Hekla Stålstrenga - Makramé

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Hekla Stålstrenga
ta:lik (www.talik.no)

Sweeping in with both traditional and contemporary songs and tunes from northern Norway, Hekla Stålstrenga present organic folk-rock on their second album, Makramé. The heart of the group lies in the truly wonderful fiddle playing of Ragnhild Furebotten, and the guitar of Tore Bruvoll. Furebotten and Bruvoll actually met during their high school years in Troms , beginning a seventeen-year collaboration, of which Hekla Stålstrenga is one of the duo’s projects.

Makramé is fleshed out by the vocals of Anne Nymo Trulsen, the drumming of Ole-Jakob Larsen, and the bass playing of Trond-Viggo Solås. Hekla Stålstrenga do not have to turn to too much electricity to set the music aglow. As a predominantly acoustic outfit, they range from the traditional to the dynamics of pop, with even a touch of the American backwoods creeping in. Hence, influences abound; for instance, Furebotten’s research into the traditional music of Norway has embedded itself into her own compositions (i.e., "Frans Kafka," an homage to her cat and dog), and she has also worked with the Guinean kora master Mory Kanté. As Furebotten explains on her website, Norwegian music has its own dialects, mirroring the diversity of the country across tundra and mountains. What Hekla Stålstrenga manage to weave with Makramé is a blending of the folk bedrock, with contemporary structures maintaining a warm, wooden glow throughout.

On the opening "Erter & sverter," a children’s (nonsense) riddle, Hekla Stålstrenga forcefully head out of the gate with a weirdly catchy song, the chorus rocking as if adrift on the sea, and the song ‘breaking down’ at times to swing right back to the melody. The album is also filled with beautiful little gems, such as "Har du fyr/If you see the lighthouse," where the band joins together on a pretty chorus over Bruvoll’s guitar. In these quieter moments, Solås’ bass brings to mind Danny Thompson’s work in Pentangle. The group also are not afraid of taking traditional lyrics, and supplying an ‘untraditional’ melody (as on ‘Mannen og kona/The man and the wife,’ and ‘Den narrede jomfru/The tricked maiden’). These tracks feature both rock dynamics and experimental treatments (hear Furebotten’s screetchy, wailing fiddle on ‘The tricked maiden’ over the tribal percussion!), and perhaps de-coupling the trad lyrics from the expected led the band to venture further ‘out.’ The country-rock of ‘A in sl yd/A in carpentry’ nicely swings, and then Hekla Stålstrenga depart with the succinct ‘Siste sang/Last song,’ a graceful, winsome bow to send the punters home. Without doubt, there is probably more to come from Hekla Stålstrenga as they hone their unique Norwegian broadcast. – Lee Blackstone

Listen to a live performance of "Har du fyr"

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