Words by Jon Lusk
If further proof were needed that some of the best new music inspired by tradition is currently coming out of Scandinavia, then this exquisitely ethereal instrumental song cycle is it. Reise is the concluding salvo in a trilogy of albums that the fiddler Gjermund Larsen has recorded with Sondre Meisfjord (double bass) and Andreas Utnem (grand piano and harmonium). It’s a spellbinding work of art.
You might struggle to hear the cited influence of bluegrass, but the kind of ornamentation you’d hear in baroque music is clearly evident. Larsen’s new compositions frequently have the familiarity and inevitability of folk songs and those droning keyboards certainly have a hymnal quality. Although using a conventional fiddle here, his tone and technique often reflect the pervading influence of the Hardanger fiddle, and he has recorded a piece with that instrument (as Fiona Talkington’s fine liner notes explain). These players seem to be listening and responding to each other so keenly it’s hard to believe they must be following a score; they almost seem joined at the hip. The graceful ebb and flow of ‘ Eleseus’ Vuiggeslått II’ suggests the rhythms of the natural world, and anyone that can write a piece of music as haunting and beautiful as ‘Midnattsang’ has the world at his feet.
TRACK TO TRY: Midnattsang