Reviewed by: Jon Lusk, BBC Music Magazine’s world music ”Choice of the month” album 01/2007
Performance: 5 Stars
Sound: 5 Stars
Originally hailing from the chilly climes of Ostrobothnia, (a Swedish-speaking part of Finland), the quartet Gjallarhorn have made some dense, dark, and sometimes ‘difficult’ music in the past decade. Their fourth album Rimfaxe gets the shadows-and-light balance just right, thanks in no small part to mixing and ‘sonic design’ by Bruce Swedien, also known for his work on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. There’s a strong sense of place and adventurous narrative throughout this set of radically modern takes on medieval hymns and ballads, leavened with a racing ‘bonfire song’, a ‘cow call improvisation’ and more. The piercing, ice-clear voice of sole original member Jenny Wilhelms is their most striking asset, best heard on ‘Hymn’. And the strangest sound is the extraordinary moaning of Göran MÂnsson’s sub contrabass recorder, in place of the didgeridoo the band once used for drone effects. Master percussionist Petter Berndalen duets with Adrian Jones’s viola on a polska dance and there are some marvellous, dissonant surges of brass on ‘Silverbright’. It’s not easy listening, but it’s worth the effort.