Johan Hedin
Angel Archipelago
Atrium (

Angel Archipelago's music is centered around the nyckelharpa, played with an unorthodox, timbral approach. Hedin uses the Swedish keyed fiddle and other instrumentation to create lingering textures for a graceful, spaciously harmonic music. The medieval feel yet contemporary flavor of the original songs on the recording at times resembles folk tradition but is less complex and sometimes satisfied to be strictly atmospheric.

The recipe for enchantment here includes accompaniment which changes with every piece. From a palette of thirteen instrumentalists, including Ale Moller and Lena Willemark, producer Manne Von Ahn Oberg partners the nyckelharpa with only one to four other instruments at a time. By not crowding the soundstage, instruments are allowed to exist in their own right and the sound is further enhanced by a resonant, cavern-like recording space (the "studioatrium" in Stockholm, quite like that of another well known Scandinavian studio). The occasional use of drumming which appears in alternate selections as dramatic processional beats is substantially responsible for the moments of old world character.

Promoting the pure sound of instruments by not overplaying them or relying on lots of composition helps the temperate quality of this music. Saxophone, viola d'amore, accordian, violin, viola, cello, bass, lute and galdnije drum execute abbreviated melodies and counterpoint. This makes for a dreamy, gentle-on-the-nervous-system type of thing, which sometimes lacks a sense of narrative momentum within each piece. Momentum manifests in the set as a whole, which grows progressively more eccentric. Overall, this is the sunny side of a rhymed tone poem attempting to transcend its place of origin. - Steve Taylor

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