With the bands they usually play in, the three members of Triakel have been instrumental in the Swedish folk revival, modernizing well-worn material with rock energy, electrification, and computer-aided production. But on this group's self-titled 1998 debut--released in the U.S. by Minneapolis-based Scandinavian specialists Northside--fiddler Kjell-Erik Eriksson, harmonium player Janne Stromstedt (both of Hoven Droven), and singer Emma Hardelin (Garmarna) play it straight, cutting old ballads, polskas, and hymns close to the bone. Despite the all-acoustic presentation, the songs, sung in Swedish but translated in the CD booklet, are hardly tame. "Gammel Sara" describes the murder of an old pensioner by neighbors who've grown weary of her ("Cut a switch of birch twigs on the Tuesday / Thrashed the life out of old Sara on the Wednesday"), and in "Ovantad Brollopsgast" a sailor returns after three years at sea and kills the man his fiancee was about to wed in his absence. In "Fodelsedagsfesten" some drunken revelers throw their host's wife down a well when she objects to their knifeplay, and "Alla Gossar" sympathizes with young brides whose husbands have squandered their dowries on alcohol. The least brutal tales involve unrequited love, but even some of those are laced with thoughts of suicide. Hardelin sings them all with an arresting mix of power, pathos, and ethereal beauty, swooping into pretty curlicues, tactile trills, and angelic breathiness, but as baroque as it gets, her voice never loses the chill of the cold earth under her feet. Eriksson and Stromstedt play alternately in telepathic unison--together their instruments sometimes sound like bagpipes--and dynamic counterpoint. These performances, both free, are the group's first in Chicago. Wednesday, noon, Borders Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan; 312-573-0564. Wednesday, 6:30 PM, Randolph Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-7094.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lennart Jonasson.