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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Beginner’s Guide to Scandinavian Music

This is a sprawling 3 disk compilation and not one for the feint hearted. If you struggle with violins made out of reindeer hide, Nordic banshee wailing and stark minimal arrangements, then avoid this at all costs. In fact disk three dives to new depths of obscurity with its examination of Scandinavian jazz and experimental music!

Disk 1 is altogether more accessible with its presentation of some Scandinavian Pop and Contemporary tunes. Don’t get excited however, and think that it’s all fluffy Eurovision style candy floss, it’s still relatively standard Scando folky fayre. Worthy of your attention are the haunting Norwegian tones of Kari Bremnes with ‘Egentlig en Danser’, Soley’s delicate vocals on ‘Theater Island’ and House of Trees folktastic love-in ‘Working Man’s Song’.

If Disk 1 softens you up a little, then Disk 2’s focus on Folk and Roots kicks you in the Swedish meatballs. It’s essentially the same genre of music as Pop/Contemporary but just more hardcore. There’s more fiddling, more starkness and more wailing. Maria Kalaniemi wails and warbles particularly well on ‘I Fjol’, Eivor Palsdottir takes starkness to a whole new level on ‘Min Modir’ and Varttina continues the harsh, stark and fiddling vibe with ‘Paivan Nousu Nostajani’. It’s a fantastic disk and worth the price of the whole collection on its own.

And then we come to the dark side of Scandinavian music; Disk 3; Jazz and Experimental. The fiddling and wailing continue, but in a more lucid and fluid structure. It’s interesting, different and not un-enjoyable and akin to listening to the theme from Van der Valk backwards, underwater and after drinking too much coffee. Obviously there’s still a lot of starkness going on, with the most starkers and bonkers offering from Unni Levlid with ‘Bak Vaker Verda'. Bugge Wesseltoft goes all laid back jazz club with ’Judas Bolero’; niiice! And Terge Isungset provides the highlight of the whole compilation with her super-stark experimental crooning meets cowbells in a breeze while walking in the snow. It’s like Pantha Du Prince without the beat and played in slow motion.

It’s a great compilation if you like Scandinavian music in any of its forms. Sadly no-one does outside of Scandinavia. But more fool them, this is a fascinating and original flavour of music and almost redefines the word ‘stark’.

Can I just add that since writing this review I’ve got really into ‘Sang Fran Andra Vaningen’ by Benny Andersson’s Orkester. It’s a sublime, piano driven work of genius and brilliant for running to at night. 


1 comment:

  1. I like the Eivor Palsdottir one. Starts off like a seventies horror theme tune, then gets into some hardcore warbling.