Gåte returns

Here come the Vikings again, bringing beautiful gifts


Photo: Sebastien Ludvigsen
With their new recording, Til Nord, Gåte delves into the musical past of Norway.

Secret Service Publicity

With their new extended play (EP) record Til Nord (Northward), the legendary Norwegian folk rockers of Gåte have achieved a stunning transformation. The band from Trøndelag, the area surrounding the ancient west coast port city of Trondheim, is delivering an emotive, epic collection of tracks revisiting some of their own classics and adding a new track as a taste of great things to come. With their new release, they are delving even deeper into the musical past of Norway, with a contemporary approach. “Kjærleik” (“Love”) is the first single on the album.

In Gåte’s owns words: “‘Kjærleik’ is a song that urges those who love each other to act with honor, pride, and kindness. It’s about trust and the opportunity to reveal oneself, to regard one another as a gift but not a possession. If these elements are fulfilled, love can make people flourish. At the same time, it is a song that tells how limiting a relationship can be if sustaining elements of love are absent.”

What Gåte has done to their songs is both breathtakingly bold and amazing to hear. The first single and opening track “Kjærleik” is the perfect example of how they have reimagined their sound. Taking away keyboards, electric guitar, and rock drumming, Gåte has added an archaic percussion style and used acoustic instrumentation.

Gunnhild Sundli, whose exceptional vocals played a major role in catapulting the band to stardom in Norway, has stripped out some of the technical complexity from her singing style and placed emphasis on folk attitude and expression. In stylistic terms, we see a shift from their energetic folk rock to a darker, more down-to-earth, Norse-atmospheric folk expression. Yet the Gåte musicians remain true to themselves, even when exploring new possibilities within a musical territory pioneered by their compatriots Warduna and Faeroese singer Eivør Pálsdóttir, among others.

GåtePlaying the old and the new version of “Kjærleik” back-to-back demonstrates that the original version remains an outstanding piece, while the reworking offers a fresh perspective with an amazing effect. Both clearly have the stamp of Gåte and revolve around a traditional axis given a modern reinterpretation.

Gåte, which means “riddle,” was founded in 1999 by violin player and keyboardist Sveinung Sundli, who recruited his sister Gunnhild as the group’s singer. Sveinung’s violin and Gunnhild’s folk song technique “kveding” brought a firm base in traditional music to their sound, which was complemented and contrasted by modern bass, drums, and electric guitars. The resulting folk rock sound blew both minds and ears of listeners. With the self-titled EPs Gåte in 2001 and 2002 and their debut album, Jygri (2002), the band exploded onto Norway’s music scene. Their records and celebrated live performances won them the coveted Spellemannpris, the Norwegian equivalent to a Grammy, for best new band and they stormed the charts. With their second album, Iselilja (2004), Gåte started to gain international recognition, but singer Gunnhild Sundli then moved on to pursue another successful career path. The group went into a hiatus at this time, but with their massive success in Norway, they still managed to enter the charts with their live album Liva (2006) while in hiatus.

During their absence, the reputation of Gåte kept growing, as no other band was able to fill the gap they had left behind. When out of the blue the band announced a tour and returned in 2017, venues sold out at record speed. With their third album, Svevn (2018), they again underlined their exceptional status and musical prowess.

Now, instead of comfortably resting on their well-deserved laurels, the band that has always been eager to break new ground and expand their artistic horizon, dares to explore a fascinating new path, as illustrated by Til Nord. At the beginning of an exciting journey into the uncharted corners of Nordic folk, Gåte is standing firmly on home ground, as they present yet another stunning masterpiece in musical innovation. Here come the Vikings again, and this time they bring beautiful gifts.

Stream the official audio/video release of “Kjærleik” at: orcd.co/kjaerleik

Learn more about Gåte at their website: gaate-music.com

This article originally appeared in the April 9, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.