World music journalist Andrew Cronshaw recently published some fine reviews of three Norwegian records in the June editions of World Music Magazine fRoots, courtesy of www.folkmusic.no we can now share them with you:
Author: Andrew Cronshaw
Norway's deep tradition of instrumental and vocal music is still strong, in terms of quality and quality of musicians and material. Perhaps because of that, and the relative smallness of the country's population and therefore the tendency for its musical networks to overlap, it flows into other musical styles and forms more smoothly than does traditional music in, for example, England. Here are three fine, and very different, examples of that process.
Gabriel Fliflet | Åresong ( NORCD)
Bergen accordionist and singer Gabriel Fliflet (brother of Jienat's Andreas) is a great bridger of gaps. His Columbi Egg club in Bergen, which decamps during Førde festival to run acoustic nights there, is a key influence in Norway's folk-and-related scene, stimulating informality and creative collaboration, and his own music is matchingly open-minded. In Åresong he sets to music lyrics written by leading dramatist Jon Fosse, the whole thing a commission from Bergen International Festival, first performed in the city's Grieg Hall in 2010.
What we get are a dozen fully-formed classics, deeply Norwegian while transcending styles including a kind of swirling, uplifting Norsk-cabaret. Fliflet's accordeon and piano is joined by a class team on trumpet, bluesy electric guitars - fretted and slide, Hardanger fiddle and double bass, and all five players prove excellent, characterful, passionate singers as they take a turn at lead vocals. A particular surprise is Benedicte Maurseth, whom I'd previously only known for her attractive, intimate playing of old, gut-strung Hardanger fiddles. She turns out to be a commandingly beautiful, warm-voiced singer.
A nice final touch is a recording from the end of the Grieg Hall concert, when the audience were directed to reach under their seats and take out the music-boxes hidden there, built to play the tune of the album's opening track, Vindsong; the album finishes with the sound of all 1400 of them tinkling their overlapping versions.
Karl Seglem | Ossicles (NORCD)
Owner of the NORCD label is Karl Seglem, and Ossicles is the latest in the long run of his own albums, of which the most recent have been co-released with German label Ozella. Each album further develops his melding of the airy melodic shapes of traditional Norwegian music in his own compositions with the wide, non-American approaches of Norwegian jazz but with much more beef, and adding colours from other worldwide sources.
With his husky tenor sax and goat-horns, in one of his most varied, structured and powerful works to date, are regular partner Hardanger fiddler Håkon Høgemo, the brilliant Olav Torget on electric guitar and the dry plink of konting (ngoni), and the muscle of some of the cream of Norway's distinctive, innovative rhythm sections: bassist Gjermund Silset and variously drummer/percussionists Erland Dahlen, Kenneth Ekornes and Harald Skullerud. All are key players across the folk-jazz-rock-African gamut of Norway's emerging music, and with this album they pull it all together most satisfyingly.
Susanne Lundeng | Mot (KKV)
Living way up north on a tiny Lofoten island, Susanne Lundeng unveils the latest developments of her music in infrequent albums, and each one is an event. Composing nearly all her own material, and playing her region's standard, not Hardanger, fiddle, she digs in with powerful bowing that deeply comprehends traditional musical forms while also being in command of wonderfully soaring tone, rich all the way up to the dusty end.
Mot is a natural bridge between traditional and classical violin music. Her lyrical, serene compositions Gaven and Havn are given gorgeously shapely arrangements for a strings-and-clarinet sextet by Håvard Lund and Bugge Wesseltoft respectively. The complex, energetic 21-minute Rolf Wallin composition Imelia involves the strings, brass reeds, piano and percussion of the 14-piece Bodø Sinfonietta. Wesseltoft joins her on piano for the swirling title track; the remaining three are intense, expressive solos that are complete in themselves. These are muscular, complex pieces of many atmospheres from serene to wild, stamping and keening, sometimes akin to Bartók or Stravinsky pieces, that form a strong continuum between folk and classical music, enriching and challenging both.
NORCD AS (Record Companies)
Kirkelig Kulturverksted (CD production; Record Companies)
Gabriel Fliflet, Accordeonist
Karl Seglem, Composer, Saxophonist
Susanne Lundeng, Folk musician, Violinist