My love affair with the music of Norway started around 1997/98 when I first heard Karl Seglem’s Trio Utla in a Christmas Concert from The BBC Radio 3/EBU annual broadcast Christmas Around Europe. This proved to be a life-changing moment. Not only was this the first time I had heard the Hardanger Fiddle, but also the extraordinary natural and agricultural sounds of percussion from Terje Isungset. A couple of years later I met up with them at a performance in Norwich.
This was before the percussionist had recorded using ice instruments, but maybe the idea had already been formed. In a way it was a natural progression after using stone and arctic birch in his kit. Meditations is the seventh recording in this medium and has to be the best and most interesting. The album opens with "Northwest Passage" featuring tolling ice chimes that sound almost as though they have been tuned, and then we hear Sami like joik vocals from Isungset and the unmistakable sound of Arve Henriksen's brass trumpet with marimba-like percussion over sampled sounds and arco bass. It is hard to imagine that this recorded in an ice environment and not in a studio. "Lomonson Ridge" begins with a shimmering array of ice horn, crushed ice and percussion with the beautiful sound of Mats Eden on viola d’Amore, Svante Hennrysson’s ice cello and Lena Nymarks vocals under deep, warm bass samples; it ends with flowing water. With "H20" we hear ice cello with viola d’Amore and infectious soft drum beats. Not all the music comes from the North, "Polar Auroraes” shows signs of eastern motifs.
Lena Nymark leads us into a real earworm on Silent Folk with Anders Jormin on double bass. "The View” is more upfront rhythmically, with strings plucked in the higher register. "Industrial Arctic” begins in folklore and the spirit world. It is then taken up by the brooding keyboard of Reidar Skår, strings and quietly screaming wind instruments.
"Inuit Living” brings the album to a close, with footsteps in deep snow followed by a rapid marimba-like rhythm with ice pebbles and shells drawing it to a conclusion. I think the success of this is recording over previous Isungset releases can be attributed to a slightly higher production standard and the use of non-ice instrumentation in conjunction with the proprietary ice instruments that define his sound. An excellent album!