Nils Økland (Hardanger fiddle, violin) , Sigbjørn Apeland (harmonium) – Glimmer
(ECM 4841962CD. Album review by Phil Johnson)
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It’s very rare to encounter music as beautiful as this, that can be returned to again and again and release new pleasures every time. Nils Økland, the violinist and specialist of the Hardanger fiddle (whose extra resonating strings add a constant drone) has been making remarkable music between the borders of folk, jazz and contemporary composition/improvisation for years now. He works both solo and in a variety of group projects such as Lumen Drones and 1982, as well as guesting with many of Norway’s most interesting musicians. But this duo with the harmonium player Sigbjørn Apeland, with whom he grew up musically and has played with countless times, is something else.
Over fourteen shortish pieces often derived from traditional singers in the folk tradition of western Norway (sometimes collected by Apeland himself), together with a few originals including music jointly composed for a film about the nineteenth century painter Lars Hertervig, the harmonium’s wheezing bellows and Økland’s keening fiddle conjure up an austere, hard won aesthetic of grounding drones and minimal, almost reluctant melodic filigree. It’s not at all difficult to listen to and anyone who has enjoyed ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ (the title music for ‘Fargo’ might be another reference point), will find much to admire.
Most importantly, this is an album whose emotional key remains fairly constant throughout, communicating a very ambient-friendly, meditative and rather melancholy atmosphere that, while not for the faint-hearted, is extraordinarily effective at setting up a musical mood. And when it finishes playing, you can just start again.
LINK: Glimmer at Proper