Benedicte Maurseth Hárr
Review by Chris Nickson
This is a beautiful shapeshifter of an album. Part a portrait of a landscape, part the opening of a veil on some family history, part nature walk in Norway. It’s satisfying and strangely elusive, all at the same time. The music follows winding paths of the imagination, mixing Maurseth’s Hardanger fiddle with subtly-placed electronics and other instruments to create a moving, inviting bed of sound. “Heilo,” for instance, the longest piece on the disc, presents an utterly different artist from her 2019 solo release. Or does it? The music certainly isn’t traditional by any means, but the nature, the history that goes back generations – what is that but tradition?
"Kollasj 1" (excerpt)
The voices of Maurseth’s great grandfather and great-great grandfather (a reindeer herder and the first Maurseth to come to Hardanger – he’s also pictured on the cover) are captured in recordings on “Kollasj 1,” disembodied, apart from time, caught among the snuffling reindeers and nature – the buzz of an insect closes the track.
For all its slippery, amorphous qualities, this is very much an album grounded in place. The cries of birds and the burble of running water, along with various voices, give it a home, as on “Hreinn.” It contains some of Maurseth’s more straightforward and passionate playing – and “Eidfyrder” dives even deeper into the soul of her music.
Much of the time, though, Maurseth is part of an ensemble, happy to step back and support, to hand the spotlight over to others for a little while. Ultimately, though, this remains her vision, whether moving through the shadows or the light, to the softly breathing stillness of the closing track, “Snø Over Sysendalen,” with her magical playing going into the distance as it ends.
No pyrotechnics here, no devil’s trills. It’s Maurseth, embracing the past and touching the ground that has formed who she is. The result is gently majestic.