Northside Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Väsen has somewhat of a reputation among fans of acoustic traditional music. After repeated appearances on public radio, including being featured on A Prairie Home Companion, they've developed a following for their music. It's no wonder, really whatever else you might say about Väsen, they're intense. The quartet of Olov Johansson, Mikael Marin, Roger Tallroth, and André Ferrari plays with an almost frightening precision on their third US CD, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Gront.

For the fans of traditional music, Väsen can be daunting. Swedish traditional music almost but not quite sounds like most other Northern European forms, but it has a distinct nature all its own, woven somewhere in the details. Imagine Irish minor key harmonies as interpreted by a composer from Hearts Of Space, and you'd be close but only close, not spot on. The alien notes of the music are multiplied by Tallroth's variant tuning on his guitar (A-D-A-D-A-D for you music geeks out there) and Johansson's mastery of his chosen instrument, the nyckelharpa, or keyed violin. It sounds close to, but in the end utterly unlike, anything you've heard before unless, of course, you're from Sweden.

"So," I hear the DV Faithful saying, "is it any good?" The answer is yes. Väsen is damned talented, a lot of fun to listen to in a plaintive sort of way, and Gront maintains its level of intensity all the way through. This CD demands you pay attention to it; it's not background music, and the musical curves it throws someone not well versed in this meter and harmony keeps you guessing, and keeps you enthralled.

Tracks of note include "The Pikeman", which demands you get up and dance; the opening "Ploska"; Väsen's take on a traditional reel "Reel Carrowkeel"; "The Mushroomman", with its almost Oriental harmonies; and the title track "The Grontman", which for being all acoustic sounds frighteningly industrial. It's meant to capture the spirit of a creature from Swedish mythology of immense size and power, and it works.

Väsen will take some work for almost everyone to appreciate. But it's worth it; the skill, power, and conviction of these four musicians keeps a musical tradition alive and vibrant.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Northside Records, and is used for informational purposes only.