Sangre de Muerdago, which translates to English as Blood of the Mistletoe, is a Galician folk band from the Galincia region of Spain. They’re led by Pablo C. Ursusson whose roots in the anarcho-punk scene deeply inform the spirit of resistance that drives the spirit of the band’s fresh compositions, rendered as pastoral hymns in the style of their region’s folk tradition.
Even without Pablo’s punk rock past informing his music, the anti-fascist character of Sangre de Muerdago music could be safely assumed. Under the fascist government led by General Franco, which ruled Spain from 1936 until Franco’s death in 1975, Galician culture and language were repressed, like many ethnic and regional societies and traditions, in order to cultivate a national sense of Spain heritage and assert Catholic supremacy. The Galician language during this period was particularly targeted for suppression, with educators from the region being forcibly moved elsewhere in Spain to teach exclusively in Spanish. At that time, to sing a song in the Galician language was a punishable offense, and therefore also a willful act of defiance against the authority of the ruling fascist government. Pablo believes that singing and playing Galician music today still has a powerful defiant quality to it, as it continues the traditions that were once censored and keeps alive forms of communication that anti-democratic thugs once sought to snuff out.
While the history of Galacian music is interesting and worth acknowledging, it would be a terrible oversight to not discuss the specific music that Sangre de Muerdago plays while we have the chance. There is a reason why Steve Von Till is quoted on the band’s website as saying, “I can’t recommend them enough,” and their music often feels like a more grounded and fully realized version of that which Steve seeks to compose.
Sangre de Muerdago’s music is a spellbinding and richly textured experience and their latest album Xuntas is no exception. The title translates to English to mean Together, and this is without a doubt both an indication as to how best to enjoy their music as well as a description of the music itself. Despite being organized by Pablo, the band truly is a collective endeavor, bringing together the exploits of multi-instrumentalist Erik “Erich” Heimansberg, with violist Hanna Werth, nyckelharpa player Georg “Xurxo” Börner, harpist Asia Kindred Moore, and the melodic medium of Jorge Olson de Abreu. Together they conjure a sound that is best experienced with a group of friends as you all breathe in the fresh air and sweet perfumes of spring and allow your thoughts to wonder, mingling with wine and conversation, as the midday sun baths your hair and skin.
The title track has a sorrowful, leaning melody, shouldered and carried by a youthful and crisp flute harmony. Sorrow is a recurring theme in much of Sangre de Muerdago music and you can feel the pain seeping through these tracks, even without understanding the specific meaning of each word that is set adrift to ride these grieving tunes through the open gates of your soul. This is particularly true of the shaking, and quivering heave of “Lonxania” and the frictionless flow of emotions that spouts from a well of devotion that overfloweth with despair on “Coma un Bico,” both of which serve as album highlights. Shadows cannot persist without the light though, and the sorrow of these tracks is tempered by a patient and hopeful orientation that glimmers like gold in a stream bed, a facet of the music exhibited earnestly through the dreary perseverance of “De Néboa e Choiva” and the playful chimes that form the core melody of closer ” Outra Nana para os Insomnes.” If you are ready for warm weather and good, thoughtful company, then you are ready for this album.
You can buy and stream Xuntas via Bandcamp below: