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Erlend Apneseth

Review by Andrew Cronshaw


Emanuel Vigelandís mausoleum in the hilly, leafy northern suburbs of Oslo is a big, windowless, barrel-vaulted space, which one stoops to enter through a low doorway.

Inside, as the eyes begin to adjust to the very low illumination, one begins to see that the walls are covered with Vigelandís murals of writhing naked bodies, depicting human life from birth to death. But the first revelation is of the acoustics: the slightest sound initiates a very long reverb, around 13 seconds at speech frequencies, thatís particularly musical and beautiful because not only is it smooth but itís longer for low frequencies than for high, which makes it wonderfully rich and warm, attaching awesomeness to almost any sound

So itís a wonderful place to play or sing, if one keeps the music fairly uncluttered. It hosts occasional concerts, for a small audience (more than about 20 and the acoustics begin to change), and unsurprisingly this isnít the first recording made there. But it suits the ringing strings of solo Hardanger fiddle very well indeed. Notes overlay one another and become chords, double-stopping becomes orchestral.

Erlend Apneseth is a leading player of the instrument who, with his trio and other ensembles (including Frode Haltliís splendid Avant Folk) crosses the divide between traditional music, Norwayís distinctive form of atmospheric, misty jazz thatís a long, long way from New Orleans, and contemporary classical.

For this album heís entirely solo, which is the traditional context of Hardanger fiddle playing, and the building provides the ensemble for his minimalist playing, which is mostly improvisations but opens with a Ďlistening tuneí from the repertoire of Sigurd Eldegard which, in the way of such tunes, would have been pretty much improvised by its player. So in effect everything here carries on that tradition.


Apneseth bows, shuffles and plucks, with his occasional footstamp becoming a resounding bass drum. He and his fiddle are the sound source, creating a variety of whispering, keening, moaning, percussive or flurrying sounds that the acoustics of the Mausoleum receive and develop.

Given the time it takes for the reverb to decay to silence, not all tracks wait for that to happen; some flow into one another, so if one tries to play just an individual track it can end abruptly. Itís an album to put on and let flow, imagining the dark, illustrated cavern of the Mausoleum.

Find the artist online.

Further reading:
Erlend Apneseth Trio
Benedicte Maurseth
AnnbjÝrg Lien

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