Solfyr “Draumr” EP (30 March 2023)
Solfyr’s first EP release, “Draumr,” is no small event. Not only does it represent the next step in the evolution of singer Amber Marie to a darkfolk singing force, but it is also something Britain has needed. In a country so rich in folklore, we have had to watch on with envy as our Scandinavian neighbours roll out music as varied as Myrkur, Wardruna and Korpiklaani. With the likes of Darkher and now Solfyr, it looks like the land of Boudica, Richard the Lionheart and King Arthur is starting to discover its own talent, particularly in the world of atmospheric, female fronted darkfolk music.
“Draumr” (meaning “dream”) begins strongly with “Freyja.” The strains of tagelharpa (played by Vevaki’s Will Hunter) gently introduces the listener to Marie’s vocals. And what a voice! So ethereal, so sweet. Her singing is front and centre on this album and one can’t help but be blown away by it. I keep imagining the vocals emanating from a forest shrouded in the deepest mist. There is a tension in the music between the bowing of the tagelharpa and the wordless calls of Marie. It’s a stunning, moving track and a perfect introduction to “Draumr.”
Although there is no more tagelharpa in the rest of the album, Will Hunter and Vevaki producer Gisli Gunnarson do play an important part in “Draumr” with sound mixing, recording and arrangement. The result is a class album, with a great variety of tracks, but each one is also beautifully simple.
“Hrafnar” introduces a steady drum beat to accompany lyrics from Old Norse. “Sjór” (“sea”) brings us ocean waves, while Jörð (“earth”) introduces keyboard atmospherics. Throughout this album, the sound evokes feelings of minimalism and space. Solfyr understand the need for silence in music, the pauses giving the listener a chance to absorb the sound, before Marie’s voice hits the next ethereal note.
“Kulning” perhaps best epitomises this. Kulning is a traditional and haunting Scandinavian music form, with the singers using a high pitched vocal technique to call farm animals in from the fields. Marie demonstrates her mastery of the art, leaving the listener (and no doubt any nearby farm animals) in awe. The track features sounds of war horns and bullroarers, but again, one gets the feeling of space – hearing the sound of the horn fading away… before Marie calls us into the song again. It’s a stunning tour de force.
And so the album continues – minimal elements serving to frame and enhance the vocals. By the time the gentle percussion of “Draumalug” sets in I’m so relaxed I barely notice the transition into “Jörð.” I’m at peace and at harmony, with a gentle smile on my face. What a journey.
Final thoughts on “Draumr” – I couldn’t shake the feeling throughout the album that Marie’s ethereal voice was singing to us through deep mist or from the midst of a lake. The feel of water is everywhere, from sea waves sounds to tranquil water dripping, to the stunning album cover (featuring a waterfall). It is rare for an album to evoke one of the elements in such a fashion. “Draumr” is compelling, peaceful, and majestic.
Release Date: 30 March 2023