The Sound Cafe
France’s World-Famous Nordic Collective SKÁLD Returns With New Album 'Huldufólk'
Far from the lands of the North, the echoes of such legends still ring out. The beliefs of those who used to populate these distant lands have been perpetuated, and despite the pressures of modern industrial society, the old folk traditions live on. It was in the countries where the people we call Vikings were to be found – Norway, Denmark, Sweden or Iceland – that the Huldufólk ("the hidden people") remained anchored in their everyday lives and traditions. At roadsides, deep in the forests and in the heart of the mountains, elves and trolls huddled together in a discreet coexistence with humankind, melting into a strange and wonderful wilderness. And now, it's from among those people born of a far-off imagination that the poetic, epic sounds of SKÁLD are now venturing forward!
Plunging listeners into the myths and legends of Scandinavia, producer/composer Christophe Voisin-Boisvinet and the SKÁLD collective have gathered around them many talented artists who have restored the poets and shamans of ancient times to their rightful place. Accompanied by the sounds of the drums, we are cradled by hypnotic voices that let us escape into an "elsewhere" made of fantasy, a land inhabited by weird and wonderful creatures, and mysteries created in strange landscapes. And so it is that SKÁLD leads modern men and women to flee, far from the harsh realities of everyday life, like the first colonies of settlers in Iceland.
In this new album dedicated to the Huldufólk (who first made their appearance in the 13th century "Prose Edda" texts of Snorri Sturluson), SKÁLD honours an entire people in whom many Scandinavians still believe. It was skalds like Snorri, and other Scandinavian poets and singers of old, who made these legends popular thanks to their writings. In an exploration that only Nordic mythology is capable of achieving, these tales also provide us with information about the origins of the skaldic poets. A strange brew, created by dwarves who mixed honey with the blood of the god Kvasir, transformed those who drank it into poets and sages. And there's no doubt that the latter found their inspiration when contemplating the volcanic landscapes of Iceland. In only a few verses, the slightest rock, the smallest lump of earth, takes on fabulous, supernatural dimensions.
As the heirs of the ancient poets known as skalds, the SKÁLD group, with one song after another, tames this folk tradition. We can lose ourselves in the hills of Danish elves, and meet Swedish nymphs, as we listen to the ballad of Herr Mannelig, the tale of a female troll who hopes to become human (by attempting to wed a knight), or linger to the strains of the legend of Fafnir the dragon.
What SKÁLD proposes here is not so much the reconstitution of a bygone era, but rather an adventure, an experience that smacks of History, its mythologies and legends, an adventure that makes us dream of Nature, the forests, rivers and mysteries found in the folklore of the Far North. It is an odyssey of inspired medievalism and fantasy, a mixture of ancient texts and newer sources dating from the Middle Ages. Making use of themes taken from the Gylfaginning, the Skáldskapármal or the Grólgardr, these stories, handed down from one generation to the next, have reached us through the lyrical and guttural songs of SKÁLD, whose accents mingle to form chants of softness that would no doubt make ancient nymphs turn green with envy...
Over a dozen musicians responded to SKÁLD's call, and throughout this album they express their sensibilities with great skill. The harp and pipes quiver beneath the nimble fingers of Daniela Heiderich, and the bow of Aliocha Regnard's nyckelharpa produces notes that date back to the 14th century; the Moraharpa, Lyre and Talharpa release sublime sounds in the hands of Ravn, while at the same time the hurdy-gurdy, played by Laetitia Marcangeli, produces hypnotic vibrations, and Nicolas Montazaud, Marti Ilmar Uibo and Christophe Voisin-Boisvinet lend power to their percussion. As for these chanting songs, they are a wonderful concentrate produced by the talents of Steeve Petit, Lily Jung, Marti Ilmar Uibo, Laetitia Marcangeli, Michel Abraham, Kohann, Julien Loko and Adeline Bellart.
In order to stay as close as possible to the experience of the Scalds of Scandinavia, these voices express themselves in Old Norse, but also in Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish, and even in Faroese. Since the year 2018, the shamanic percussion and traditional instruments of this group have proved themselves throughout the world, with sales of over 245,000 albums and millions of hits on streaming platforms, not to mention their numerous stage performances in many countries. In this incredible adventure, musical and human at the same time, SKÁLD today is the incarnation of a vibrant homage to the people of old and their beliefs.
So let yourself be carried away by luminous elves from Aflheim, and beware of Skuld, the god of the Norns, as you prepare yourself for a vibrant odyssey that will take you through medieval Scandinavia to meet the Huldufólk!