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cd cover On this self-titled debut recording, Swedish trio Fatang present an updated version of traditional Uppland folk music, for a sound at once familiar and strange. The familiarity lies in the recognizably Swedish melodies, some traditional, some new compositions. These melodies are intoned mostly on Henrik Eriksson's nyckelharpa, a fiddle-like instrument that, while bowed, is keyed instead of fingered and sports both drone and sympathetic strings; the resulting sound, while fiddle-like, has a markedly different and sharper tonal attack. Peter Rousu's jazzy electric bass also inclines Fatang's music away from the mainstream, but it is Olle Bohm's humorously creative percussion, a diverse concoction of gongs, cymbals, bells, pipes, vases, balafons, and even a few drums, that really provokes a double-take. The result is lively, challenging and, above all, good-natured.

On "Brostugan," a contented, swinging waltz opened by Rousu's acoustic guitar melody atop a nyckelharpa drone and the eccentrically timed clicks of Bohm's percussion, the nyckelharpa lead maintains a dignified reticence while lilting energetically. "Den där" features a jazzier waltz beat, with what sounds like balafon or xylophone meandering merrily behind the nyckelharpa melody, beat driven by bass. A quick 6/8 march beat benefiting from Bohm's challenging percussive parsing conspires with a long, sinuous nyckelharpa melody line and bouncy electric bass to force "Karl XII vals" irresistibly forward at the risk of falling breathlessly over. "Kjoltyg" is a quiet, whimsical waltz with atmospheric bass and percussion featuring a variety of oddly timed clangs and a return of the balafon, nyckelharpa embellishing a melody so intuitively familiar you could swear you woke up humming it this morning, perhaps because it seems to contain snatches of everything from Beethoven to Christmas carols. There is a particularly nice if brief fugue between nyckelharpa and bass near the end of this track.

"Färka-Lasse" starts like a hoedown, with quickly bowed nyckelharpa and jaw-harp, then develops into pert common time with emphasis on beat three beneath a lively melody, percussion again impishly adding odd cymbal clashes and clicks while bass keeps the time. A playfully Motown intro on shuffling percussion and bass chords leads to a pair of genuine imitation Uppland tunes (according to the liner notes) on "Schottismarsch/Magstudsaren," both distinguished by a gentle good-nature. Bouncy, syncopated intro on plucked bass and clicking, clanging percussion leads you to expect avant industrial jazz on "Elviran," but instead a swinging version of a lullabye emerges, a tune both pretty and unexpected. "Månnkarbopolketten" offers a driving tune from the enigmatic Balkan-Flamenco fastnesses of Uppland, featuring rolling tablas, acoustic guitar, and Gypsy nickelharpa, humorous yet exhilarating.

Liner notes are sparse but adequate in both Swedish and English, although I'd have enjoyed more information on Bohm's percussion kit and Eriksson's nyckelharpa. But the proof on Fatang's creativity is in the listening. - Jim Foley

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