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PROG FOLK

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Prog Folk definition

In the wake of the 60's, a Folk revival started on both sides of the Atlantic, and got quickly linked with a protest movement, not always, but often linked to more left-wing tendencies, which did not sit well with the authorities. BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, WOODY GUTHRIE, JOHN DENVER, BUFFY STE-MARIE, but also the FARINA couple Richard and Mimi for the US and SHIRLEY COLLINS and EWAN McCOLL (mentor of BERT JANSCH, JOHN RENBOURN ) for the UK and HUGUES AUFRAY in France. In Quebec, there was the "Chansoniers" phenomenon among which CLAUDE LEVEILLE and FELIX LECLERC were the most popular, waking up the sleepy "Belle Province" and stand up for itself from the English rule. The English part of Canada also brought up JONI MITCHELL, LEONARD COHEN (although he was from Montreal) and NEIL YOUNG.

As DYLAN turned electric with his Highway 61 Revisited album, much to the dislike of purists who yelled for treason, Folk Rock was born, opening the floodgates for younger artists to turn on the electricity. As DYLAN soon abandoned to style to create Country Rock with his next album, his British equivalent Scotsman DONOVAN stayed true to Folk Rock. In the US, THE BYRDS were the main promoters of the style by now, culminating with the superb "Eight Miles High" track with a lengthy (for the times) guitar solo of almost one minute. But countless other bands on the west coast, such as LOVE, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (and later its spin-off HOT TUNA), GRATEFUL DEAD, QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, and TIM BUCKLEY all started in the folk rock realm. Even San Fran's SANTANA with its Latino traditional music and, on the east coast, NY's THE LOVING SPOONFUL had folk roots. Notwithstanding the immense popularity of SIMON & GARFUNKEL and their delicious harmonies, Folk Rock was appealing only to the rock public as the older generations turned their backs in folkies.

In the UK, following on their countrymen DONOVAN, many Scotsmen were very influent in exploring new grounds for folk rock: INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (led by Scots Palmer and Williamson) with their two highly influential albums "5000 Layers Or The Spirit Of The Onion" & "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" and THE PENTANGLE (led by other Scots Renbourn, Jansch and McShee and their superb bassist Danny Thompson) and its incredible fusion of folk, blues and jazz style were very instrumental in developing the style to the same extent as FAIRPORT CONVENTION and THE STRAWBS who by that time were still more conventional US "west-coast folk rock". The single artistes in folk rock became known as Folk Troubadours were also numerous and often presented a more progressive side of folk: AL STEWART, NICK DRAKE, ROY HARPER, TYRANOSAURUS REX (actually a duo of Steven Took and Marc Bolan) , JOHN MARTYN etc.

However, the real angular album that will lead to further change of Folk Rock is FAIRPORT CONVENTION's "Liege & Lief" album, that proved to be highly influential for another generation of groups: this album concentrated into electrifying seminal English traditional folk and retained that quaint Englishness taste. It is interesting to see that both leaders of FAIRPORT quit the band after this success to go their respective way: Sandy Denny to a solo folk songwriting career and Ashley Hutchings to a very traditional folk rock. By this time, most connoisseur were talking of Acid Folk, Psych Folk, and Progressive Folk, all having limited differences and no particularly drawn-out limits or boundaries, but all relying on experimental or groundbreaking adventures and good musicianship but not necessarily of an acoustic nature.

Groups like THE THIRD EAR BAND and QUINTESSENCE relied on eastern Indian music influences and, sometimes, medieval tones. Other groups like the weird COMUS, THE TREES, SPIROGYRA, FOREST, the superb JAN DUKES DE GREY (all listed in the ProgArchives) but also TRADER HORNE, TUDOR LODGE, FOTHERINGAY, MAGNA CARTA, TIR NA NOG (all of whom could also be in the ProgArchives) were out to break new ground but with less commercial success as their predecessor. By 1972, all of the glorious precursors bands were selling fewer records and had problems renewing themselves and a newer generation of groups was relying in a more Celtic jigs or really traditional sounds. Such as HORSLIPS, DANDO SHAFT, STEELEYE SPAN, AMAZING BLONDEL, ALBION DANCE BAND and SPRIGUNS OF TOLGUS. Although JETHRO TULL had some definitive folk roots right from the start, their only albums that can be regarded as Prog Folk are 77's Songs From The Woods and 78's Heavy Horses. Ian Anderson (another Scots) was very keen in acoustical traditional songs. Some Folk Troubadours such as TIM BUCKLEY and JOHN MARTYN started turning records more and more axed towards fusing jazz and folk (a bit in what THE PENTANGLE were doing) , others became more and more electric and they started to be referred to as Singer Songwriters especially those with country rock influences.

In Germany, HOELDERLIN (and their fantastic debut album), EMTIDI, OUGENWEIDE, CAROL OF HARVEST, WITTHEUSER & WESTRUPP were exploring German folk while KALACAKRA , SILOAH and EMBRYO were indulging with Indian music. In South America, most notably in Chile, LOS JAIVAS (very bent upon Andean Indian music) and EL CONGRESSO (more Spanish-Latino folklore) were using folk in their rock, so much that some press talked about them referring it with the hateful term Inca Rock. In Quebec, the progressive movement exploded with the cultural identity and the Chansoniers tradition and this was carried out with LES SEGUIN and HARMONIUM and so many more. In France, many groups were out for folk rock such as RIBEIRO ALPS, TANGERINE, and ASGARD. In Spain, Flamenco playing a dominant role as well as Basque folk, TRIANA, ITOIZ and HAIZEA were the head of the movement once the Franco regime fell apart after his death.


There is also a very important medieval music influences dimension in some groups as the term Medieval Folk was also mentioned for a while but apparently dropped by musicologists. Among the UK groups are obviously GRYPHON, GENTLE GIANT and THIRD EAR BAND, in France: MALICORNE and RIPAILLE and in Scandinavia: ALGARNAS TRADGARD and FOLQUE.


Hugues Chantraine

Current Team as of January 1, 2015

Bob Moore aka ClemofNazareth
Ken Levine aka Kenethlevine
Sean Trane

Prog Folk Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Prog Folk | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.63 | 2768 ratings
THICK AS A BRICK
Jethro Tull
4.33 | 2139 ratings
AQUALUNG
Jethro Tull
4.17 | 1161 ratings
SONGS FROM THE WOOD
Jethro Tull
4.20 | 267 ratings
ALTURAS DE MACCHU PICCHU
Jaivas, Los
4.40 | 60 ratings
ERWARTUNG
Eden
4.14 | 453 ratings
FIRST UTTERANCE
Comus
4.20 | 165 ratings
ST. RADIGUNDS
Spirogyra
4.16 | 270 ratings
GRAVE NEW WORLD
Strawbs
4.12 | 509 ratings
RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE
Gryphon
4.17 | 182 ratings
MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT
Jan Dukes De Grey
4.15 | 263 ratings
HERO AND HEROINE
Strawbs
4.55 | 30 ratings
LUCAS
Araujo, Marco Antonio
4.04 | 1010 ratings
STAND UP
Jethro Tull
4.07 | 257 ratings
THE HAZARDS OF LOVE
Decemberists, The
4.16 | 96 ratings
BASKET OF LIGHT
Pentangle, The
4.14 | 109 ratings
BELLS, BOOTS AND SHAMBLES
Spirogyra
4.02 | 1200 ratings
A PASSION PLAY
Jethro Tull
4.02 | 941 ratings
HEAVY HORSES
Jethro Tull
4.13 | 101 ratings
EZEKIEL
Itoiz
4.01 | 975 ratings
MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY
Jethro Tull

Prog Folk overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Prog Folk experts team

VALHEISTA KAUNEIN
Scarlet Thread
STONE ANGEL
Stone Angel
NYA LJUDBOLAGET
Nya Ljudbolaget
II
Espers

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Latest Prog Folk Music Reviews


 Nula Jedan by THORK album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.28 | 23 ratings

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Nula Jedan
Thork Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

4 stars An album from the French mood-masters who created the band NIL, the leadership of the brothers MAURIN (one of which has by this album left the project) have given way to that of Sebastien FILLION (with the help of brother/cellist Arnaud) to produce this enigmatic collection of hard-to-describe songs. The music is modern, perhaps "ahead of its time" in its odd, sometimes ethereal, sometimes jazzy sounds and passages. It can thus be said with some confidence that this is truly progressive rock music as its songs take the listener to places and in directions that you have likely never travelled before. While listening through this album I find myself reminded at times of DEAD CAN DANCE, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, AKT, STING, LUNATIC SOUL, STEVE JANSEN and, of course, NIL.

Favorite songs: 1. "Ex-Slaves" (12:51) (10/10); 3. "La lumičre" (9:12) (10/10); 5. "Danse des airs" (6:25) (9/10); 7. "Revoir" (7:55) (9/10); 9. "Ces ręves-lŕ" (4:24) (8/10); 8. "01" (8:15) (8/10), and; 6. "Au ciel" (7:12) (8/10).

4.5 stars. A refreshingly original musical journey.

 Jubilation Foundry by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.51 | 3 ratings

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Jubilation Foundry
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars After an electrifying debut that announced the new decade while still winking back at the 1960s, PAUL BRETT's SAGE well and truly regressed in both ambition and appeal with "Jubilation Foundry". Tilting in a blues pop direction, tracks like "Hold my Hand Mother", "Pasadena Days", and "Goodbye Forever" seem a far cry from the kinetic explorations of the prior year, and indeed even Brett's accompaniment is curtailed, a pity since his aptitude possesses the capacity to elevate even mediocre and derivative songwriting. Instead, apart from on "Help me Jesus", it is mostly exploited on a few of the better compositions, particularly the CSNY like "Tuesday Evening" and to PHIL OCHS/GORDON LIGHTFOOT styled "I Fell so Far". Mike Gibbs is credited with "orchestral arrangements", which do enhance "Keeper of my Heart" and the aforementioned "Tuesday Evening". These relative high points do little more than salvage clunky cast iron from "Jubilation Foundry". though fans of old rock may regard it as a hot mess.

 Kivi Veereb  by RUJA album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Kivi Veereb
Ruja Prog Folk

Review by Andis

— First review of this album —
3 stars This LP I found years ago and it has kind of stuck with me and I still bring it out to let it spin sometimes. This is the one and only album that I have of Ruja and they're kind of hard to find in Sweden. On this album, Ruja plays a melodic neo-progressive rock, here on PA it says that the band plays prog folk wich is not the case on this album. I would say their style is somewhere the two Pallas albums The sentinel and The web, with strong influences from bands like Saga, Omega, Kaipa and Progres 2. They play a very melodic straightforward rock with lots of melody, cool breaks with keyboards and guitars and have a few mellow passages within some of the songs. They sing in estonian and for an untrained ear I would say it sounds like a mix of finnish and hungarian (don't hold me responsible for that observation). Their songs are quite short wich I sometimes find is unlucky due to that some of the songs would probably have been great if they would have given them more time to develope. The recording is from the 80s with all things that follows, edgy guitars, high pitched keybards and drums that sometimes sounds like a gunshot. Although this is one of the albums that this isn't a big problem, it works out pretty well anyway when the music is interesting and it's not that bad. Many of the songs have a high tempo and it really makes me think of a combination of Pallas and Saga, the melody and the tempo from Pallas, the riffs from Saga. As with those two bands, Ruja also has influences from AOR, rock and pop, not so surprising from an album from 1987. A really interesting album that contains some really good songs. If Ruja would have been, for example, a british band, all you neoprogheads out there would have known their name. No doubt this was a high class band. 3,5 stars!
 Thunder Perfect Mind by CURRENT 93 album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.61 | 13 ratings

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Thunder Perfect Mind
Current 93 Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars David Tibet of Current 93 is an artist prone to passing fixations which, for their duration, entirely permeate his work, and also is very open to collaborating with a wide variety of people. In the mid-to-late 1980s this almost took Current 93 down a very dark road, due to Tibet aligning with elements in the neofolk scene such as Douglas Pierce of Death In June, a man who if he isn't actually a neo-Nazi of a Strasserist, Ernst Rohm-supporting bent has done such a good job of masquerading as one it rather amounts to the same thing.

On Thunder Perfect Mind, however, his art turns in a more personal and reflective direction, revolving around his mystical conception of reality and firmly rebuking fascism such as on Hitler as Kalki (SDM), a song which takes a concept from mystical fascism and uses it to frame Hitler as the enemy of the cosmic pantheist sort of Christ that Tibet tends to support (and a song which is dedicated to his father, who fought Hitler in World War II). Even more cutting is the lament A Song for Douglas After He's Dead, a premortem eulogy for Doug Pierce whose message essentially boils down to "Douglas, I love you as a friend, but your obsession with Naziism has completely taken you over and you've hitched yourself to a bunch of ideas which have comprehensively failed".

Tibet marries his powerful lyrics to a powerfully melancholic neofolk style which slowly and gradually acquires more complexities and progressive twists as the album progresses, like a philosophical discourse in music which begins with simple axioms and then builds something greater and greater on that foundation, with Hitler as Kalki as the summit of that exploration (with A Sad Sadness Song/An Ending as an epilogue).

Tibet's lack of discretion in his choice of collaborators made me wary of his work for a while; I am inclined to agree with Strelnikiov of the Who Makes the Nazis? blog (a useful resource tracking the rise of fascist elements in the neofolk and martial industrial scenes) that rather than being an actual fascist himself Tibet is more "part naif, part charlatan and part public schoolboy narcissist" - but somehow he is able to create art which exceeds the sum of his parts.

 Paul Brett Sage by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.98 | 6 ratings

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Paul Brett Sage
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars The term virtuoso is bandied about all too freely, especially in progressive rock circles, but it well and truly applies to guitarist PAUL BRETT. Unfortunately for him in the commercial sense, his prodigious talents were most in evidence on all manner of acoustic guitar. My first encounter with his name and his work was during the holiday season as the 1970s drew to a close, when the never mainstream Carleton University radio featured his then current RCA release "Eclipse" album as a suitable holiday gift for people of all ages. OK, that sounds dubious, but the title track drew me in, as did the album and its predecessor "Interlife" which I immediately sought out. It was only later when I discovered that he had in fact played on STRAWBS "Dragonfly and had other tenuous ties to that band via ELMER GANTRY's VELVET OPERA and FIRE. I mistakenly wrote off his earlier releases after sampling the rather tepid "Clocks" from 1974, and never gave his 3 albums fronting "Paul Brett Sage" (sometimes written in the possessive) their due. Better late than never, for the first of these, in particular, through its eclectic influences, brilliant musicianship and arrangements, and an eyes wide open communal spirit and ebullience that cannot be feigned, merits re-appraisal as a prog rock classic.

The 1960s were barely in the rear view mirror, and, while Sage obviously owes much to the guitar oriented and psych bands of that period, this is a forward looking release in that the band is exploring new ways to be around the basic rock band configuration. This elasticity is typified by swapping out a standard drum kit in favor of Brett's percussive 12 string attack and Bob Voice's well placed and played alternatives. Another variation is in the flutes and sax of Nicky Higginbottom, which aerate and expand while actually fortifying the Sage sound. Keyboards are represented by brilliant uncredited organ in several tracks to lend a mournful ambiance devoid of sulking. I haven't mentioned Brett's rough and ready vocals but it seems clear that the material was worked to complement his delivery and vice versa, and the result is a resounding success. Finally, his fret work is dazzling in almost every track, while rarely overpowering the arrangements, a testament to both. His skills on the electric notwithstanding, it's his acoustic work that has earned him a reputation as one of the world's foremost guitarists, and which ultimately places Sage in league of its own, although in its more frenetic moments they seem close in spirit to the even more obscure "Matthew Mark Luke and John" from METHUSELAH, released in 1969.

My personal favorites are the more brooding numbers "The Sun Died" and "The Tower". While their messages are hardly oblique, they are practically arcane relative to Brett's more recent solo albums as well as the 2014 resurrection of SAGE. These two tracks in particular seem to have formed the blueprint for a few of the better pieces on UK folk rockers DECAMERON's "Third Light" that appeared in 1975, as well as a few early 1970s Strawbs tunes like "Keep the Devil Outside", but overall I would say that the technical and serendipitous confluence of Sage would have been too hard for most artists to emulate. If there is a flaw, it might be in the awkwardness of a few of the choruses that tend to repeat the song titles, such as in the otherwise captivating "The Warlock", or in "Mediterranean Lazy Heat wave". The CD re-issues include two worthwhile bonus tracks whose origins are clearly from other sessions since they both include actual drums.

You would be sage to pick this one up whether you normally enjoy prog folk or not. That pretty much covers everyone here.

 Rimfaxe  by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.05 | 4 ratings

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Rimfaxe
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The fourth and last album from the dynamic Scandinavian roots music ensemble improved on its predecessor ("Grimborg", 2002), but fatally trapped the band in a pitfall of their own making. Progressive Rock aficionados know the story all too well, how the challenges of coping with sudden acclaim prompted several line-up changes, which in turn undermined the band's unique chemistry, and so on...

New percussionist Peter Berndalen introduced a conventional drum kit to a rhythm section previously known for its eclectic ethnicity. And that distinctive didgeridoo/slideridoo, as much a key to the Gjallarhorn sound as Jenny Wilhelms's striking voice, was excised entirely, replaced by newcomer Göran Mĺnsson and his sub-contrabass recorder, a modern instrument lacking the same, compelling pagan buzz of the ancient Australian 'drone pipe'.

But the group truly crossed an aesthetic Rubicon by allowing the new album to be mixed (in the United States) by Bruce Swedien, multiple Grammy winner and producer to superstars, in what had to be a calculated bid for a wider slice of the World Music Pie. The finished product is easy on the ears, but the slick new sound upset the delicate equilibrium between traditional music and contemporary recording that made their first albums so timeless.

The music itself at least shows more vitality than on the moribund "Grimborg", and was performed with admirable professionalism, albeit tainted by a nagging sense of commercial detachment. A happy exception is the song "Blacken", like the album itself named after another fabulous horse from Nordic mythology, and exhibiting all the deep Scandinavian passion and mystery missing elsewhere on the disc.

Listening to the album on its own terms can still be a pleasant experience. But the decision to elevate material ambition over the music was a mistake, and genuine spiritual energy of early Gjallarhorn is missed. Think Global, Act Local, should have stayed the band's mantra, instead of the other way round.

 Grimborg by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.04 | 6 ratings

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Grimborg
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

2 stars After releasing a career-defining album at the end of the last millennium ("Sjofn", 2000), the Gjallarhorn quartet banked their creative fires before recording a follow-up two years later, dialing back the spirited energy of the band's earlier efforts to near austerity levels. What happened to all those compelling ancient melodies, and the lively arrangements of Old Norse folk tunes?

A possible clue to the apparent lack of motivation can be found in the updated personnel roster, hinting at internal stresses which might have carried over into the studio. Percussion master David Lillkvist was demoted to a supporting role, and although he appears on most of the tracks his commanding presence is entirely absent. And Tommy Mansikka-Aho's distinctive slideridoo (a combination didgeridoo/trombone, capable of changing pitch) was likewise pushed too far into the background, only allowed one brief, funky solo spot on the album's shortest track, the West African inspired "Njawara".

The reconfigured instrumentation forced the melancholy hardanger fiddles and violas to carry the slack, mostly in support of Jenny Wilhelms' lovely voice, curiously restrained throughout these sessions. Another telling clue: Wilhelms would hereafter be credited as the band's Executive Producer, a duty previously shared by the entire group. I would never accuse her of becoming an autocratic bandleader like Roger Waters or Ian Anderson, but some vital spark of collaboration was obviously misplaced in the new alignment, and the loss is audible.

Of course I might be overreacting to the letdown that inevitably follows a near-masterpiece. The new album was praised around the globe, and won a coveted prize from the Académie Charles Cros. Arguably it's simply a more mature effort, although that's not an argument I'm willing to make. Fusty is a better word to describe the unremarkable music here, too self-conscious of its own sense of borrowed tradition, but without a memorable tune over the album's near one-hour length.

Sadly, the third time was not a charm.

 Ragnarök by RAGNARÖK album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.01 | 99 ratings

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Ragnarök
Ragnarök Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ragnarok's debut album finds them playing a gentle, mellow blend of charming folk rock and laid-back progressive rock. An all-instrumental affair, it boasts guitar and flute work which in conjunction put me in mind of a substantially folkier version of Camel. On the other side of the equation, the folk influences remind me of West Coast folk rock more than it does, say, the sort of folk motifs Jethro Tull were emphasising in their work at around the same time, or the pastoral influences that would characterise early Genesis. The end result is a folk prog album which has a unique sound and which I think has been mildly unfairly overlooked. I don't think it's a full-on lost classic, but it's certainly a very charming album which doesn't deserve the obscurity it's languished in as far as the international prog scene goes.
 Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.98 | 8 ratings

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Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first album by the celebrated Ostrobothnian quartet (named after the 'Yelling Horn' of the mead-drinking Old Norse deity Heimdallr) opens with a sudden burst of aboriginal revelry, sounding not unlike a band of night clubbers party-crashing a pagan fire ritual. It's a compelling prelude, not just to the album itself but for the career of a new and exciting group of musical time-travelers, embracing their antique Scandinavian heritage from inside a modern recording studio, without a trace of anachronism in sight.

Their debut is the most traditional of the band's four albums, but in truth the Prog Folk category is only a flag of convenience, hoisted over the Gjallarhorn page in these Archives because no one has yet defined a sub-genre called Progressive World Music. The group (now defunct) made its home in a Swedish-speaking corner of Finland, while cultivating strong spiritual ties to a much wider span of Nordic myth and history, expressed with a cultural integrity that bands like Dead Can Dance (fellow travelers, but tourists by comparison) only dream about achieving.

Thus, the prominent didgeridoo: an odd choice for instrumental support in a group so far removed from outback Australia, but not unheard of in Scandinavian folk music circles. Here the ancient aerophone functions almost like a second vocalist, in stark contrast to the soaring voice of Jenny Wilhelms, and capable of a growling, coughing virtuosity all its own, sounding like a barely domesticated animal recalling the freedom of its life in the wild.

I had to blush when re-reading that last observation, clearly made while under the album's almost transcendental spell. But I'm letting it stand, as a reflection of the music's hold over a sensitive listener. The delicate ballads ("I Riden Sĺ..."); the urgent prayers for sun and thunder ("Solbön-Âskan"); the medieval folk tunes, minuets, and fables...all combine to keep the distant past alive and vital, in a form no less fresh than they were, centuries ago.

And, as a welcome bonus, the album was re-released in 2002 with an extra track: "Reindeer Dreaming", part of a soundtrack to a documentary film by Antii Haase. The movie follows a tribe of indigenous Australians invited to attend a local arts festival in Finland: a true meeting of far-flung kindred souls, concluding an album that also feels like a surprise visit from close friends you never knew existed.

 Sjofn by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.25 | 11 ratings

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Sjofn
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars No album deserves five unconditional stars at first exposure, but the second (and best) effort by Gjallarhorn might prove to be an exception. The acoustic folk quartet inhabits a place where myth and music overlap, but don't expect to hear another unwashed folk art anthropology act. In textbook Prog fashion the group sits easily astride opposing worlds: the contemporary and the traditional, playing in a style far too modern for the Folk Music tag but too authentically ancient for any strictly Progressive cubbyhole.

It's a great combination, arranged here in perfect balance: part medieval austerity, part toe-tapping finesse, locally sourced but with a much wider appeal. The Hardanger fiddles and mandolas give the music its rustic flavor, conjuring images of distant boreal forest under heavy snow. And the didgeridoo (!) provides the unique pagan aura..."the constant shamanistic pulse of the old tunes", as noted in the extensive CD notes...in this instance recalling the drone of a malfunctioning Celtic bagpipe but still evoking backwoods Scandinavia (the group hails from western Finland, but has strong cultural ties to nearby Sweden).

An arsenal of discreet but ubiquitous percussion further enhances the band's global reach, extending far beyond their winter homeland toward India, central Africa, and back-of-beyond Australia. But the real attraction here is the dulcet voice of Jenny Wilhelms, to this Anglophile sounding not unlike a Nordic Annie Haslam, with the same transparent clarity and astonishing octave range. Her multi-tracked choral harmonies are things of mesmeric beauty, whether intoning a pre-Christian hymn to the spirits of air and earth ("Kom Helge Ande"), recalling playful age-old fables ("Tova och Konungen", given extra bounce from some funky upright double bass), or invoking the healing wind deity Suvetar in the song of the same name, which rises from a simple kalimba intro to an ecstasy of elemental power, all the more impressive considering the lack of electronics.

Wilhelms was also the album's primary composer, usually integrating lyrics borrowed from traditional sources, sung in Swedish but helpfully translated to English inside the CD booklet. Progressive Rock has often looked to folklore for inspiration, but rarely with this degree of legitimacy, drawn from songs and stories already embedded deep inside the band's collective psyche, about water sprites, Icelandic trolls, handsome kings and peasant girls, and...dolphins? The latter aren't exactly native to the Ostrobothnia region of Finland, but no matter: the otherworldly sounds (recorded in the South Pacific) only add more texture to an already atmospheric performance.

The album was named for the Norse goddess of love: "the guardian of these recordings", says the band on the CD's back cover. Fair enough, no wonder I'm smitten. If the music of northern European latitudes is like a lodestone to you as well, prepare to be compelled by the irresistible magnetic tug of this innovative group.

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Prog Folk bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
0.720 ALEACION Mexico
3 DAFT MONKEYS United Kingdom
A PRESENÇA DAS FORMIGAS Portugal
AALTO Finland
RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Lebanon
ACCOLADE United Kingdom
ACCOLADE United States
ADARO Germany
AFFORESTED United Kingdom
AFION Croatia
AGAPE Canada
AGINCOURT United Kingdom
AIGUES VIVES Germany
AKTUALA Italy
NICU ALIFANTIS Romania
ALMÔNDEGAS Brazil
ALVA Multi-National
AMANITA Italy
AMAROK Spain
AMAZING BLONDEL United Kingdom
AMBER United Kingdom
AN DRO Germany
ANACRUSA Argentina
IAN ANDERSON United Kingdom
THE ANGELS OF LIGHT United States
ANNAMY Sweden
APARECIDOS Multi-National
AQUAPLAN Finland
AQUARIUM Russia
DAN AR BRAZ France
MARCO ANTONIO ARAUJO Brazil
DAN ARBORISE United Kingdom
THE ARBORISTS Canada
ARIA PALEA Italy
ARMY OF BRIARS United Kingdom
ARTSRUNI Armenia
ASGARD France
ASHADA Japan
ASHTAR Brazil
ASI SOMOS Puerto Rico
ATMAN Poland
AUCAN Argentina
AVALANCHE Netherlands
AVE SANGRIA Brazil
AZAHAR Spain
BABADAG Poland
BABY WHALE Multi-National
BAMBIR / THE BAMBIR Armenia
BANDA DO CASACO Portugal
A BARCA DO SOL Brazil
BARR Sweden
TOMAS BATISTA Argentina
BAYON Germany
BEAT CIRCUS United States
BEDEDEUM Italy
BERNARD BENOIT France
BLACKMORE'S NIGHT United Kingdom
BLOPS Chile
BLUEHORSES United Kingdom
BOULE DE SON Canada
BRAN (BRÂN) United Kingdom
BREAD LOVE AND DREAMS United Kingdom
BRECHE Canada
PAUL BRETT United Kingdom
BRÖSELMASCHINE Germany
BUCIUM Romania
TIM BUCKLEY United States
VASHTI BUNYAN United Kingdom
C.O.B. United Kingdom
CAEDMON United Kingdom
CALIBAN United States
CÁLIX Brazil
CAMELIAS GARDEN Italy
CAN AM DES PUIG Multi-National
CANDIDATE United Kingdom
CANO Canada
CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO Italy
MARCELLO CAPRA Italy
CARMEN United Kingdom
CARNASCIALIA Italy
CAROL OF HARVEST Germany
GIAN CASTELLO Italy
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