Ranarim | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Sweden's bustling neofolk scene is at least as incestuous as the local Thrill Jockey roster, producing one cross-pollinating group after another. Ranarim, the latest of these ensembles to make its debut in Chicago, features vocalists Ulrika Boden and Sofia Sanden from the Rosenberg 7, nyckelharpist Niklas Roswall from the Nyckelharpa Orchestra, and guitarist Jens Engelbrecht from Hulling. Though the material on their debut album, Till the Light of Day (Northside), is similar to the traditional material explored in their other projects, the rapport between the members--the exquisite close harmonies of Boden and Sanden, who in the Rosenberg 7 are but two of four singers in a polyphonic minichoir, and the surprisingly expansive mesh of Engelbrecht's acoustic strumming and Roswall's resonant keyed-fiddle lines--sets them apart. The singers are particularly inventive in the way they enhance the rhythmic drive of the tunes, their voices disentangling into counterpoint. The performances have a poppy conciseness, and the lyrics to those old songs are pretty lively: "Fair as a Rose" is about a couple who meet while dancing and become so consumed by lust that they end up getting down in the middle of the dance floor; in "The Ballad of the Sister and Brother" a girl rescues her kidnapped brother by kicking down a prison door and taking on 5,000 troops armed only with a sword; and "The Farmer and the Crow" celebrates the many uses for the bird, like making rope from its innards, dung forks from its feet, and sails from its wings. Wednesday, October 24, 7 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.

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

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