Triakel, Sånger från 63º N (Triakel Records, 2004)
Emma Hårdelin is a Goddess. Really. Truly. Go read our reviews of her vocal work with Garmarna and you'll see what I mean. Just consider what Kim Bates had to say in reviewing their last CD, Hildegard von Bingen: 'the fiddle lines are wonderful throughout this album, conveying what the beauty in these sophisticated melodies, grabbing the heart of the melodies and blending effortlessly with Hardelin's voice. The hurdy-gurdy provides the drone that almost certainly accompanied these melodies in Hildegard's time. But it must be said that a great deal is resting on Hardelin, and that she delivers magnificently.' I think that she is indeed one of a select group of female Nordic vocalists whom the ancient Nordic deities blessed with magic! (The other two are Lena Willemark of Frifot and Jenny Willhelms of Gjallarhorn.) Liking the music of Garmarna more than just a bit, I was a bit hesitant to hear what she sounded like in another group as I was afraid that it might not equal the work she did in that group. Happily, I was wrong, quite wrong.
Sånger från 63º N -- which is on sale here in the States from cdRoots which provided this review copy -- is probably one of the finest Nordic CDs I've had to pleasure to hear in quite some time. Triakel consists of Emma Härdelin (vocals), Kjell-Erik Eriksson, (fiddle), and Janne Strömstedt (harmonium) which makes them akin to what Våsen was like when I heard them play at Bowdoin College sans percussionist a few years ago. (Barb Truex has a full review of that memorable concert here.) All three are well-known within the circles of Swedish folk music. Emma and Kjell-Erik are also members in Garmarna and Hoven Droven.
Cliff Furnald on cdRoots notes that 'Triakel began life as a New Year resolution. After a party together Kjell-Erik and Janne honoured their agreement to perform together on harmonium and fiddle in December 1994. It was a success, and they were keen to follow it up. When Emma Härdelin added her voice to the duo the group was complete. During the past few years the group has toured throughout Sweden and also played in about 10 different European countries. They have also appeared several times in the Unites States and Canada.' This is definitely one New Year resolution that I'm very glad was kept!
Triakel, which means 'sweet, black licorice' in the Jämtland dialect of Sweden. And more importantly, Triakel is a splinter off Hoven Droven, one of the rockier of the new Nordic neo-traditional groups. By that, I mean that both Hoven Droven and Triakel are FHL (Faster Harder Louder) and they both compose new material that somehow sounds quite old. Neat trick! Again, I must stress that the vocals of Emma Hårdelin are what makes this CD what it is. As April Gutierrez said of their 1998 Northside release titled Triakel: 'It 'feature[s] the crisp, delightful vocals of Härdelin. I'm not certain what it is about Nordic countries, but they seem to grow masterful female singers on trees; Härdelin is no exception. The sparse arrangements laid down by the fiddle and harmonium allow her voice to drive the songs, and the overall matching of instruments, voice and lyrics is very fine indeed.' I've heard Frifot live in a small venue -- If Emma is even close to Lena when heard live, it would be both an uplifting and somewhat scary performance as both their voices are beyond merely good. If the Norns sing, these two girls are what they sound like.
This is not to slight the other two musicians in Triakel, Kjell-Erik Eriksson and Janne Strömstedt, as they too are superb. On Sånger från 63º N -- which means Songs from the 63rd Latitude (the superb liner notes are in English and Swedish!) -- their playing of fiddle and accordion superbly underscore her voice. Without them, this music would not have the full, energetic sound that it has.
My opinion is that this is an album any lover of Nordic music will want to hear now. Go buy it from cdRoots so you too can savor it. It's that good!