Tuesday 4 August 2015


CD Review


They say music is a universal language and you get a strong hint of that when you realise the similarities between Norwegian band Sver's style of music and a great deal of highland, Celtic and indeed general folk music.

Scandinavian band Sver
The band of Olav Luksengard Mjelva, Anders Hall, Leif Ingvar Ranoien, Adam Johansson and Jens Linell bring elements of what we in the UK could easily mistake for folk rock but it's not necessarily so.
The album opens with Lompa Koyre Traktor which is one man and his tractor and is a fast-paced instrumental which brings to mind bands such as Skerryvore, Capercaille and Runrig. The band has that big sound which is almost orchestral in the enormity of its construction. This gives way to the title track which comes banging in with a staccato rhythm that sort of eases out a little like the sea calming before coming back up to rage once again. You can hear clearly the distinctive sound of the Hardanger fiddle which Mjelva plays. The wonderfully ornate Hardanger gets it special sound from having eight or even nine strings four or five of which are understrings below the main four strings which are played like a normal fiddle. The understrings resonate to the played strings adding a tone rather like the wires on a snare drum.
Ruf, another one from Mjelva, does have a slightly cajun feel about it but it still keeps that uniqueness of the Scandinavian sound especially when Ranoien slides in the accordion. It's this instrument which opens and carries Falsk Vals. In some ways it's remarkable how similar their music sounds akin to UK regional folk music especially the Celtic side of things and in other ways not, it's folk music after all. Sver do seem to have this signature manner of bringing in a big sound then slowing it down and lulling you into a gentler sound before opening the windows again an letting the wind blow through.
A hardanger fiddle
Sumarkveld I Nivheim just has the feeling of a saga as the fiddles and viola open up the tune, you get the feel there is an epic tale. Mjelva and Hall use their instruments as wonderful narrative tools. It's certainly something you might hear on Transatlantic Sessions. The syntax of the music is slightly unfamiliar but that doesn't stop it being appreciated for the complex and fascinating tunes they create as a band.
The opening of Total Carnage is like something Seth Lakeman would blow your cobwebs away with. Mjelva's fiddle comes at you with all strings blazing and Linell certainly makes his presence felt hammering out the percussion in this tribute to Shetland Folk Festival. It goes out with a right foot stomping hoe down or whatever the Norwegian equivalent is, it's certainly a heel crushing way of taking a track out.
It's one of life's great truths that sooner or later blues or jazz will make it's presence felt and Massa Ti Nassa is the one for this album. It begins pretty tame but then seems to descend into madness as the blues sound gives way to a much more chaotic free jazz style of play. The slightly broken rhythm feel carries on with Fuggeln which again incorporates that fast slow undulating character the band seems to favour and certainly keeps the listen on their toes. This track means The Bird like a lot of the tracks you suspect there is a great story to go with it but with Sver being an instrumental outfit it's down to either live explanations or Norwegian scholars to bring them to the fore. Staying with the animal theme Mysoxen is a great dancing tune, you can imagine groups meeting together in a glade with the stars shining and sparks from a bonfire rising skywards as the gathering dances around to enjoy the music. It certainly does have that feel of a barn dance even down to the stomping boot.
Sver's new album Fryd
Bow In The Eye is a surprisingly restful tune, gentle and serene to begin with and feels like Sver reversing the usual trend of their tunes as they build up to the much livelier belly of the track which then goes back to the restful and gentle picking of Johansson on the guitar. The final part of the track does remind you of Peter Knight and the kind of music Gigspanner would feel at home playing. The album goes out with Sova which again comes in very gently the fiddle and accordion being heard over an almost imperceptible percussion. This is Sver's most subtle track and lives up to the title of Sleep. Johansson's light guitar playing, is complemented perfectly by Ranoien on the bellows. There is a part of you that is waiting for the dam to burst, but does it? You will have to listen for yourself and find out.
Sver certainly know how to put together fascinating tunes and while it may well be Scandinavian in origin there is enough that's familiar to any lover of folk music to keep your interest and enjoyment firmly focused on their sound.

Fryd is out now on Folk Hall Records.

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