Bukkene Bruse - Spel - Annbjorg Lien
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Bukkene Bruse
Heilo (www.grappa.no)

cd cover In Oslo, there is a Viking Ship Museum that houses the remains of three burial ships. The architecture suggests the burial mounds in which the ships and their artifacts were found. It turned out to be a dramatic setting for the austerely beautiful music of Bukkene Bruse. This live recording captures moments from a concert at the museum as well as performances in several churches. It's not the first time the group has used a church setting for recording. Their 2002 Christmas release The Loveliest Rose was recorded in an Oslo church, with haunting results.

Spel takes a reverent approach to the settings, tipping the balance in favor of slower arrangements. The Vertavo Quartet guests on four tracks, enriching the group's already lush sound. The focus shifts between Annbjørg Lien's assertive sweep on hardanger fiddle, Steinar Ofsdal's expansive work on the flute, and Arve Moen Bergset's warm, pure vocals. "Trilogi" is an atmospheric suite of pieces that allows each member of the group to stretch his or her wings. Lien shows why she is one of the most acclaimed Hardanger fiddlers anywhere. The low drone and static rhythm of the piece allow her free rein to rhapsodize eloquently. Ofsdal's work on sea flute, recorder, and willow pipe is poignant. They follow it up with the lively "Fanitullen Goes to America," with its homage to old-time Appalachian fiddling.

The album is nearly flawless, but for a couple of minor production quibbles. The liner notes don't specify which tracks were recorded where, so it's difficult to get a sense of how the venue's acoustics might have affected the sound. Not that the sound isn't great throughout - it would just be nice to be able to hone in on the difference. The other nitpick is one that arises in listening to many live recordings - the recorded applause goes on for too long. We put on a CD to hear music, not a bunch of clapping. But these are small complaints in view of the overall strength of this recording, another fine work from a consistently fine group of musicians. - Peggy Latkovich

Available from cdRoots

Lien's web site: www.bukkenebruse.com

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