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Hurdy-Gurdy
Prototyp
Northside

By Tom Jackson

Published February 7, 2006

A cross between a lute and a document shredder, the hurdy-gurdy has managed to survive a millennium of music and still look unfamiliar. On their debut outing as a duo, Hållbus Totte Mattsson and Stefan Brisland-Ferner, both veterans of the Swedish folk scene, treat their instrument with an admirable lack of reverence, taking the hurdy-gurdy’s reputation as a medieval synthesizer literally, and sampling all manner of sounds and reassembling them on an Apple Mac. Everything audible on the record is 100 percent hurdy-gurdy. On a collection of traditional or self-penned tunes, fans of the familiar drones and scratchy strings won’t be disappointed but there’s also a hefty portion of near-industrial clunk, thud, whiz and bleep. Turn up the bass and “Oxberg” could pass as a backing track for Marilyn Manson. The hurdy-gurdy men also succeed in finding the ghost in this strangest of musical machines: you’ll swear you hear a female vocal on “Ynglingen.” A thousand years on, to make music this much fun takes computers, wood and guts.

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