MAREKVIST – Marekvist (Come Alive Records)

Marekvist’s self-titled first album of “Norwegian folk music, guitar driven hard rock and ambient experimentation” certainly lives the advertisement adage for Peter Gabriel’s first album that simply read, “Expect the Unexpected”.

Just so you know, in the 60’s America, there was a weird show called Outer Limits, which began each episode with the warning: “Do not adjust your TV set. There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission”.

Marekvist is an equally weird ride into the “outer limits” of folk music from Norway. Yes, they “are controlling the transmission”. So, enjoy the ride.

The first song, ‘Solrenning I’, begins with ominous percussion and delivers on the band’s promise of “guitar driven hard rock”. Yes, this is tough instrumental stuff, with guitar work by Mathias Degnepoll Oren that glances at a folk heritage in the in a similar manner (and this is just thoughtful comment!) to the dramatic guitar sound of Richard Thompson’s ‘Calvary Cross’ and ‘Shoot Out The Lights’. That’s a really cool thing to do.

Just so you know, “Solrenning” is “the moment when the morning sun becomes visible on the horizon”. And (according to more of the press release) “the album follows the cycle of day and night”, which is a nice theme that unifies the disparate sounds in these grooves.

‘Bergtatt’ echoes the rock ethos, with added bonus of Live-Andrea Gjessen Rash’s vocalizing, in the mode of the great Mari Boine, which celebrates (at least to these Midwestern American ears!)  the traditional indigenous Sami joik singing– all the while, by the way, the band cuts a pretty decent folk-rock rug.

Then, the instrumental ‘Varloysing’ is acoustic and folky in a very English sort of way, yet still manages to explode in the tradition of great Norwegian folk rock bands like Prudence and Folque – great groups that carried the Fairport tradition into Oslo folk clubs.

But, ‘Natt’, once again, get wild and rock rowdy. It recalls the loud, complex, and wonderful folk rock music of Sweden’s Hoven Droven. That’s a big complement. Kudos to the fiery engine room of Hakon Sakseide on bass and the two drummers, Richard Andreas Salvesen and Tobias Oymo Solbakk on various percussion, including (but not limited to) the Norwegian rope drum. That’s nice stuff!

Ah – but (again!) ‘Svevn’ is an almost sacred organ-voiced introspective and beautiful tune. Sensitive percussion touches the soft passion of an almost religious votive musical candle. It’s quite lovely. Live -Andrea Gjessen Rasch’s vocalizing floats in a blessed atmospheric orbit (not exactly ambient) and, with bass and Birk Gjermundbo’s keyboards, the tune certainly sends its signals into deep warm space.

But then, ‘Mare’ begins with a bass propelled pulse with an organ dance partner, both of whom enjoy a psych-prog (almost early Soft Machine) stroll down Canterbury Lane. Then, in synapse-hopping juxtaposition, the band punctuates the cosmic thought and erupts with a sonic “hello” in a massive heavy guitar groove. As said, “Expect the unexpected” and then enjoy the ride.

It’s not folk music. But by now, who really cares?

Then, ‘Einsam’ travels even deeper into sonic space. This tune surges on cosmic, and yeah, ambient vibrations. This music is a universe away from the hard rock and the folk stuff, but it’s a beautiful transient moment of music that is the perfect respite that leads into the brief dramatic reprise of ‘Solrenning II’, that spins into the vital grooves of an album that has travelled full circle, and once again, sings the praises of “the moment when the sun becomes visible on the horizon”. And, while it is true that Marekvist expand the “outer limits” of traditional song, they do, thankfully, leave a melodic bread crumb trail that touches the root of folk music that’s still planted in the terra firma of dear mother Earth.

So, “Do not attempt to adjust the picture”, and just enjoy this very weird “Norwegian folk, guitar driven hard rock and ambient experimental” ride.

Bill Golembeski

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