Although only one of their previous albums (Essence, a French import) has been readily available in the United States, the Swedish folk instrumental trio Väsen actually released a total of four albums, including one recorded live on the radio, before this compilation was put together by NorthSide Records (a subsidiary of the Minneapolis indie label EastSide specializing in Scandinavian music). As such Spirit is a good survey of and introduction to the group's early work, when the group was still the trio of Olov Johansson on keyed fiddle, Mikael Marin on viola, and Roger Tallroth on guitar. The first four tracks are drawn from Essence and are well chosen, including the tender "Amanda" and the creepy "Pen-Knife Murderer." The next five are from Vilda and include the highly rhythmic "Roar-Resin," a schottische (2-step dance) by Roger Tallroth.
This is the second album from Väsen, made in 1992, and on it they develop their unique sound, style and ensemble playing even more. This album contains mostly tunes that Olov learnt from his teachers Curt Tallroth and Eric Sahlström, but also some new compositions by the members of the group, all of them played in interesting and tasteful arrangements. Olov Johansson on nyckelharpa, Roger Tallroth on guitar and Mikael Marin on viola are all extremely skilled on their instruments, and their music is full of playfulness and bubbling ideas.
A beautiful showcase of the traditional, Swedish nyckelharpa backed by the Celtic folk harp and Swedish and medieval bagpipes, Dram's self-titled album transports their listeners instantaneously to a life much simpler and earth-based, rich with tradition and culture. Interestingly, the word "dram" is an old dialect word for "drone," which makes up much of this musical language, giving it an ancient, yet timeless feel. This album sits so poignantly and memorably with its listeners largely due to the distinct and plaintive, haunting quality of both the nyckelharpa and the bagpipes, lending a yearning, desiring quality to the music, one that speaks of the universal, human condition, regardless of time period. However, all analysis aside, this is simply a heartfelt, moving album.