Link to Living Tradition Homepage





SVÄNG - Vänner 

SVÄNG - Vänner 
Private Label  

There are many groups called Sväng, and many albums called Vänner, but only one debut CD from a trio based in southern Germany. Sväng means swing, and Vänner means friends - in Swedish. Amrey Schaffeld's nyckelharpa defines the Scandinavian sound of this band, supplemented by Tina Molle's cello and Benedict Kulzer on mandola and percussion. They play a range of traditional Swedish polskas and waltzes, and a halling to finish, plus some of their own compositions in Swedish style. The performances here aren't quite as perfect as you'd expect from Swedish musicians with their gruelling apprenticeship, but most folk musicians would be delighted with this level of technical skill and togetherness. Try the samples on the band's website, which has about half of the album available for listening.

The nyckelharpa leads most tracks, including four of Schaffeld's own compositions. I don't detect a German accent in any of these - if anything there is some Irish influence on Running On Fresh Air, on the jig Bondedans, and naturally on Boggy In Places. The combination of nyckelharpa, cello and mandola works well, sounding somewhere between Scandinavia and Renaissance dances. There are some guests on fiddle, trumpet and upright bass, but the group sound is pretty consistent throughout this collection. In fact, my main criticism of Vänner is that it lacks variety - it's all quite similar in tone, tempo and rhythm. That's a criticism that can be levelled at many Scandinavian bands - it's important to accentuate the differences in this tradition, and I hope Sväng will start to play the slow pieces slower, the fast pieces faster, and look for opportunities to grind or lift this music, to take a pleasant performance and make it stand out. The delicious air Emmas Vaggvisa and Josefina Paulson's jaunty Schottis Med Ett S may point to a promising future for Sväng.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine