Asgard were a French folk combo that released two albums in the late-1970s. The band coalesced mid-decade around the trio of Bernard Darsch, Patrick Grandpierron, and William Lawday.
Members: Patrick Grandpierron (Vocals, Flute [Irlandaise], Dulcimer, Psaltery), William Lawday, Bernard Darsh, Daniel Mantovani (Guitar), Dominique Urruty (Bass, Steel Guitar, Vocals), Dominique Labarre (Keyboards, Vocals), Umberto Pagnini (Drums)
Signed to the French wing of Warner Bros., the trio — collectively credited with guitar, bass, banjo, violin, dulcimer, psaltery, flute, percussion, and vocals — were augmented by keyboardist Guy Printemps for the recording of their debut album L’hirondelle (1976).
The album is framed by the twice-occurring “Les Dames Des Landes,” on which a bass-line rooted in D-minor — thematically accented with banjo-encircled dulcimer — takes full steps to its relative fifth and back as icy synth-rays beam and swoop around the track at various angles.
On “Rossignolet,” three-part harmonies are guided by a violin-imbued strum-along precision. Unexpectedly, dawning rays of synth transition this piece into a brisk jig.
For much of “La Lurette,” the band harmonize to a banjo/dulcimer woven bass drone in E. The track switch to closed-cadence structure for the final third, where the drone is now spiced with martial-tinged woodwind.
A persistent E-flat-minor theme holds throughout “Au chant de l’alouette,” even as the harmonies and sundry acoustics that shape the piece move from brisk to frenzied.
With heightened studio prowess, Asgard — now consisting of Grandpierron, Urruty, Mantovani, Labarre, and Pagnini — recorded a more detailed batch of compositions for Tradition & Renouveau (1978).
Heading side two is the anthemic “Ce Soir Francois Villon,” which circulates around a bass/keyboard adagio pattern that swells from a pensive E-flat-minor to a soaring, panoramic E-minor, propelled by muted choral keys and selective use of dulcimer.
An unorthodox Cmaj7-to-G-minor structure sets apart”Le Vent,” on which a soft piano intro is overtaken by acoustic plucking. Grandpierron’s understated-yet-angular vocals are given ample pivot-room between the verses and D-minor up-slide of the bridge.
“La Petite Hirondelle” is accented by terse, stately strumming in D-minor, on which vocal passages trade off with dulcimer. Just past midway, the song switches to a slower, open cadences amidst a sonic valley of lush Mellotron.
Pattern-wise, “J’ai Mon Ami Sous les Brandebourgs” scales up and down from the key of A-minor — a structure alternately carried by strum-backed steel guitar or piano alone — as the vocalist reaches each third and fifth of the underlying chords.
On what ultimately becomes the album’s climactic number, “Les Landes D’harou” begins with soft plucks that blend into an electro/acoustic melange around spoken-word vocals. Nearly three minutes in, a diatonic bass-line descends from the key of A as flute-like keys selectively accent minor thirds and fifths. Simulated choral settings carry this pattern through to the song’s lengthy fadeout.
Immediately post-Asgard, Darsch provided technical services for a range of artists, including compatriots Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, Irish Celt ensemble The Bothy Band, and West Indies soul-funk trio the Gibson Brothers. During the early 1980s, he engineered a local rockabilly revival on Big Beat Records.
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