Sun and Moon Dance is a solo project by Chris Rowansman from North Carolina, USA. His music is minimalist and raw which arrives in a full primal force with the sole aim to connect us both to the gods and to nature. His current release ‘Ginnungaldr’ – as the title may suggest is a skaldic retelling of the Norse mythological story of the creation of the world(s) from the Ginnungagap (the primordial void) as told in the Eddaic text recording Norse cosmogony ‘Gylfaginning’.
We start from the very beginning where creation was just a thought from the abyss with ‘The Need For Creation’ which is a sparse and minimalistic piece consisting of a deep drone, a whispered narrative and a plucked kraviklyre. The theme continues into ‘Pulse of Ginnunga’ where life literally pulses or throbs into being. A dark oscillation brings forth movement and physical shape, the drone transforms into a bass pulse with the percussion and narration leading us to the genesis of the Nordic world represented by the folkish music of the hardanger fiddle, bukkehorn and harmonic chanting. It is a like Rowansman is audially painting the world in chiaroscuro – using the contrasting balances between darkness and light.
The next track is similar ‘In the Time of Ymir’ extending the story as told in the Eddas where Rowanson narrates in Medieval Icelandic against the very powerful drone which is accompanied by the melancholic, wistful cry of the bukkehorn. The layers build up into another 7 minute epic piece where the result sounds very much akin to Wardruna or Danheim. Percussion meets the fiddle and the trancelike spells are woven as we descend into the cathartic state of contemplation orchestrated by the skald.
Coincidentally, the fourth track ‘Thursamegin’ features Sigurboði, a ubiquitous artistic spirit who seems to appear on numerous releases, more so frequently with Danheim, as he pounds his frame drum in rhythm with Rowansman’s chants and drones. This track was released as a single previously and is very reminiscent of the first Wardruna album ‘Gap Var Ginnunga’. ‘From the Breath of Ur the World is Born’ is a meditative, tranquil and celebratory of the newly-created world. We regress back to the very ancient beginning – that primal state of being – the purest form. It is a simple melody with recorders, hand-drums and chanting with plucked lyre, pre-medieval and enchanting. Musically, it continues the same style into ‘Voices of the Trees (Ask and Embla)’ where we can envision the first two human beings born – male and female – formed from the wood of the ash tree and the elm tree (most probably) – given spirit, movement and thought to become our progenitors – our most ancient mortal ancestors.
Ginnungaldr is such a wonderful concept album that spans from the very thought of creation to the very beginning of humanity. It is carefully crafted with the sense of coming from a huge void: out of a brooding nothingness comes such light and beauty. Wholly recommended for those who love their Norse mythology, spirituality and Ur-folk.