Karl Seglem - Nye Nord
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Karl Seglem
Nye Nord
NORCD (www.norcd.no)

cd cover In Karl Seglem's New North, Nordic artsong, contemporary improvisation, and cutting-edge mix treatments are braided into one inevitable cable of urban and rural. Most artists have two distinct sides, and Seglem's are partly evidenced by his choice of civil saxophones or crude animal horns. His warm, airy sax convenes the sort of restorative non-jazz that has famously issued from downtown Oslo over the last 30 years. The tungehorn and bukkewah (animal horn recorders) echo far more ancient, hill roaming herders and hunters. Seglem handles each with the same unmistakable dexterity and when the two scoreless worlds blur into each other, the North indeed seems new.

This idea of fusing the long-ago with the up-to-the-minute is commonplace nowadays and has been for years. But Seglem is set apart here by his ambitious casting of fourteen musicians in attempting to do so, on this eleven-track feast. Nye Nord is frontloaded with the most beautiful and mature material, and places more of the eccentric ear-bending stuff further down the setlist. Standing majestically above the grand patchwork of contrasts are four soothing poems soberly sung to gentle atmospheric jam sculptures (electric guitar, piano, bass, drums, plus or minus additional programmed or percussive ambient weave). At the center of gorgeous tracks like "Trø Din Fot" and "Månefar" are the eminently approachable voice of Odd Nordstoga and Seglem's melodic Garbarek-peer tenor sax. Imagine a venue in the mountains with floor to ceiling windows, a graceful music inhabiting both indoors and out.

The more kinetic moments come up either joyously wind-stoked or fearlessly city-stained. Here, participants like the vocalists Berit Opheim and Unni Løvlid, hardanger fiddler Hakon Høgemo, percussionist Terje Isungset and programmer Reidar Skår add rugged, visceral colors; the lichens or rust, if you like. This wildness hits transcendent pitch on the title cut, as traditional vocals, mouth harp, drumming and Seglem's flying sax ride high on a rush of exhilarating consonance. While in something like the dingy "Gjetleskog", shrill vocals that sound at times like shepherdess calls compete with a Tom Waitsian junkyard of random funk.

Seven tracks offer the bonus of lyrics (included in Norwegian) while the other four are electric band instrumentals - groove-based travelogues, often with runic melodies. Additionally notable among these are one radio friendly pop tune and an opposite - a distracted drum n'bass/acid jazz speed test that Nils Peter Molvaer might admire.

A seasoned and accomplished artist like Karl Seglem moves with ease amongst more styles in one record than can be counted. Yet, Nye Nord surely proofs the composer at mid-career contemplating the merciful serenity of elder years while still holding on to the nervy excitement and brio of youth. In full, the New North likely offers a living mirror of the fine and coarse of modern Norway, of sophistication blooming in a remote place, and displays an occasion to gather in the aesthetics of young and older, with matching reverence. - Steve Taylor

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