Mixed media: music
A Day Will Come
by Will Pound
(Lulubug Records, CD + digital)
Tunes of a jaunty, and proudly European, defiance run through Will Pound’s latest album – and a good thing too. Pound is a British harmonica and melodeon musician, one laden with accolades, and A Day Will Come is this folk musician’s response to the nightmare of Brexit.
Pound prepared for the UK’s departure from the European Union – this officially began on 31 January 2020, with mountains of treaties relating to just about everything still to be sorted out – by going to the 28 states of continental Europe to seek out and establish musical communications. A Day Will Come celebrates meetings that took place through 14 paired tracks – Romania with Bulgaria and Malta with Estonia, for example – and the resulting music is a peerless example of the profound experience that comes from listening to others.
Who knew that the Czech tune ‘Procession of Echternach’ is uncannily similar to a well-known British nursery rhyme? It’s little discoveries like this that make Pound’s album so delightful. Sleeved in an album cover smartly made up to resemble the red, EU-era UK passport – the reclamation of ‘patriotic’ blue passports is an indication of the level of much of Leavers’ contributions to the Brexit debate – the music is dedicated to ‘all Europeans’, whatever their location or political persuasion. But on ‘This List’, one of the album’s rare forays into spoken word, we know exactly where he stands. LG
(Music For Nations/Columbia Germany CD, LP + digital)
…And meanwhile back in the mead-hall of modernity, we have Wardruna, latter-day skalds (bards) from present-day Norway, singing of white ravens (check the title) and shadows, runes and wolves. Chanty vocals, hide drums and a variety of ancient instruments – all manner of harps and goat-horns – are coupled with broody electronics to create a portentous atmosphere. Wardruna – a portmanteau word that embraces a number of meanings, including ‘Guardian of Secrets’ – is a trio steeped in ancient Scandinavian texts and esoteric tradition. The group’s abundance of natural imagery summons an interplay between light and dark and is often couched in language that recalls the meter and metaphors of Old Norse poetry.
This relationship to the natural world is strong and Einar Selvik, the focus of the band, is much in demand in international circles devoted to the study of traditional music and a reclamation of Nordic culture from its appropriation by racists, past and present. The scholarly side of Wardruna is evidenced here through the guest appearance of Kirsten Bråten Berg, a significant Norwegian traditional singer.
This engagement with the Nordic is not new to contemporary post-rock music. Icelandic indie darlings Sigur Rós have long sung about Odin’s raven magic, while the heavy rock of the 1960s onwards is full of it. Wardruna are something else, however – closer to the musicians across the globe who return to past traditions to bring new meaning to the contemporary. And that, as Selvik acknowledges, is the challenge. LG
This article is from
the April 2020 issue
of New Internationalist.
- Discover unique global perspectives
- Support cutting-edge independent media
- Magazine delivered to your door or inbox
- Digital archive of over 500 issues
- Fund in-depth, high quality journalism