November 25, 2016 | Stockholm, SE | Nalen
Written by Martin H.| Photography by Helena
Tänk På Döden…
I had traveled to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, in late November for a concert featuring three noteworthy musical projects: Forndom, Draugurinn, and Einar Selvik. The venue, Nalen, situated within walking distance from Stockholm’s medieval city center, was an elegant hall constructed with marble columns and ambient lighting. With a maximum capacity of 400, it was a pretty small venue – the Wardruna show which was scheduled in the same venue for the following day had been sold out for months, which lead to a second Wardruna show being added shortly afterward.
As the hall began to fill up, I was pleased to hear a fine selection of background music which included: Dead Can Dance, Einstürzende Neubauten, Desiderii Marginis and Irfan. Glancing ahead, the stage was already set for Forndom: A large wooden Oden statue shaped like a totem pole towered behind the space for three musicians. H.L.H. Swärd, the Swedish founder behind Forndom, took center stage and the sides were occupied by two percussionists taking up their weapons of choice: A rawhide drum and wood log, respectively. Before performing the introductory tones, Swärd honoured the Oden statue with a few drops from a horn. They performed songs from both the excellent EP, Flykt (released a couple of years ago when the project was still called Heathen Harnow) and the equally haunting debut album, Daudra Dura, released in January 2016. Forndom’s music is quite minimalistic, so naturally their performance was such as well. The only live elements were percussion, singing and some involvement of the Tagelharpa (also known as Jouhikko, or bowed lyre). All other sound layers were projected via backing track. This put a lot of focus on the Tagelharpa, which I loved (in Wardruna, this element sometimes gets lost in the abundance of other sound layers) – but, the minimalism also made the songs seem rather similar to each other. One has to keep in mind, however, that it was only the second live show Forndom has ever played, so we might see more elaborate performances in the future.
Next up was Draugurinn, an elusive, solo dark ambient project run by a Swedish woman named Disa. Her live performances are few and far between, so I was happy to be present at this one. The artist was joined on stage by a secondary figure, clothed in a hooded cloak just like her. Above them was a huge video projection of darkened landscapes, in which runes occasionally appeared in. The runes seemed to have a thematic connection to certain video elements (the Laukr rune appeared next to footage of rain, for example). Disa sang along to very minimalistic, dark ambient soundscapes which slightly distorted her voice – these elements came in via backing track. It was a pretty minimal performance, even keeping in mind that it was primarily a dark ambient set. Apart from the singing aspect and occasional rattling, the audience was left with audio drone and video footage. Overall, it was a solid dark ambient set; however, less impressive than I had hoped for.
After a quick changeover it was time for the night’s main headliner, presented by Einar Selvik. He is best known for his aforementioned project Wardruna, which has mesmerized the ears of those all around the world. Additionally, Wardruna’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last year after Einar’s contributions to the soundtrack of the TV series, Vikings. This evening’s performance turned out to be a mix between a concert and lecture. Einar was alone on stage, making it easy for the audience to focus solely on him. He demonstrated his main instruments: Tagelharpa (once again, referred to as a bowed lyre or Jouhikko), Bukkehorn (a goat horn with a few finger holes), and Lyre (played by either picking or strumming). During every song, Einar’s mastery of each instrument became more and more apparent. The Bukkehorn in particular is an archaic instrument and pretty difficult to play, but he made it sound nuanced as if he was a jazz musician with a saxophone between his fingers. His voice was a particularly enchanting element added into the mix – the songs seemed to resonate deeply from within him, and while he was singing I could almost see snow-covered mountains towering over Norwegian fjords right in front of my closed eyes.
Between songs, Einar talked about the instruments, the creative process, and little anecdotes about whatever came to his mind. He used his natural stage presence to capture everyone’s attention, and everyone in the crowd seemed eager to listen and learn. Before everything he said, Einar took time to reflect on his thoughts and formulate nuanced sentences, creating a musical lecture as he went along. It was absolutely astonishing to see this demonstration of outstanding creative skills paired with humbled honesty. There were no show elements at all – only an honest man, his friendly humour and his magnificent instruments. In a way, it was even more impressive than the previous Wardruna concerts I had attended. The songs were shown in their bare essence and their purest form. It was an outstanding demonstration of musical craft, sung and played by one of the most inspiring artists of our time.
Einar Selvik Setlist:
Rotlaust Tre Fell
Death of Ragnar
Tagelharpa song, name unknown
Bukkehorn song, name unknown