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Tirill - Um Himinjǫšur CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.27 | 64 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars What a special treat to receive this album right near the end of what has already been an outstanding year of progressive releases across a number of genres. 2013 has seen a burst of creativity from Norwegian prog-folk artist Tirill Mohn (she also has a new album with her band Autumn Whispers out now as well), and `Um Himinjodur' (roughly translated as `On the rim of the sky') is the sound of an artist taking risks, moving her compositions into more challenging and less obvious directions, crafting deeply personal tales, as well as producing a sonically daring and adventurous musical statement. This ambitious near-concept album came about by the artist pondering being placed on a re-created Earth, with the knowledge of what life is like in the world we currently live in. She ponders what would be put into this new word, what would be of value, what would be discarded, and it's up to the listener to make up their own answers while considering hers.

Tirill's lyrical approach to `Um Himinjodur' shows how important her previous album, `Nine and Fifty Swans' was, where she added her own musical interpretation and soundtrack to the words of poet W.B Yeats. Here, she has taken her own words in a similarly surreal, vivid and darkly romantic direction, each one standing as a complete beautiful gothic lullaby to ponder and consider. It's up to the listener to draw their own interpretation, and to hear the sonic artistry she wraps her poems in is truly striking. Much of the album again is performed on sparse restrained acoustic guitar, violin and flute, but it's given a hallucinogenic dreamy wash of endless Mellotron and a little Hammond organ that brings a warm vintage and lovingly out-of-time quality.

Despite the demanding concept many of the pieces hang on, there's numerous moments scattered throughout that still shows the artist refining and perfecting her unique take on the prog-folk style from her previous two albums. Serious and heartfelt opener `Voluspa' sees Tirill and her male vocal partner's voices take on an impossibly beautiful floating quality that lifts the stark melody to the skies. Even if you don't understand the Norwegian lyrics on this one, just drift away to the soothing and embracing qualities of the two voices intertwining. The words of `Chariot' are confronting, even if they are leaving her lips with the sweetest of voices. The heart-breaking `Fagrar enn Sol' is Tirill at her reflective best with some of the most exquisite and complex multi- layered vocals to appear on her albums yet. The pleading `Muzzled' is delivered perfectly with pained longing and weary defeat, the ghostly electric piano and drowsy bending guitar notes reinforcing the isolation and loneliness of the glum piece.

`The Poet' is another lovely duet over flute, acoustic guitar and violin, with metronome-like percussion and a dreamy blur of stop-start Mellotron pulses before a tasteful shimmering Hammond run in the finale. The lyrically complex nine minute `In Their Eyes' is book-ended with a beautiful weeping violin melody and some very somber troubling vocals with occasional moments of hope. The unpredictable uptempo instrumental break in the middle features some scratchy ominous duel Mellotron passages, a perfectly restrained electric guitar solo and a scorching Hammond explosion straight from the warm analogue Seventies. You can tell how special and important this piece is to the artist, and I'm going to enjoy trying to decipher the words.

Special mention must go to a few particular favourites of mine. The sadly romantic closer `Quiet Night' is truly the soundtrack of a lonely light alone, quietly pining and contemplative. It's pretty much a definitive Tirill song, one of the most deceptively simple pieces on the album, full of stirring medieval charm, and it brings me to tears every time.

But perhaps the absolute centerpiece of the album, and certainly one of most exciting and daring pieces the artist has ever attempted, `The Serpent' sees Tirill becoming one with the nature she so cherishes.

"I am as old as the sea, timeless, I drift while the centuries creep, for I am the daughter of legend and water, the child ancient and wild"

Her voice, as if calling from beyond time and space itself, is spectral and ethereal. There is a deeply haunting ambience to the piece, a dreamy new-age/psychedelic collage of running water, incantations, droning voices and hypnotic percussive instrumentation. Anyone who would possibly dismiss the artist as a simplistic acoustic folk singer needs to hear this, and she has never sounded so confident, experimental and truly freed.

I originally interpreted `Moira' to be deeply romantic yet also leaving hints of uncomfortable obsession and resentment. In one instance, the subject warmly offers "I will be your friend when you need me, I am as near as the wind in your hair, as soft as the sand". Compare it to the darkness hinted at with "I am like shadows, I'll keep your footprints, 'cause I am the path under your feet." And "Longing for your longing" is positively aching with lust. But it turns out the artist intended the piece to be more complex and surreal, `Moira' being the Greek word for destiny, and the changing nature of it!

But that's the beauty of Tirill's musical world. Her songs are frequently cryptic and surreal, yet it's possible for the listener to appreciate them in a more directly human and personal level, to make their own special interpretation, a sure sign of timeless appeal. Her music is full of stream-of- consciousness mystery, yet balanced with warmth and deeply human emotion, and it truly stays with you, wraps around your heart and mind refusing to let go. This work also reminds us that it's always the less immediate albums that are the most satisfying, the ones that ask for endless listens over an extended period of time to properly reward the listener with something special. `Um Himinjodur' is truly to be treasured, and the defining artistic statement from this wonderful song-writer yet.

Five stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |


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