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Written in fRoots issue 244, 2003


NorthSide NSD6075 (2003)

Med Hull Och Hår

Giga GCD-65 (2003)

Sweden’s mighty Hedningarna, the band that brought a new wild, drone-rock energy to Nordic roots music, has only played in Britain, as far as I can recall, about twice, at the Barbican’s memorable 'Tender Is The North' festival and to a sold-out Levellers audience at Brixton Academy. At that time they were in the midst of the buzz surrounding 1992’s Kaksi, the second album for which they turned on the electricity and brought in Finnish singers Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto.
      The band still gigs occasionally, staffed by two of the original trio, Totte Mattsson and Anders Norudde (formerly Stake), Tellu (now surnamed Turkka) who has rejoined, and fellow-Finn and Tallari colleague Liisa Matveinen. It now also features Harv fiddler Magnus Stinnerbom and percussionist Christian Svensson. There hasn’t been a new album since 1999’s Karelia Visa, but this bargain compilation unveils a couple of OK if unshattering new recordings, plus five tracks from Kaksi (and a leadenly uncomprehending Sasha remix of one more), three from 1994’s even more powerful Trä, four, including Wimme vocals, from the largely instrumental Hippjokk, two from Karelia Visa and one from the acoustic instrumental-trio first album Hedningarna.

      Anders and his wife, when they married, changed their surname to Norudde, after the location of the house, his grandmother’s, that together they’d renovated. It was at the north end of the Udden headland on Lake Ölen, just south of their current home in Karlskoga. The young Stake, growing up in that region, was first sucked into Swedish traditional music by hearing instrumental folk-rock band Kebnekaise on the radio, and experiencing live the raw, wild sound of fiddler Anders Rosén and Groupa’s Mats Edén. He began not only playing “those odd, scraping instruments with the drone sound” but also making, modifying and inventing them and the means to amplify them; much of Hedningarna’s sound was the result of his creations. His second solo album is, like the first, a distinctive collection of traditional and a few of his own tunes, played acoustic on fiddle, moraharpa and Swedish bagpipe. He’s joined by Leo Svensson on cello and the thinner-stringed, octave-violin tuned descant cello, and Göran “Freddy” Fredriksson on bouzouki and guitar. Played, as might be expected, with great lift and feeling for the riches of abrasiveness and churning tension in the instrumental textures, they’re an interesting set of tunes and, as always with Giga releases, they’re made the more so by the booklet information on the people and circumstances that created and conveyed them.

© 2003 Andrew Cronshaw

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