time the folky passages are only sporadicaly and the band optaining for a more jazzier arrangements, very strong again, the perfect combination. A convincing album to my ears, as the first one, maybe I'm little more attached on the first one, but Ţursabit is almost as great. Not a weak moment here , but in same time no highlights on this record. Definetly one of the better and most intresting bands to ever come from Iceland. recommened this one aswell like the their first offer, intelligent and original albums. 4 stars again

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 Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.69 | 17 ratings

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Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Odd, intelligent and funny in same time band from Iceland from late '70's with a strange name that means in english A bunch of trolls as far as I know . Their first album released in 1978 is a an almost perfect combination of folk passages, eclectic parts nad progressive elements all in the mix creating a very original and in same time worthy offer from this little known band. Definetly the instrumental parts are top notch with solid musicianship, also the choirs are elegant and grandious remin me in places of Gentle Giant arrangements. I like this album a lot, it has that special nordic feel that is so well offered here, forte tracks for me Einsetumađur Einu Sinni, Stóđum Tvö Í Túni and the superb grandious last track Grafskript. 4 stars easy and recommended.

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 Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.69 | 17 ratings

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Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Thursaflokkurinn was without doubt the most famous Icelandic Progressive Rock band of the 70's due to their massive lives abroad.They were formed in Reykjavik in 1978 by singer/keyboardist Egill Ólafsson, bassist Tómas Tómasson, guitarist Thórdur Arnason, bassoonist Rúnar Vilbergsson and drummer Ásgeir Óskarsson, ex-member of Eik and Pelican.Their debut ''Hinn Íslenski thursaflokkur'' was released in 1978.

The music of the band included reworkings of traditional Icelandinc Folk tunes into Progressive/Art-Rock arrangements and what the listener gets with this album is an album with strong folky atmospheres developed into lovely and emotional rock compositions with rich instrumentation.It sure has this very unique Scandinavian/North-European feeling and there are plenty of references created by the atmosphere in KAIPA's, IN SPE's, FOCUS' and KEBNEKAISE's albums.That means the album contains plenty of intricate melodies next to some folky instrumental themes but also straightforward rockin' tunes.The folky material includes plenty of bassoon work along with driving flutes, pianos and acoustic guitars, the rockin' ideas are enriched with a symph-like feeling with melodic guitars and atmospheric synths.Still sometimes the musicianship gets even more demanding than the aforementioned bands, reminding the blend of Folk, Jazz and Classical Music established by GENTLE GIANT, where nice vocal arrangements stand next to some unusual yet quite harmonic breaks.

Very good album indeed.Fans of Scandinavian Prog or followers of any of the aforementioned acts should hurry to purchase a copy.The album has been reissued in CD format by Steinar Records in 1992...3.5 stars.

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 Ţursabit by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.24 | 15 ratings

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Ţursabit
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

4 stars Icelandic band from the late 70s/early 80s. Had a progressive rock flavor, but the melodies were often adapted from or reminiscent of Icelandic folk songs. Generally used traditional rock instrumentation (guitars, Hammond organ, bass, drums primarily), but this album really struck my ear many years ago with its hauntingly arresting melodies and themes (a trait common to many Nordic/North European bands, from what I've heard). This is just a good solid, unpretentious, melodic prog album that really grows on you (me).

Quick rundown of the songs:

Sigtryggur Vann - an upbeat pop-rock beat, a bit uncharacteristic of the album, but good fun.

Brúδkaupssálmur - a brief a capella chant, introducing the next track

Brúδkaupsvísur - awesome Viking chant merged with powerful Gentle Giant-like prog.

XXX - just a few seconds of backwards noise.

Ćri-Tobbi - where the real meat of the album starts. Great guitar, organ, electric piano, driving rhythms

Frá Vesturheimi - a darker song, with some deep tangled riffs, stops, starts, quiet, loud sections. Instrumental I think.

Skriftagangur - absolutely beautiful slow song with one of those Camel-like guitar melodies that just floor me.

Bannfćring - Another Viking-like chant number, lots of time shifts, and a cool unexpected acoustic guitar break

Sjö Sinnum - quiet and ominous number with Gregorian style chanting for a couple of minutes before going into a slowly-building prog number.

Tóbaksvísur - a hymn-like folk melody with just a hint of jazziness closes the album on a somber note.

While not a masterpiece, this album was a very pleasant surprise, considering its placement in the late 70s/early 80s when progressive rock was generally in a bit of a slump. Its melodies really stick with you, and some of the chord changes and melodic twists are REALLY incredible (e.g. Skriftagangur). Very consistent too - a lot of albums tend to peter out by the end, but this one is solid and engaging all the way through, even though there aren't that many "WOW" moments. It's intelligent, tasteful, and unpredictable. 4 stars, easily.

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 Ókomin Forneskjan by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2008
2.95 | 3 ratings

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Ókomin Forneskjan
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 9.5/15P.: A box set bonus disc of an unusually high niveau. It's got distinct sections, but can be listened to as an actual album and not just a collection of historic value. Taken together it features a good portion of light, lots of twilight (mainly bright twilight) and just a wee bit of shade.

First of all: this record isn't available per se. It's part of the excellent ţursar box set of the pretty unknown Icelandic progressive rock band ţursaflokkurinn. I think you can download it from the Icelandic Tónlist website for a few krónur, but I recommend you to either buy the box set or leave it.

I've already written a few words about the band in the other reviews, so I'm now just going to focus on what you get here.

*A 12-minute 1978 live recording with good sound quality, but some clipping in the louder parts.*

And this part is the obvious highlight of this album, not only because they were previously unissued. With Svífur uppá Silvurhimni you get a pretty heavy song with Townshend-like acoustic guitar strumming, avant-garde electric guitar work, interesting bassoon counterpoints and Égill Ólafssons powerful voice. An energetic progressive folk track with lots of different sections and an inventive arrangement. Sadly the drums appear quieter in the mix than they really are; at places you even wonder if they still appear. Lisú-blus is much more atmospheric, basically a slowly meandering psychedelic track with only faint similarities to the common blues scheme. Again the reverberated lead guitar and the pretty free-form bassoon work add a lot to the surreal atmosphere of this song, as well as the spirited singing. The best comparable tune to this one might be anything off Roy Harper's HQ, for instance Hallucinating Light, although Bill Bruford's 'slim' drum playing style on this particular album is nowhere to be found here.

*A 7-minute radio session from 1979 - very good sound quality, excellent playing.*

And the song the band plays here is the Canterbury-influenced Frá Vesturheimi, featuring flautist Lárus Grímsson. The flute, reminding me of Mr. Jimmy Hastings, reminds me even more of the Waterloo Lily-era Caravan. You should know - I am allergic to bands wanting to sound like other bands. This band isn't one of those candidates since they really pull off their own stuff, and apart from the overly loud bass playing this recording is a treat to listen to.

*Studio demos from a 1980 musical - excellent sound quality, but sometimes a bit too much on the trololo side of the sound spectrum*

I don't know the Icelandic language, but Fram allir vöđvar sounds like a scene of a musical in which a doltish Viking walks around the stage thinking about what to eat. I doubt that this is the real topic of this song, but it all just sounds a bit overdone. I usually really like the sometimes humorous trololo-scatting which Ólafsson always liked doing, perhaps continuing what Samla Mammas Manna had tried before, but this one is too short and too much on the lounge jazz side to really impress me. Sveininn er samningi mundinn is more interesting. More trololo singing, yes, but also more exciting rhythms, funky guitar playing by Árnason and lots of different parts combined seamlessly in hardly three minutes. One could regard this as the transition from the more folk- and progressive rock orientated band outings of the late 1970s to the interesting jazz/new-wave combination of the 1980s output. Sálmur fyrir Gullauga is the ballad version of the song Gegnum holt og hćdir, sung and played by Égill Olafsson merely on the grand piano. I hear well-transferred influences of church chorales and torch songs, and this little tune is simply beautiful in its sophisticated composition, although it's far away from the rousing experiments the band was renowned for. A highlight on this CD it is however.

*12 live minutes of a concert in 1981. Similar sound quality to the 1978 stuff, but featuring Olafsson's most commercial songwriting.*

Ánarki is a pretty awful pseudo-punk track which seems to mock anarchy, capitalism, communism etc - I don't know for sure. If it did that based on a reasonably good song idea this would be okay, but this is new wave with a displeasingly bland pop sound. Some nice hooks here and there, okay, but nothing more. Besides, you really feel that the band doesn't feel comfortable playing this stuff - contrary to the more sophisticated new wave material of the Gćti eins veriđ... album.

Serfrćdingar ségja is taken from yonder album, and this recording is pretty exciting since it mixes the bass line and the rhythm of the excellent track Gibbon with the melody of the album version of Serfrćdingar ségja. And as soon as the band is back into the more ethereal and rhythmically challenging material they sound much more confident. Also check out the vocal melody which is influenced by jazz through and through.

Harley Davidson is taken from the 1980 Grettír musical, and you know that this comes from a musical as soon as you listen to it. It's a really long and slow ballad with a totally bombastic melody, and pomp clearly isn't what this band is best in - at least when they play as an ensemble of four musicians. It's a decent song, but it drags on quite long due to the minimalistic band lineup - and thankfully the typical 1980s keyboard sound would ameliorate a lot until the 1982 Gćti eins veriđ album. The description 'slow ballad', anyway, might give you a wrong impression of this song, even though that's what it really is. It's slow in a dark and fairly desperate way without touching the shallowness which slow ballads often suffer from. Shallowness, in fact, is something which you don't ever get from this band at any time. Do check out the version of this song on the gorgeous live album from 2008 which proves the quality of composition in this song. Ólafsson's vocals sound much more mature, and don't overhear the symphonic interplay between bassoon, guitar and Hammond organ.

*And finally the lost fifth album of the band, Ókomin forneskjan... from 1984...*

...and that's a pretty mixed bag. First of all, the keyboards are sufficiently tasteful - much better than what most of the musicians squeezed out of the early polyphonic keyboards at that time. The title track is pretty grand, changing between the church music/jazz-fusion of the verses and the plaintive art pop in the more upbeat chorus. Reuniting with bassoonist Rúnar Vilbergsson for this particular song rooted for the band sound a lot, it might be his contributions which I enjoy most. When listening to this portion of the CD I somehow always feel reminded of Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason in its better moments. Especially the instrumental Hverju a ađ trúa-Arab could be responsible for this, owing to this certain maritime flavour. It works primarily as an 'ambient' piece, pretty much in the vein of what Signs of Life would do two years later, and it works good. Despite the simplicity of the music in its form it is absolutely successful in conveying the picture of standing on a pier in Iceland at some time in the dark season. Súpa a la carte takes its time to unfold a hopeless mood in a minimalist art pop song. The fact that it still leaves question marks in my head after repeated listenings might also be a result of the unfinished state it is in, most significantly the extended solo drum play-out which ends abruptly after six minutes. Certainly it's a few degrees less stunning than Okomin forneskjan, but still a more than decent track - again since there's a special mood which this song creates. Fjandsamleg navist-III on the one hand is interesting in its mix of funk phrasings and the Nordic raging vocals of Egill Olafsson; in fact the vocals sound completely different from verse to verse, sometimes even sounding similar to German singer Udo Lindenberg! There are lots of interesting dissonances and tightly composed interludes (for instance the nearly majestic part at 1:30), but the sound just doesn't fit in with the gloomy atmosphere of the remaining songs. Of stor fits in better, but it is dull and fails where the ballad Vill einhver elska? from the Gćti eins veriđ album was a cogent highlight of a more than decent album. This one's a typical 'slow ballad' with obvious commercial intentions which is only partly saved by Ólafsson's spirited singing. It is short, marred by the 'explosive' Foreigner/Scorpions AOR drum sound and by a lack of characterful ideas.

*All the rest*

To keep it short: ţögull eins og meirihlutinn in its 1982 live version only gives fans a surplus value over the studio version from Gćti eins veriđ. It's got the same length, basically the same sounds, it is perhaps a bit more 'punk' because Tomas Tomasson plays the bass guitar instead of the keyboards here. Gegnum holt og hćdir, recorded live in 1991 as a tribute to the deceased ţursaflokkurinn keyboarder Karl Sighvattson, is a real stunner in this version - again thanks to Rúnar Vilbergsson on bassoon. Emotional singing, stirring but restrained guitar solos, the staccato bassoon helping out on the bass line, fantastic drum playing - I'm glad that this version has been unearthed for this CD.

As I've already mentioned, I cannot recommend this record, but only the ţursar box set in which it is featured - and this I recommend heavily. Not many of the bonus CDs in box sets have such a consistent standard of quality, and the other featured albums are even better. Regarding the 4 star realms in here (1978-1979 live recordings, parts of Okomin Forneskjan, the 1991 live recording), the big majority of the 3 star tracks (1980 studio and 1981-1982 live recordings) and the (very few) substandard songs, a rating of about three stars feels just right.

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 Ţursar by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2008
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Ţursar
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This limited edition box contains nearly 100% of all recordings avaible from this excellent Icelandic band. It comprises the four regular albums of this band, plus the bonus disc Ókomin Forneskjan which includes the sketches of an unreleased fifth album plus several live recordings and demos.

First of all: this box is, regarding its design, phenomenal. It's got a black matt finish with the band's fake rune symbol, derived from the Germanic character thornuz (ţ) spread all over the cardboard, and the five digipacks are also put in classy black frames. The CDs are mini-vinyl replicas, all in black from both sides, and the sound quality is brilliant. I don't know if someone remastered the albums, but there's nothing left to desire from the sound. Even the more obscure live recordings on the bonus disc are perfectly listenable despite some slight overdrive clipping in the louder parts. The booklets contain all lyrics, the historical placement of the albums in the Icelandic music scene and lots of newspaper clippings and photos from the archives inbetween. All in all an exemplar of how albums should be reissued.

But still there's a slight drop of bitterness: everything is written in Icelandic. That means that, if you don't know this language, the band biography and all that stuff won't help you at all. I come from Germany and understand a few words from the context, listeners from Sweden, Denmark or the Faroe Islands might probably understand even more, but making this reissue more international by writing English liner notes could have been a wise decision. But for sure this band is most popular in their own country, and the fact that it's all Icelandic makes the box perfectly authentic.

I won't describe the music of this band in detail here, check out the separate reviews of the albums to get more information. To sum it up, the band started as a rock band which was rooted in Icelandic folk music, but also influenced by the humour of the RIO scene, the Canterbury styling of jazz fusion and symphonic prog in the vein of Focus, Gentle Giant and Genesis. On the debut album Hinn islenski ţursaflokkur (11/15P.), the folk clearly outweighed the jazz: many fairly original interpretations of traditional folk songs mixed up with high-quality progressive rock, especially the pastoral Sólnes with fine guitar-piano-interplay. On Ţursabit (13.5/15P.) the band rather deconstructed Icelandic folk songs, stuffed them with jazz and fairly freaked-out art pop, and rebuilt them afterwards. A particular highlight is the spacy Ćri-Tobbi which switches between Matching Mole-like jazz rock, Funkadelic grooves and 20th-century classical music. The 1980 live album Á hljomleikum (10.25/15P.) saw the band explore a more sincere (and less humorous) jazz within the scope of longer tracks. A fine album, but a bit separated into two parts: renditions of shorter songs from the studio albums and the three previously unreleased longtracks. I think there are big parts of the concert missing here, owing to the deceptively short Sjö sinnum.... Gćti eins veriđ (11.5/15P.) brought a change, presenting the band with an unexpected new wave sound. It's a widely disliked album, but to me it's an example of high-quality new wave: much more rooted in jazz harmony and melody than the Talking Heads and Genesis, with not a single bland Phil-Collins-ish ballad, but rather with really tough, but rewarding songs of experimental pop. Drummer Asgeir Oskarsson, employing both his drum kit and the Roland drum machine, is in the foreground and rips all boredom up with his extremely inventive playing. The five songs from the intended fifth album, Ókomin forneskjan, are distinctly weaker, mostly when they sound like music from a musical. Still there are many atmospheric proto post-rock moments to be heard which are worthwile listening. The three eccentric demos from the Grettir musical are better than expected, but the stunners on this CD are the live recordings from 1978, 1979 and 1991. The live recordings from 1981 are less mature than the Gćti eins veriđ stuff, but have a nice underlying punk attitude. The total rating of the bonus disc is around 10/15P.

The music, averaged from the separate ratings, therefore is approximately 4 stars worth. Ţursaflokkurinn are one of the rare examples of a band which recorded awesome albums, but never really crashed into dreary music - it's a discography on a consistently high niveau. The design and reissue quality definitely deserves full 5 stars. Still, I am giving this box set just a very good 4 star rating. It includes doubtlessly essential albums, but not every album in here is a fully-fledged masterpiece. But don't mind the rating: if you're into awesome and independent music on the borders between jazz, folk, psychedelia and symphonic prog, and if you're willing to get into music sung completely in the Icelandic language, you should be going to love this box. And of course it makes a pretty good impression in a progressive rock music collection, too! Get it either for a fair price of $75 from Gregg Walker's syn-phonic shop or, if you come from Europe, from the German tradesman Charly Heidenreich. I don't think many people have already bought this box, but still it's limited and perhaps sold-out in the next years, so get it quick.

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 Ţursabit by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.24 | 15 ratings

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Ţursabit
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 13.5/15P.: Not only the best Icelandic album, but also one of the most independent and most jazz/folk fusion fueled albums of all times

One year after recording their folksy debut album Hinn íslenzki Ţursaflokkur in the summer of 1978 the same-titled prog band from Iceland shortened their name to Ţursaflokkurinn (The Hobgoblins) and started going into a more progressive direction. Already in late 1978 the band recorded two live pieces that went in a more elaborated and experimental direction than their first effort, one of them the outstanding acoustic rocker Svifur uppá Silvurhimni with the probably strangest, but nonetheless catchy chord progression that I've listened to so far. One can find those pieces on the band's latest collection Okomin forneskjan.

But for the album Ţursabit ("lumbago") Égill Olafsson, the band's mastermind, lead singer, keyboarder and sometimes acoustic guitarist, composed and arranged 40 minutes of new songs - quite a short duration for ten songs, but the also short pieces (which last from 9 seconds on to 6 1/2 minutes) sometimes seem more diverse to me than many of the well-regarded prog longtracks (for instance by Focus) because Ţursaflokkurinn really get to the point. Most of the lyrics and also some melodies are taken from old Icelandic folklore, although Égill Ólafsson fathers the music and arrangement of the whole album and mainly thanks to him the LP is as great as it really is.

So, let's start ...

The album begins with Sigtryggur vann... [Sigtryggur works...] (which can be listened to in the PA), a short little ditty in which the band seems to ridicule ABBA in a Canterbury-esque manner. A voice commands, the band answers with acurate bashes in a totally odd time signature. Then, Ólafsson announces that Sigtryggur is working - or whatever it exactly means. It's a drag that the Icelandic translation webpages don't work that well! Afterwards a whispering Hammond organ, played by new organist Karl Sighvattson, and some quiet electric piano staccatos by Egill Olafsson fix the rhythm. A strange, twangy voice joins this keyboard background until the whole band plays along, creating a funny and perfectly played art pop piece with lots of ironic hooks resembling the upcoming disco/R&B music. The verses, however, are inspired by folk through and through - think it in 6/8 time, adapt the melody to the measure in your head and there you have it. Another highlight is the jazzy guitar solo at 1:38 with outstanding accompaniment. Pure Stratocaster bliss!

Next, the listener gets to hear traditional Icelandic wedding songs, consisting of a short a-capella prelude (Brúđkaupssálmur) and the catchy-rocking Brúđkaupsvísur, set to a fast-paced, rolling march rhythm, fiery organs and a highly rhythmic vocal track which sounds plain gorgeous in Icelandic language. The chorus rather paces into the folk roots again. From the middle until the end the band works out the song's melodies in an intriguing instrumental part which includes a frantic, jazzy interlude (with accompanying sounds of a wild Icelandic folk festival), an instrumental organ-dominated couplet and a crescending guitar solo in the very end. It is unbelievable how much prog and variety the band puts into a piece which hardly takes three minutes of time. Stunning all the way through!

The reversed-played guitar line XXX (originally a short lick coming from Frá Vesturheimi, the next but one piece) can be regarded as a the beginning for the ultimate stand-out track of the album, Ćri-Tobbi. It starts off with a shy electric piano line and discreet synthesizers. Later, the bands joins in with gambolling drums, a spitting electric guitar and counterpointing bassoons which segue into a short psychedelic rock section with driving drums and bass guitars. After a jazzy, wry part the band returns to the psychedelic rock genre, now with great vocals (somehow like Peter Schilling's "Major Tom", if you know this cool German new wave hit) and the vast guitar workouts of Ţordur Árnason who bends the strings even more heavily than Mike Oldfield: the 2008 live recording of this piece is even more stirring and sweeping. Menacing hobgoblin hexes introduce a guitar solo, accompanied by dissonant organ chord progressions. Ampimbamb og umbum, bumba öx indaela, skrúfara rúfara skrokkinn vaela, skrattinn má Ţeim dönsku haela, Ólafsson curses. I've got no idea what this shall mean, but it sounds absolutely famous. Then the band loses momentum in a hushed a-capella stanza before they get quicker gradually, then finishing the track with a reprise of the jazzy, wry part of the middle section. What a courageous tightrope walk between jazz-fusion/prog and psych rock, even facing the disco-like sound of the late 1970s instead of escaping to a retro sound. The jazz part is similar to Matching Mole's Part of the Dance riff, by the way.

Frá Vesturheimi [From the Western world?], the band's collective composition of the record, always reminds me of Soft Machine's Slightly All The Time which begins with a cool riff as well and later exploits jazz realms, in this case with a cool swing rhythm and outstanding bass lines by Tómas Magnus Tómasson who probably also handles the rare synthesizers on the album which are interestingly displaced by the Hammond organ, electric and acoustic piano. Some blues parts with frequent organ use include some nice guitars as well as choire vocals which can faintly be heard in the background. This is not the most elaborate track of the album, but as a free form jam the song stands out like all the others, as well because of several nice hooks, for example the creating of a melody by letting the instruments play different notes in succession: a good showcase for the band's talent of playing very exactly without sounding mechanical and exerted. Nonetheless the Finnish radio version of 1979 with Lárus Grimsson an Hammond organ and flute that is featured on the collection Ókomin forneskjan is even better because the flute relaxes the lounge jazz part of the middle section additionally.

The last four pieces create a huge suite showing a consistent mood which you could compare with a walk through the twilight, uncertainty and mist of an Icelandic autumn: wishful and melancholic, but also weird and relentless. The topic of that suite seems to be based loosely on experiences of and reflections on religion and church, dealing with topics like confession or excommunication.

And the beautiful component is the Focus-influenced Skriftagangur [Going to Confession] which assimilates soft pieces like Focus 3, although the prominent bassoon (played by Rúnar Vilbergsson) transforms it to a different level. A weird and well-composed melody (the only weird thing in the whole piece) commences the first stanza, soft and harmonic with Jan Akkerman-like guitars, the reflective vocals and a blinking Fender Rhodes. In the end, distant pianos and a bell find their way into the piece until the listener approaches a Viking festival with loud tattoo and vigorous vocals. The rest of this piece, Bannfaering [Excommunication] heads into the jolly folk prog style of the band's previous record, somehow echoing Gentle Giant as well. A treated acoustic guitar brings in a new riff, the song's 'bridge' that leads over to a cool and unconventional drum solo by drummer Asgeir Oskarsson who mainly works with approaching and departing percussion sounds (like Nick Mason's Grand Vizier's Garden Party), seemingly using the Rototoms as well. A short reprise of the bridge leads us into the longest piece of the album, Sjö sinnum... [Seven Times...], the more clearly composed sequel to Frá Vesturheimi. It heads off with a psychedelic ambience of reverberated guitar, electric piano and organ until the band intones an Icelandic choral whose melody is then worked out in a prog-fashion. The melody of this choral is repeated all over in this piece, with great improvisations in the meantime: hectic, bubbling prog parts go hand in hand with soft, yet menacing guitar soundscapes. A monolith is a jolting folk piece in the end which ends in fading out sound carpets. The mix of classical elements with progressive rock sounds quite like the Zeuhl music of Magma, but perhaps the peregrine vocals mainly provoke this comparison.

The last piece Tóbaksvisur [Tobacco song], a hymn to tobacco played solely with acoustic guitar, accordeon and vocals, is a weird closing track, with wailing and disturbing vocals that are even weirder than Supertramp's Fools Overture. In big parts of the piece Ólafsson restricts himself to mainly scatting something like 'doy doy doy'. Just as someone has already mentioned, one is eased extremely after the song has ended, but that could be exactly the intention of this piece, and as an off-key ending it works fantastically. For sure, you couldn't place such a song at the beginning of an album.

All in all, this album is nothing short of a masterpiece which sounds jazzy and progressive without trying to copy any other band. A combination of the beauty of Focus with the Canterbury sound of Matching Mole and the serious strangeness of Magma may describe this opus best, but the group is too independent to be equated with another band's music. All in all, there are less Samla Mammas Manna influences here than on the previous album. The sound and production of the record makes it even more timeless and great, I don't know many albums which sound as sophisticated, differentiated and at the same time warm and comfortable as Ţursabit.

Certainly, this record deserves the full score of 5/5 points as it is one of the best prog albums of the late 70s. Unfortunately, the album has been out of stock for years; today, the band has published their whole discography in 2008 in a great box set, but that has the effect that you can only receive the CD in this set, or you are lucky enough to find the album somewhere in a second hand shop with a really big repertory. I can highly recommend this set which isn't also too expensive with a price of approximately $60, regarding the great outfit, the small edition and the "ingredients": five great CDs in mini-vinyl/digipack look. It can be bought from Gregg Walker's Syn-Phonic shop (America) and the Freakparade-chief Charly Heidenreich (Germany).

[To all the Icelandic people who shake their heads about my - perhaps - inappropriate translations of the song titles: be free to write a message to me.]

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 Ţursabit by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.24 | 15 ratings

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Ţursabit
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars If Thursaflokkurin's debut album was a real shocker in its adaptation f pre-classical musics and modernizing them, the follow-up is a very different beast, but no-less interesting. With an unchanged line-up, but getting a hand in the guitar dept, with Arnasson's arrival, the group becomes a sextet, which opens more possibilities. With a lower-bust drawing of the group as artwork, the album was recorded in spring of 79. As for the Zappa influences invoked bt many, there are some, but not quite as obvious as some would have you to believe, and I don't think the band was out to make a derision of everything they saw or heard. Here the bizarre is more Bjork-esque or Samla-esque than Zappa-esque

Nevermind the opening Sigtrygguryan, a complex piece holding some almost grotesque vocals, start listening to the following Bruokopsvisur (and it's a capella intro) to get some really strong material that's worthy of their debut album. Most likely Hoyry Kone heard this Iceland group doing the semi- operatic piece. Also of much interest is the album's second longest track Aeri Tobbi, a Gentle Giant- esque track. The following 6-mins+ track, the instrumental Versturheimi is a bit its opposite as it takes lengths and turns allowing some overlong solos but remains concise enough (for a live track) not to get lost in unneeded meanderings.

The flipside starts with the dramatic Skriftangangur that could easily come from Anglagard's debut or Per Lindh Project's Gothic Impression, and while Bannfaering holds a good (and short, hence good) drum solo, the group is in op form here: the Hackettien guitar is even giving them a (slight) Genesis sound. The album longest Sjo Sinnum track starts very slowly, before some choirs give a first kick, then the group up the ante and with a Hackettian guitar, and many more fireworks to make it yet another winner.The closing Tobaksvisur is another vocally twisted song with some acoustic guitar and some harmonium or eventually accordion. Although good track, it sure feels fine once it stopped: I'm not sure adding 5 more seconds would've tolerable ;o)))

Certainly a different animal than its predecessor Thursabit is a bit more jazz, a bit more symphonic, a bit less folk, no less bizarre and just as intriguing, it's another album sitting in Iceland's best 10 ever.

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 Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur by THURSAFLOKKURINN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.69 | 17 ratings

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Hinn Íslenzki Ţursaflokkur
Thursaflokkurinn Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

"Bunch of trolls" is the name of this band, active from the late 70's into the mid-80's, and reuniting now and then when the decades unfold. Their debut's title (The Icelandic bunch of trolls) was actually their real name, but it was shortened as soon as the second album was recorded. Most of us know from Iceland the diminutive Bjork and her extraordinary musical landscapes (and heard the glacial Sigur Ros), but let me tell you that Thursaflokkurin does just as brilliantly strange as well. This first album was recorded in late 78 and received a dumb awkward and not-engaging Sandwich-man artwork, but musically it's quite different from almost anything you've heard.

Indeed Thursaflokkurin can sound medieval ala Gryphon or more like early Univers Zero (that bassoon inevitably brings to it), while at other times Samla Mammas Mannas is another evident influences, especially when going folk and even Kebnekaise becomes obvious), but we haven't yet gone close to the liturgical leanings of certain tracks, the whole thing remaining mainly acoustic and based on old folk songs of their island.

Starting on Einsetumaour, a mainly vocal and wind instrument track that sounds like Thys Van Leer (Focus) with Michel Berckmans (UZ), the tracks sometimes speeds up, but the solemn mood remains. After the instrumental Solnes and its all-too obvious Focus influences, Stooum Tvo I Tuni enters UZ and via Gryphon, even GG realm. An excellent track that mixes the pre-classical elements with the typical Scandinavian melancholy, one that was sooo well put forth in the early 90's in the Swedish trilogy. Hringana is rounding up side 1 and offers more of the previous track's ambiance and sadly adds nothing more.

The flipside opens on the much rockier (almost pop) Muttimin, although the middle dissonant section tells you not to take this number too lightly. It certainly digresses from the rest of the album, but nothing shocking either. The instrumental Bunadarbalkur is again eying in the early SMM discography with the strange vocals and the closing part on the bassoon is simply amazing. After a short and goofy Vera Matt Godur, the album simply HAD to finish up brightly and it sure was the case. Starting on winds and Gregorian chants, Grafskript (Epitath) is a slow-developing intro piece for the outstanding, grandiose and chilling closer, shortly peaking, before dying its own glorious and solemn death, like a funeral march should. Too bad it's so short with its almost 7 minutes.

Although there are many elements of pre-classical music and the songs are rooted in Scandinavian folklore, it's not that easy to classify this album as progressive folk, but one thing is for sure, this album is a killer and certainly in the all-time top 5 of the island, even including the little Bjork career, not eve counting Sigur Ros. Don't just sand there, hop on the web and track it down, before others pass by and make it OOP.

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