Album: Lavalek Artist: Groupa Label: North Side. 530 North 3rd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401. © 1999 MNW Records Group AB Email: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Web-site: www.noside.com This is a Swedish Traditional/Progressive Folk band which has apparently been around for a while, and just acquired a new female vocalist. As someone who had only been exposed to the more familiar English/Irish/Scottish folk scene, this was a mind-bending experience. (Track by Track Analysis:) The CD opens with percussion, yelling, and a kick-ass violin solo, which is later doubled by the flute. These folks sound like they recorded the entire CD live during a party, which we have been invited to only after all the booze has been drunk. Never fear, the music makes up for it, and I always have a cold one in the fridge. Track two, ("Smoke" and "Smoke Halling") sounds like a cross between early King Crimson and Fairport Convention. This is the first track to show off Groupa’s new vocalist, Sofia Karlsson. She has a voice reminiscent of Jacqui O’Shea’s in Pentangle. The piece picks up with a percussion driven midsection only to fall apart into a seeming improvisational fadeout. "The Woodcock" introduces one of the ‘folk flutes’, a piccolo sounding instrument which introduces a piece seemingly driven by hundreds of bass drums at once. Plenty of meter changes, for the easily bored among you. About now I started wondering how the hell they produced this kind of rich sound without a bass player, without any guitar players, and sounding like it’s live to boot! "If You Became A Spruce" is the first tune to fit any kind of traditional ‘folk’ sensibility, with Sofia singing away from the start with a good back-beat. The illusion lasts through most of the piece until the drummer goes ballistic and the flute player decides to have an avant-garde argument with the violin player. "Polska" opens like an early Paul Winter Consort/Oregon jazz piece. It’s an improvisational conversation between all players. Gradually the makings of a more traditional folk tune climb out of the dissonance, driven by the violin player, picked up by the flutist, and finally joined by the percussion. There are no words, but the vocalist is part of the conversations regardless. "Isungen" starts with a sample of a traditional folk piece played on an AM radio. The violinist kicks in with his instrument heavily processed into a kind of King Crimson guitar sound. The flute is similarly modified. This is the piece which separates this band from a standard ‘folk’ label and throws them firmly into the ‘progressive folk’ genre. Folk purists would be offended. I sat there with my jaw on the floor. This piece also has an extensive drum solo, which (based on sound alone) should be called a jungle solo. It then flows into a momentary taste of old-style folkiness before disintegrating. The title track, "Lavalek", starts with a B3 sounding keyboard opening in 6/8 followed by flute and violin. The flute solos here sound like Ian Anderson live on Bursting Out. This one gets my “more rock than not” award. "Berg och Dalar" starts as a flute lament. Sofia returns with something in words to sing. This one reminds me of Joan Baez singing a ballad. The use of only the flute as accompaniment gives the song a very sad feel. "Nytt tak" starts with the flute, joined by percussion. It has a definite folk-dance feel to it, but is done without the raucousness of Isungen. This is a work I would expect to have found on a Fairport Convention album. "Springlek" finishes the CD with a flourish. Again we have the Fairport feel, along with shouting from the more exuberant performers. Who might like it? Fans of Fairport Convention, Oregon, Pentangle, and any other group which plays ‘well outside the box’ of whatever genre they have been relegated. If you are open to adventure, this disk is for you. Who might dislike it? Proggers who prefer symphonic or jazz based prog. Heavy metal fans will probably also be bored. If you expect your next Yes album to sound like the last one, don’t go here. The best tracks: There are no weak tracks but I could make a case for both "Isungen" and "Polska" as the best of a strong set. The track that best represents Groupa’s style: "Isungen". Star rating: 4 1/2 out of 5. This CD was like Christmas and my birthday all in one. It pushed the limits of what I thought could be done with a violin. Changed my view of what ‘folk music’ is, and generally astonished my ears. Personnel: Mats Edén – fiddle, viola, dronefiddle, melodeon Terje Isungset – percussion, Munnharpe Sofia Karlssson - vocal Jonas Simonson – flute, alto flute, natural flutes, folk-flutes. Rickard Åström – keyboards, piano. Produced by Karl Seglem and Groupa. Engineered by Pytten. The Tunes: 1. Ludgo-John [4:45] 2a. Röken (Smoke) 2b. Rökhalling (Smoke Halling) [5:35] 3. The Woodcock [4:09] 4. If You Became A Spruce [3:49] 5. Polska [5:32] 6a. Isungen 6b. Polkett [8:39] 7. Lavalek [4:20] 8. Berg och Dalar (Mountains and Valleys) [3:50] 9. Nytt tak (New Roof) [4:53] 10. Springlek [3:48] Gregory M. Amov (GMA) -- If it ain't MIDI, it must be actual live musicians, who'da thunk it? mailto:email@example.com http://systemstheory.net
Editor's Note: I want to thank Greg for "bridging the gap" and helping his "partner-in-crime" Steven Davies-Morris make this review a reality. Good job!
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