Svøbsk Kvartet - Bjergtaget

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Svøbsk Kvartet
Go' Danish Folk Music

The Danish word svøbsk refers to a type of dance in which participants twirl themselves into a state of dizziness: an apt moniker for fiddler Jørgen Dickmeiss and accordionist Maren Hallberg, who indeed create uplifting music. Formed in 2004, the husband-and-wife duo debuted to critical acclaim in 2005 with the award-winning album Sig mig (Tell me). In 2009, they added pianist Theis Langlands and percussionist Simon Busk to their roster. Yet despite the connotations of its title (Bjergtaget means “spellbound”), this first album by the Svøbsk Kvartet is as lucid as they come. Between the scintillating introduction of “After Tønder” and the traditional “Sov Sødt barnlille” (Sleep soundly child) that concludes, there's more than enough room for the listener to stretch out and luxuriate. The lullaby highlights the band's ear for poetry, as do the other two proper songs on the program, “Jeg gik mig ud en sommerdag” (I went for a walk one summer day) and “Havets farer” (The dangers of the sea). Dickmeiss serves as lead singer on both, giving the evocative touches one comes to expect from these stars of Scandinavian folk revival.

The album favors instrumentals. Newer melodies penned by band members fit snugly alongside the tried and true. Dickmeiss delights in the title track, an original that weaves its composer's bow through a kaleidoscope of colors and textures—and really, the quartet's feel for texture goes a long way. From the happy-go-lucky characters of “Undergrunden” (The underground) to the smattering of polkas paying homage to the fiddlers of the island of Laessoe, there's plenty of optimism to go around. For although the album isn't without its reflective moments, it proceeds for the most part with at least one foot off the ground. Emblematic in this regard is “De små sorte” (The small black ones), describing the tipsiness incurred by the alcoholic coffee drink to which the title refers. Here the band's smoothness of execution is on full display, its touch airy but full of purchase. It's an eclectic mix, to be sure, with even a nod to Mozart thrown in for good measure. “Hedeslag” (Heatstroke), written by Busk, is another highlight, describing well the fever of youthful infatuation. “De tre brudestykker” (The three wedding pieces) likewise steals the show with its full-bodied flavor, traditional tunes each for new love and revelry.

The Svøbsk Kvartet makes three-dimensional, almost cinematic, sounds: full of life, characterized by movement, driven by narrative. These impulses and more imbue the music with an audible smile, one sure to come to the listener's lips in kind.

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