Cantus / Frode Fjellheim

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Releases from the small Norwegian label 2L have populated classical engineering Grammy lists for some years, but this one also snagged a Best Choral Performance nomination for the small choir Cantus, which sounds like a million bucks (or euros) in the hands of producer Morten Lindberg and his engineering team. This label has specialized in contemporary composition, often drawing on Norwegian popular or regional traditions, but the present album has perhaps the broadest general appeal of any of their releases in this vein. The music consists of compositions based on a style of singing among the Sami, an indigenous people of northern Scandinavia, known as the joik. This term turns out to be a bit hard to pin down, but essentially a joik is a chant-like song associated with a specific person or place. Several composers build various types of music on this model, often with harmony included, and in fact one of the composers, Frode Fjellheim, is a well-known "joiker" in his own right. Most pieces are a cappella, but a few have a light synthesizer accompaniment, also performed by Fjellheim. You may not think you've heard any joiks, but Fjellheim's piece Vuelie, heard here in a different version, was included in the 2013 Walt Disney film Frozen, possibly leading to the Grammy honors the album received. Regardless, the sound is something new and different, but it is likely to appeal to fans of the Bulgarian Women's Choir or the Finnish vocal group Värttinä, and in general to anyone who likes national choral styles.

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