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coverpic flag Sweden - Full Moon 244 - 07/20/16

Ill Wicker
The Sign Records

Ill Wicker is a folk-rock band from Gothenburg. Untamed is their second album, released a few moonths ago. Their first album Under Diana from 2014 was a bit crude affair, very inspired by legendary Scottish acid and psychedelic folk-rockers Incredible String Band (ISB) and the likeminded English underground heroes Comus. (A key track from Comus' debut album First Utterance (1971) was called "Diana"...) Too much inspired if you ask me, and recorded a little too quickly for its own good. I saw Ill Wicker play in Oslo in late August last year, sharing the bill with Haakon Ellingsen. By that time their performance had improved greatly from the debut album. They told that they were going to start the recording of the second album the following week, and here we are.

Ill Wicker counts Emil Ridderstolpe (guitars and vocals), Hampus Odlöv (mandola and vocals), Thea Åslund (viola d'amore, fiddle and vocals), Emma Lagerberg (fiddle, organ, glockenspiel and vocals), Ebba Wigren (percussion) and newcomer since the debut album Adam Grauman (double bass). Ebba mainly uses her bare hands, not sticks, on her percussion set. Highly fascinating! The songs are mainly written by Emil and arranged by the entire band. Untamed is a lot sturdier than the debut album. The inspiration from the British acts mentioned above is not that overt anymore, though some Comus-alike phrasings and energetic percussion playing are still audible. The inspiration from ISB has taken a different form. Instead of copying their sound, it seems Ill Wicker by now has found inspiration in a similar way as ISB, from folk music all over the globe and transformed it into an expression of their own. Most of the time Untamed sound like an amalgam of folk music from Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and sometimes beyond, and sometimes pumped up with rock energy. The songs vary between the fast and occasional wild and ritual with the fiddles at the fore, like "I Was Here When The Sea Was Young" and parts of "Earth Child" and "Silent Impulse" (second half), to the calmer occasionally drone'ish like "The Charm On Your Chest", also with a bit jazzy instrumental part, and the first half of "Silent Impulse", that sounds a bit mediaeval, too, with those harmony vocals before it's fired up by energetic fiddles and percussion.

"The Trials Of Madame Dillner" and "Min Levnads Afton" (The Evening Of My Life)/"Twelve Men" at the end of the album sound closer to more traditional western European folk. The medley is based on traditional melodies, the only track of that kind of the album and the only with overt links to Swedish folk music. Great stuff all of it, though the melancholic and mesmerising title track is the highlight of the album for me. Beautiful, elegant and string dominated, with triple vocals (I think) at first, twin fiddles and angel alike wordless singing at the end, that sends shivers down my spine.

The lyrics? Well, they seem very spiritual and ethereal, towards the stream of consciousness kind. I don't feel competent to judge them, but they seem to fit the ritual aspects of Ill Wicker in particular. In the title track they mention Diana again, probably the one from the debut album:
'the circle is gathered under Diana
gaze into the eye ablaze'

An excellent album! My greatest psychedelic folk-rock revelation since I first heard Espers numerous full moons ago. There seems to be a blooming folk-rock scene with new bands and artists in Sweden at the moment. The more pop-oriented Me And My Kites is another band well worth checking out.

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