KVITRAVN PRESENTATION (ONLINE PERFORMANCE)
DECEMBER 10, 2020
Wardruna, the Norwegian music group known for their modern interpretation of ancient Nordic traditions and language, will be releasing their next studio album Kvitravn on January 22, 2021. In anticipation of the new release, front man Einar Selvik performed a couple of songs in a virtual sneak peak and answered a few questions relating to the album, the process of translating ancient Nordic text and sounds into music for a modern audience, and Wardruna’s media appearances.
Kvitravn, meaning ‘white raven’, is Wardruna’s fifth full-length studio album and though it will act as a continuation of their previous album trilogy Runaljod, it also showcases an evolution in Wardruna’s sound. This album will feature a wide variety of both traditional and historical instruments and a number of guest vocalists, in addition to Wardruna’s long-time second vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella, arranged by Kirsten Bråten Berg, a notable custodian of traditional Norwegian song. The album explores themes of sorcery, spirit animals, nature, animism, and the hidden wisdom in myths.
“The raven itself is a very central figure in the Nordic myth landscape,” says Selvik on his inspiration for the album name and for the stage moniker he has used before of the same name. “In a lot of these older traditions, it’s a very central creature. It represents a bridge between the worlds and between both us and nature and to that other place, whether it’s death or some mythic place. Then you combine that with the sacred white animals, which is also a kind of global phenomenon seen in many places and in many different cultures and traditions. They have a prophetic thing to them. In legends, these white animals bring some form of drastic change; an enlightenment in some cases.”
In this presentation, Selvik performed two songs from the new album. The first, a Skaldic version of the song “Munin” named after one of the Norse God Odin’s mythological ravens. In the myth, Odin’s ravens are named Huginn and Muninn and who are the animistic representation of mind and memory. “Munin” speaks to memory. This performance, though a simple and acoustic rendition, still speaks to the heart with Selvik’s rich and soothing voice. Though the lyrics may be from an ancient tongue, the music and the poetry is timeless and calls to a deep part of our roots that connects with it. Often, Wardruna fans have described their connection with the music as ‘feeling homesick for a time and place I’ve never known’.
With regards to the creation of the Kvitravn, Selvik speaks about finding his inspiration. “Wandering in nature and walking is my main muse. I create a lot of my music when I’m out walking. Also, I do find the lack of nature, the absence of nature, an important part of that. There’s a powerful element of longing in that. Though most of my music is created here in my surroundings, when I’m away from home, I feel that same sense of longing that can be a powerful tool. In some ways, you get closer to home when you are far away because of that longing.”
As is the nature with Wardruna’s music, creating an album is indeed a long labour of love and dedication and not a process that can be completed in a period of a few months. Selvik remarks fondly about the need for patience in order for the music to build and form organically and for the various elements from the instruments, to the lyrics and vocals to find their home within the music. “My music is created over long periods. I can’t go into a studio and decide ‘yeah, now I’m going to spend two months and make a record’. It’s a much longer process and I try to be as patient as I can in that process and keep it organic to let the songs take me where they want to go rather than me squeezing it into a shape.”
Selvik’s second performance is an acoustic scaled down version of “Andvevarljod”, or ‘The Song of the Spirit Weavers’. This is the closing track to Kvitravn and one that is much longer in its original form. “This is a song that deals with the Nordic deities of fate, the Norns. The tradition around them is the life threads that they spin. It goes into the idea of how a person’s spirit is somehow connected both before birth and after you’ve been born,” says Selvik. His voice is mournful and soothing in this performance as he accompanies himself with a lyre.
Aside from the album, Selvik spoke about Wardruna’s various media appearances including the inclusion of his music in the new Assassin’s Creed Valhalla video game. “The format itself has been very interesting and I’ve learned a lot,” says Selvik with regards to providing music and cultural references for the game. “In many ways, it was done on my home turf in terms of my task in the game, creating a lot of song-based material and giving voice to the oral culture that was so much at the heart of Norse traditions.”
Selvik also appeared in the fourth season of the show Vikings. “It was a great experience. Coming into a production like that, I felt really welcome by the actors, crew and everyone. Beforehand, I joked about getting my own trailer and, of course, I did,” Selvik says of his experience on set. “It was strange when they said ‘action!’ and you have to do something that you’ve never done before. It was an interesting experience. In a way, my advantage was I wasn’t supposed to act; basically I just had to sing one of my songs. I was playing myself in a way, so it wasn’t that big of a challenge.”
The release for Kvitravn in 2021 is highly-anticipated and if this acoustic preview is any indication, it is certainly worth the wait for more of this journey of bringing the ancient Nordic past and traditions into the present day.