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Miscellaneous - Profile

  by Keith How

published: 9 / 2 / 2018

Miscellaneous - Profile


Keith How is impressed by two new albums of atmospheric and engaging music, the Nils Okland Band's 'Lysning' and the Erlend Apneseth Trio's 'Ara', both of which have recently come out on Norwegian label Hubro Music.

A cursory glance through the 2015 publication 'The Sound of the North, Norway and the European Jazz Scene' by Luca Vitali goes a long way in establishing the importance of Scandinavian traditional, progressive and jazz music. E.C.M. and Rune Grammofon have forged this new genre, fearlessly championing an almost new sound. More recently Oslo based Hubro picked up the baton and integrated both jazz, traditional influences and improvisation, releasing ground breaking albums from artists such as Christian Wallumrod and Splashgirl; Accompanied by stunning artwork from design group Yokoland, Hubro raised the bar in this genre. Stalwarts of the Norwegian scene Nils Okland and Erlend Apneseth now have new releases on the Hubro label. One thing Okland and Apneseth have in common is that they are both exponents of the Hardanger fiddle. Vitali devotes a small section of his book to this traditional instrument and its influence and references Oklands work. 'Lysning' translated into English means "forest" or "glade", a title that eloquently sums up the airy breathtaking atmosphere of this album. 'Drom' opens the album, the haunting fiddle has the immediate effect of transporting the listener away from the present moment. A gentle motif repeats over a subtle backing. Beautiful! This otherworldly sense continues throughout the nine tracks presented here. The music rises and falls with incredible sensitivity. The title track is a celtic melody, gentle and passionate while elsewhere Okland’s band reveal their musicianship, improvising and empathising with a sensitivity that beggars belief. This group create a depth and intensity that captivates the listener. Although Okland takes centre stage on the Hardanger fiddle and violin, sidesman Rolf Erik Nystrom adds alto and baritone saxophone. His unique breathy drones quietly provide a sound basis for Okland to work with. Sigbjorn Apeland contributed harmonium while Hakon Morch Stene adds percussion and subtle electric guitar. The wonderful Mats Eilertsen is the double bassist and his touch only confirms his status as one of the great players. Sound wise, the album echoes an almost spiritual feel and as the recording took place in the Ostre Toten stone church in Lena, one can understand the natural dynamics and harmonics such a venue can provide. The midway point of the album 'Blamyr' is a seven minute atmospheric drone, where the instrumentation is such that it is difficult to tell what is bass and what is harmonium. The fiddle solos over the swell of the backing group conjure up a sense of approaching evening. 'Sikt' draws the album to a close, a meditative air that is a fitting conclusion to a fine album. I was privileged to review Erlend Apneseth’s debut album 'Det Andre Rommet' last year and the trio return with the remarkable 'Ara'. The Trio consists of drummer Oyvind Hegg with Lyunde and Stephan Meidell on guitar and effects. Together they have once again produced a fine album. 'Ara' gradually reveals hidden depths, with a series of sensitive instrumental compositions that weave a special magic, channelling celtic and eastern vibes into the contemporary Scandinavian form. 'Utferd' opens proceedings with a drone that welcomes in the Hardanger fiddle and gentle percussion, before relaxing into a transfixing melody and as with Nils Okland, it is obvious that this record is very different to our usual listening fare. 'Tundra' continues the understated atmosphere that pervades the album, Miedell’s guitar and sampling effects add a slightly spooky feel that invites the listener to enter this quietly intriguing aesthetic. 'Ara' is exploratory and adventurous. Traditional folk melodies inform the themes enlivened by jazz and electronic effects, which allows the listener total immersion into the haunting and beautiful compositions. Surprising moments include a found recording of a musical saw incorporated into 'Sago' and the only vocal contribution on the album is found on 'Lysne' where poet Erland O. Nodtvedt intones some of his own writings to great effect. Erlend Apsneth and his band have progressed from their debut offering and present another lovely inventive album. These two fine records from Hubro are perfect listening for the dark winter nights and are full of the promise of the coming Springtime. Steeped in Scandinavian mystery these two offerings both intrigue and delight.

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