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Live In Longueiul

Nordic Notes
Review by Chris Nickson

Listen "Kling Klang" (excerpt)

There are a capella groups, and then there’s Kongero. The quartet of Swedish women create wonderfully crisp, pure music on Live In Longueuil, recorded on tour in Canada in 2019. It’s a celebration of the band’s 15 years together, and my, my, what a birthday present for anyone with ears to hear. On a mix of traditional and self-composed pieces, they shine with a crystalline brilliance.

Listen "Mitt Hela Hjärta" (excerpt)

The four voices swoop and soar, darting around to create webs and cushions for each other. The spectacular fashion in which they do it is on display from the start, with a glorious warp and weft of music on the herding calls that make up “Kling Klang,” with never a note wrong. From there it’s headlong into the elaborate dance tune of “Gökpolska,” and then on to what might be the album’s standout, “Mitt Hela Hjärta.” It’s a love song, adapted from the Swedish tradition, hopeful, and with a melody to heart your heart, done complete justice by the women. They capture all the nuances of emotion. They inhabit the song, as they do with everything they sing. It’s not necessary to understand Swedish to understand the emotions behind the words.

On “En Sjömansbrud Skall Blåklädd Gå,” a song about a sailor’s life, they keep the rhythm of the ocean swaying implicitly underneath the lyrics to carry the piece. Although their focus is understandably the music of Sweden, they do go outside their homeland for “Vila Stilla,” a Québécois song, given new lyrics in Swedish. It is as hushed as dusk, gorgeous and breathless.

Listen "Lima" (excerpt)

The chiming opening of the wordless “Lima,” by band member Anna Wikenius, might bring to mind the old chestnut “Mr Sandman,” but after a few minutes it’s obliterates that memory. It opens up, letting the singers flow and take slow, gliding flight and carrying the listener along. But all through the album, the arrangements are outstanding, playing to the strengths of each singer.

This might be a sort of greatest hits collection, but it’s all the better for it, a perfect introduction to the band, while recording this live illustrates just how good they are. The arrangements are intricate, ranging from the softly delicate to the sweetly robust, always challenging and always satisfying.

It’s an album to come back to, again and again, something to clean the spirit with the purity of its sound.

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