Garmarna | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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The Swedish band Garmarna specializes in updating native folk music without sacrificing its stark beauty. Emma Hardelin, a singer with a delicate but remarkably powerful voice, traverses the melancholy melodies with a mix of the earthy and the ethereal that's as timeless as the folk songs themselves, but though Stefan Brisland-Ferner and Gotte Ringqvist occasionally make use of trad instruments like the hurdy-gurdy, the violin, and the lute, the instrumentation is dominated by electric guitar, bass, and drums. Over the years the quintet has sought to infuse the old tunes with rocklike firepower, but on last year's Vengeance (Northside), the careful deployment of electronics makes for a more empathetic reimagination of the material: the traditional Swedish folk sound is a mesmerizing mix of airiness and drone, and subtle ambient washes and rhythmic loops complement it well. Of course the most striking piece on Vengeance isn't even Swedish: on "Euchari," Garmarna applies the same approach to a composition by 12th-century German mystic Hildegard von Bingen with strangely poppy results. The program for this appearance is all von Bingen; an album of the same material is due next year. Saturday, November 4, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sara Nordlof.

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