Search - Hedningarna :: Tra

Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1

The album starts with a low growl, building into the menace that becomes "Tass'on Nainen," and you're into the world of Hedningarna, where traditional Swedish instrumentation (and the vocals of Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Hedningarna
Title: Tra
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Northside Records
Release Date: 3/17/1998
Genres: Folk, World Music, Pop
Styles: Traditional Folk, Europe, Scandinavia
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 021561600829, 7391946060436, 8712618401125

The album starts with a low growl, building into the menace that becomes "Tass'on Nainen," and you're into the world of Hedningarna, where traditional Swedish instrumentation (and the vocals of Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto) meet studio electronics. As dark as anything produced by a goth band, it's a startling record that's pushed the Nordic sound to world music's cutting edge. The fiddles distort evilly; programmed beats blend with a frame drum. While Hedningarna mine territory that other Swedish bands such as Garmarna do, the sound on this record is their own, full and wild and a studio creation that never sounds overproduced. When the guitar cuts loose at the end of "SaglaTen," it becomes obvious that this is really the new and glorious sound of folk-rock, '90s style. The guest joiking by Wimme on "Tuuli" only serves to make the album even more otherworldly, but a passport isn't required. --Chris Nickson

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CD Reviews

The Gods of Swedish Music
DJ ProFusion - | Evanston, IL | 02/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gods? Yes, Gods. Hallbus Mattson, Bjorn Tollin, and Anders Stake are the music gods of Sweden. On Tra they are joined by female singers Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto. The Swedes do things different, just look at the Saab. And Hedningarna does folk music like no one does folk music. Hedningarna is Swedish for "The Heathens," standing for the group's radical reinterpretation of Scandinavian folk music. They play traditional instruments - lutes, fiddles, mandoras, flutes, accordions. Except, they are all plugged into amplifiers. The result is . . . well . . .It begins slowly, like a far off storm approaching, a distant droning. Female voices begin, chanting in a language unknown to you. Slowly at first, very building... in tempo, in volume. A wail joins them. It is short . . . did you hear it? . . . yes, there it is again. The chant continues, faster, stronger. Then, suddenly horns, slightly unworldly, strange strings, winds, primal drums . . . bizarre noises carry a tune. The chant disappears to be replaced by this strange music at once haunting, chilling, yet strangely exhilarating. The sounds begin to swirl like a dervish, swirling upward, outward. More and more frenzied yet under control, tight, filled with tension, brimming with power. The chant returns, even stronger now it joins up with the music. Voices, horns, wailing winds . . . is it anger? Is it joy? You don't know, but it is strong, whatever it is is intense and beautiful. You begin to accept and revel in it, let it begin to life you with it . . . then suddenly - gone! All gone, only a brief echo remains of all the energy that once was there. . . . and that is just the first song.I could go into such depth on every one of their songs, for their songs have that much depth, that much energy. How to describe Hedningarna's Tra in a nutshell? Well, try to imagine playing the songbook of Arlo Guthrie or the Irish Rovers with the intensity of Metallica or the Sex Pistols. Can't imagine that? Can't blame you. You have to experience it.Now, let me make it totally clear - all of the intensity and volume that Hedningarna brings to their music does not in any way detract from the folk purity of their music. It's still folk music tried and true, its just folk elevated to a heretofore unimagined level. The intensity comes from the lyrics deep rooted in basic human emotions of love, freedom, need, and defiance. For example, the loudest and fiercest song on the album is a man singing that he will not cut down his trees simply because the rich man next door objects to them. All of the songs are pure emotion, human desire, strength, and frailty at its most pure and primordial.The rest of the album . . . Yes. That first song described above was Tass on nainen (Here's a Woman). Min Skog (My Grove - the one about the trees) crashes instantly into incessant drums giving away exhausted to fierce fiddle then electric guitar then to defiant chanted vocals. Then comes Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) with catchy percussion, high energy melody and impassioned vocals: It is in the heart itself
Lies live, and deceit
How can I speak thereof
wisely, with gentleness?Gorrlaus (The Steed) shows a softer more melodic side to Hedningarna, while still being a high energy riding song. Relent, stallion with frothing mane calm, even out your paceSkrautval is an instrumental driven by dual fiddles and hurdy-gurdy. Almost a jig, but much grander in sweep. Pornopolka (Porno Polka - yes, really) is a very fast and energetic reel that tells the tale of a woman casting a spell to cause a man to fall in love with her. Raven is an amazing song. Beginning with what I can only describe as breathing as singing, the song offers up a didgeridoo style instrument, Jew's harp, percussion and a chanted vocal deeper than Barry White. The decided gothic tones mingle with grating string bass and other decidedly other worldly music
SaglaTen (Say What You Like) is my favorite on the album. It displays the energy of youth thumbing its nose at their uptight elders. Old crones have knapsacks of dung and disapproving airs
A merry lass and a whipper-smapper lad are of the same kindYet, the pure passion of Sanna's vocals create something so primal and earnest it is sheer beauty. The final chorus climbs to an intensity of emotion so high the group put in a five second gap of silence after the song so you can catch your breath.In Tuuli (Wind) Sami singer Wimme joins the group to joik an homage to the fierce winds of the north. The women sing a chorus of supplication to the king and queen of the winds. Rise wind to a gale
Gusts growing to a tempest
Rage on through the yearsTappmarschen (Sorrow is a Lonely Bird) is a traditional song of loss of a loved one with fiddles, string bass and a solo female vocal. We are now decrescendoing. Finally (whew) Tina Vieri (Tin Rolling) lets us down easy with a beautiful ballad that begins with simply the sound of a babbling brook. The tin in the title though are the nails that sealed the coffin of the singer's mother and the song, though beautiful is the wrenching cries of a woman mourning her dead mother (traditional folk music sure is dark folks). Still, the final two minutes of the song is haunting chorus fading into the distance closed out by the babbling brook again that flows for a full 40 seconds before fading into silence leaving you to contemplate the enormity of what you have just experienced.Tra is a masterpiece. More than anything I wish there was more music like this. Pure unabashed emotion and a willingness to express all of human feeling in song. Most other music pails in comparison."
Best album of the 90s?
DJ ProFusion - | 10/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is tremendous stuff. From the stealthy opening rhythms of Tass O Nainen to the breathtaking climax of the final track Tiina Vieri there isn't a wasted moment. It's visceral, haunting, earthy, delicate, erotic, violent and ecstatic: music for non-robots. The close-interval vocal harmonies and the harsh drones of the bagpipes and hardingfele may not be Easy Listening but they are full of real life and ideas. Tra still seems as fresh today as it did in 1994, so for me it has now achieved the status of indispensable classic. In fact it's the cream of a rich crop of Nordic "Folk Under Influence" that takes traditional themes, rhythms and instruments, and injects a fierce energy while remaining firmly attached to its roots. Breton musicians were doing something similar in the early seventies but this is a superb antidote to the unimaginative power-chord folk-rock we've had so much of since then. Magnificent."
A Feast for the Ears!
DJ ProFusion - | 11/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For all those Hedningarna virgins out there, "Tra" may be a tough first-time swallow. But if given the chance, its strange and heady flavor will become increasingly delicious with each progressive bite (and "bite" is the right word - this is certainly not timid fare by any means!)Hedningarna is (in my opinion) Nordic Roots Music at its unbridled best, and "Tra" (the Swedish word for wood) may well be the prime example of the band's furious elemental energy. Raw, wild, haunting, and at times powerfully erotic (check out track 7 - Raven), this band of Heathens will take you places you've never dreamed of.Much more challenging than say, your garden-variety Celtic folk, its somewhat harsh tone is crafted by fusing traditional Scandinavian instrumentation with contrasting Swedish (male) and Finnish (female) voices - and creating a sound that is both ancient and post-modern. If you are looking for something unique, and are not afraid of surrendering your soul to the intoxicating beat of the shaman's drum, then by all means get yourself a copy. Terrific stuff!"