Nils Økland

Bris

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At a glance, this will appear to be an uncharacteristic release for the Norwegian label Rune Grammofon, as it features absolutely no electronics. Nils Økland is a folk-trained Hardanger fiddler (the Hardanger fiddle is a unique Norwegian violin with sympathetic strings), and harmonium, double bass, and percussion accompany him here. Yet, a single listen explains why labelhead Rune Kristofferson has decided to put this CD out: the overall climate of the album shares a kinship with the likes of Arve Henriksen, Food, Deathprod, and the quiet side of Supersilent. The simplicity and peacefulness of the music found on Bris also deserves comparisons to the U.S. West Coast composers revolving around the Cold Blue Music label (Jim Fox, Rick Cox, and Michael Jon Fink, in particular). Økland is featured solo on about half of the tracks, playing the Hardanger fiddle, viola d'amore, violin, or viola. The harmonium player, Sigbjørn Apeland, percussionists Håkon Mørch Stene and Per Oddvar Johansen, and bassist Mats Eilertsen contribute to the other pieces, although rarely all together as a quintet. Some of the music is largely improvised (including the quartet "Flyt") but there are also several compositions originally written for a play. Those include the oppressive "Gjennon" and the delicate title track. A lot has been written about the distinctive mood found in Scandinavian music, but in this case mentioning the endless landscapes, cold weather, and melancholia-laced folk tunes would not be a bunch of clichés. Despite the fact that Økland moves away from folk music on this album (experimenting with low-friction arco playing and free forms, among other things), his pieces -- especially his solos -- remain firmly anchored in that heritage, and that's all for the better, as the result is delightfully draining emotionally.

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