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As Jens Ulvsand, bouzouki and guitar player for the band explains it, yölariis is an old word for the sound that ice makes as it changes temperature, forcing one sheet against another in an ethereal frozen song. Just say the words "yolar ice" with some force and grit in your voice and you'll hear it.

And it is the band's interpretation of that sound that starts this recording, and permeates much of its sonic landscape, as the quartet creates their own "new Nordic" music on violins, percussion, bass, voices, banjo, cittern and the like. Founded in southern Sweden by Dan Svensson and Per Knagg, Yölariis grew to a quartet with Anna Elwing and Ulvsand and blossomed.

The group obviously owe a large debt to the previous generation of musicians who started a revolution in the 1980s by bringing traditional Swedish folk into a more modern, global setting: Lena Willemark, Ale Möller, Filarfolket and Groupa are all clearly touchstones to the music of Yölariis. But this ensemble has it's own list of credentials to present, with members playing in many of the best bands in the region today: Trio Mio, Færd, Alwa, Alla Fagra, Plommon and Avada Band are just a few readers might recognize.

The approach they take on this album is varied, often adventurous and is presented in a conceptual style that gives the entire recording a sense of being a single, unbroken work; it is the transitions they create from piece to piece that often bring the compositions together. This is perhaps best exemplified in the transition from two traditional tunes given original interpretations, where Anna Elwing sings an a capella "En Midsommarafton" in a sonic space not unlike what that frozen lake might sound like, then crosses carefully over the cracks into the rhythmic string and percussion riff that introduces "Brist Hjerta" and sends the listener scurrying over the broken floes. It's terse, cool and gorgeous, and ends with quiet relief on a solid shore.

They can also deliver a more traditional sound, often in their original compositions. Svensson's "Över Månen" moves from ballad to brash over it's four minutes; the traditional "Gullesol" will remind the listener of a 17th century English carol; and Ulvsand's closing piece, "April Dust," has a bit of a old-timey swing to it, or perhaps a Danish dance step.


But they are at their best when folk music and a kind of progressive pop-jazz collide and they come into their own unique sound, as in Svensson's "Nakenbad/Dagen stänger sitt fönster," which starts jaunty and playful and then moves into darker terrain, until it dissolves in quiet, chiming percussion.

In all its diversity, Yölariis offers 12 songs, each a gem, each placed exactly where it should be on this cohesive and moving volume of music from four talented Swedish artists. - Cliff Furnald

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