Två Fisk och en Fläsk
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Två Fisk och en Fläsk
NonStop ( / West Park

One image of Nordic music invokes a witches' Sabbath of rhythmic brutality accelerated into a devilish tornado, while another calls forth a sedate, almost geometrically classical string ensemble. Swedish septet Två Fisk och en Fläsk (Two Fish and One Bacon) delivers on both conceptions, with a heavy emphasis on the former. The three-man percussion section imparts more thunderous drive to this acoustic ensemble than could a dozen distorted electric guitars. Dual, and occasionally dueling, fiddlers play with a raw abandon, never flinching from dissonance, alternately produced in distanced reverb or middle-of-the-scull immediacy, while a single guitar holds things together with suspicious ease. The vocals of Umer Mossige-Norheim, fragile and falsetto, lacking the direct power of Garmarna's Emma Härdelin, seem at first a poor fit for such a dynamic combo, but ultimately serve through contrast.

The opening track, "Saltarello IV," is a 'pre-prise' of themes from the final track, suspenseful guitar strum leading into fiddle strokes over a James Bond theme, before breaking into a crazed gallop featuring percussion and fiddles, the spy theme returning to usher in an even quicker gyring two-step version of the melody, expiring abruptly in exhaustion. Above the bouncy beat driven by thunderous drums and low fiddle duet of "Källarjonets Lilla Vän," Mossige-Norheim's vocal is teased by neighing fiddle effects, the instrumental break brutally dissonant, the cumulative effect unexpectedly joyous. In "Junfrun i Buren," with its syncopated, almost Bo Diddley beat on hand percussion, Mossige-Norheim's multi-tracked vocal exults in a hospitable jazzy mode over occasional guitar chords, dual fiddles finally invading with a single demonically delivered rhythmic figure.

A demented drum roll and guitar strum introduce "Lussi Lilla," vocal alternately incanting a contrasting verse and joining the beat in redoubled intensity, with a wonderfully dizzy, almost Celtic central instrumental dance featuring whistle and fiddle. "Femton Gånger" begins with an erudite classical string ensemble (I knew they had it in them!), before sliding smoothly into a swinging common-time beat with sawing fiddles and hardy baritone voices carrying a marching song. Mossige-Norheim's vocal is at home with the melodic delicacy of "Herr Olaf," fiddles and drums adding an addictive drive to choruses and breaks, descending dissonance at times waxing psychedelic. "Fortune Plango" features a calm, Indian tabla and drone intro, rattling Moroccan-inspired double-time percussion, and vocal dissonance experiments, a mixed world-beat fantasy from the Swedish caravan route.

If you enjoy Scandinavian music, especially the driven intensity of Hoven Droven, Garmarna, and early Hedningarna, don't deprive yourself of this carefully arranged yet wildly performed recording. - Jim Foley

Listen to "Jungfrun i Buren":

CD available from cdRoots

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