Founded in 2003, Minimalist chamber-folk trio Slagr consists of Anne Hytta on hardanger fiddle, Amund Sjølie Sveen on vibraphone and cellist Sigrun Eng. The combination of these three instruments enables Slagr to create a coherent and varied array of resonant and sonorous timbres that are warm, shimmering, concise and utterly poetic.
Eschewing obvious quotes or clichéd references, the minimalist chamber folk trio blends the brittle, drily poetic string stirrings of Norwegian tradition with the nocturnal eroticism of Jazz, the rhythmical patterns of Steve Reich and the sparse canvases of Morton Feldman. Pieces evolve slowly and almost imperceptibly, as Percussionist Amund Sjølie Sveen places sustained Vibraphone-droplets and glassy harmonics on top of the closely intertwined melodic motives and austere chord progressions of Anne Hytta's fiddle and Sigrun Eng's Cello. As part of a deep and trance-like process, the band carefully and slowly arrives at a resonant, sonorous continuum of sounds that is as concise as it is poetic.
With two critically acclaimed albums to their credit, ‘Solaris’ (NORCD) and ‘Straum, Stille’ (Ozella) Slagr are ready to make their mark on the international stage, beginning with a Nordic Club showcase at Womex.
Says Slagr’s Anne Hytta on the trio’s quite unique approach to instrumentation and arranging: - We’re kind of an odd bird in the folk music landscape. We can never really match other acts in terms of volume or grandeur; we try to make up for it in other ways. At Womex we hope we won’t drown in the commotion of other acts that express themselves with more volume and extrovert manners, we aim at being perceived as an act that stands for something really interesting and different. We try to be totally uncompromising in what we do; this is our form of expression and we’re sticking to it loyally no matter what others might expect from a Nordic folk trio.
The trio has managed to trail its scope inwards, focusing on music’s long introspective lines while maintaining a keen sense for minute details in the sparse arrangements. Says Hytta: - It’s a matter of creating those really long linear passages of music. We’re striving for those elusive meditative and contemplative moods while trying to maintain really tight focus on the music’s tiny but crucial details. It’s minimalistic, but those that listen carefully are in for a multi-faceted and timbre-rich experience. An important principle for us has been to focus on music as a state of mind rather than various harmonic passages.
Slagr’s members have varied musical backgrounds, ranging from traditional folk music training to conservatory-level studies of contemporary classical. The trio’s diverse musical training is one of the ensemble’s strongest traits says Hytta: - Naturally, the members that constitute Slagr and the instruments they bring in help dictate the ensemble’s soundscape. I feel that the mix of the brittle timbre of the Hardanger fiddle complemented with the rich sonic palette of the vibraphone is what helps define our sound and sets us apart from other bands out there.
- Composing ensemble pieces for the Hardanger fiddle has its challenges, says Hytta. In its traditional role it is a solo instrument and adjusting its variable pitch to a tempered instrument such as the vibraphone can be a struggle at times. Overcoming such challenges has taught me a lot of this ancient instrument and its perks but also much about its rich and rewarding timbre.
Balancing music traditions with contemporary exploration has never been an item that’s been high on the Slagr agenda according to Hytta: - I’m not that focused on Slagr staying true to whatever folk music roots we should pay tribute to. For my own part, I feel that I get to maintain that tradition in some of the many other projects that I’m involved in; Slagr represents freedom to explore. For us, there’s really no limit as for what is considered too experimental. We want to challenge the listener to focus on the finer details of the music.
Having built up a strong foundation on the domestic scene, Slagr is now poised for a hectic period of international touring. Says Hytta on the trio’s international ambitions: - Next year will see us focusing on international touring in support of the release of our latest album ‘Straum, Stille’. German label Ozella is set to release the album in mid-February ’11 and we’re currently working hard on confirming live dates througout Europe next year. We’ve got great expectations for next year and we really hope that our Womex showcase slot can kick-start our international campaign.
Slagr's Womex Nordic Club Showcase:
October 29th 23:00hrs
Slagr's MySpace site
Slagr's Last.fm site
Slagr on Spotify
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