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Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik - Hugsjá CD (album) cover


Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik


Experimental/Post Metal

3.95 | 40 ratings

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5 stars Clever and transporting "Viking folk music" from Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (guitarist for ENSLAVED) and drummer/singer Einar Selvik (aka "Kvitrafn" in the black metal band GOGOROTH and folk band WARDRUNA). This is a stunning album that starts out more regional Nordic folk but then begins to sound and feel more familiar Western European folk rock the further you get into the album.

1. "Hugsjá" (4:35) Celtic melodies with deep bass thrum and lower register multi-voice singing (are they using some throat singing?) which sounds almost like chant. Quite enthralling, mesmerizing, even consuming--like a spiritual entrainment thing. (9/10)

2. "WulthuR" (4:16) opens with a solo horn whose sound is unfamiliar to me. It is then joined by folk instruments, multiple drums, and acoustic guitars before solo voice sings. The chorus "dance" section uses deep background choir voices to anesthetize the listener. (10/10)

3. "Ni Døtre av Hav" (6:02) big drums, low droning horn-like thrum, berimbau-like stringed instrument, electric guitars, and full drum kit support simple folk melodies and both solo and choral vocal sections. Super powerful. Mr. Selvik has an extraordinarily engaging voice--as do the choir with his choral arrangements. (10/10)

4. "Ni Mødre av Sol" (5:55) opens with multiple bowed instruments setting the melodic and harmonic stage for drum and vocals. The vocal melody lines here are a bit foreign to Western 12-note scales, using semi-tones and warbles that are not typical in Western European singing traditions (as far as I know). They sound more akin to Middle Eastern or Indian scales. At 3:40 drum kit and pulsing electronic bass line fills the soundscape as choir of Nordic gods sing their worship. The never-changing foundational weave gets a bit old. (8.75/10)

5. "Fornjot" (4:41) finger picked stringed instrument is alone in support of Einar's story telling voice. At 1:05 the soundscape fills out as drums and other deep-toned instruments (church organ bass pedals?) join in for the chorus. Very dramatic, very powerful. The drums and deep thrum settle into a steady pattern for the second verse before repeating the ramp up for the second (final) chorus. (9/10)

6. "Nattseglar" (7:06) opens a bit like a louder version of a ROXY MUSIC song before electronic water and rowing sounds are faded back in lieu of a simple melody plucked on a single- or two-stringed folk instrument. Einar's lone vocals are used sparsely over the first 90 seconds, alternating with violin-like instrument, before they become doubled up with steadily increasing numbers of other vocal tracks singing the same thing, some in delay or echo of the lead. Cool effect! Full drums kick in at 3:45, but the rest of the song's weave remains the same (getting a little old). The drumming becomes more animated as the song progresses as does the activity of a late entering church organ. Instruments begin to drop off little by little starting at the 5:35 mark until we are left with a bouncy synth chord, drums, and synchronized vocal choir accompanying the final highly-electrified "bermibau chord." (9/10)

7. "Nytt Land" (7:48) opens like a song from an album of Sweden's THE AMAZING: heavily distorted notes and chords from an electric guitar. Multiple reverbed Einar vocal tracks with harp join in. The chorus explodes upon us at 2:20 with squeeze box-like sounds and a vocal passage from a large choir--here using the broadest aural spectrum and most Western chord structure yet heard on this album. Very engaging, even pretty, melodies and harmonies created on this one. Before the ending water sounds the large choir pumps back up for a long recapitulation of its previous explosive passage. (14/15)

8. "Nordvegen" (3:41) fast-moving folk acoustic guitar work not far from the work of Jimmy Page, The Beatles, or even Anthony Phillips over which Einar sings in a lone voice reverb. Very cool song. (9.25/10)

9. "Utsyn" (5:23) a deep inner-planetary hum opens this song. It is soon joined by the balalaika-like instrument and Einar's singular voice and some acoustic guitar background strums. Then a second male voice enters to harmonize with Einar before the full "orchestra" of the full band enters for the chorus. Powerful! In the fourht minute a kind of calm between the storm passage allows for thunderous background strokes and bowed and instruments to convey the ominous calm. Around the four minute mark all hell bursts forth again but then the song finishes with just the chorus, 'balalaika' and wave sounds. (9/10)

10. "Oska" (7:29) opens with a Western rock chord structure coming from guitars, drums, strings and other synthesized banks of instruments. Einar & Co. enter singing long-held "oh"s while the Celtic-sounding Nordic folk instruments weave in a kind of reel or jig. There's a little UK folk sound and feel to this one--like Horslips, Led Zeppelin, or even Steven Wilson. It's just a long rollicking jam with full choir singing their long Tuvalu-like polyphonic notes. The horn used in the sixth and seventh minutes is absolutely awesome for building tension! Finish with the sounds of wood burning--on a large scale! Wow! (It all makes sense when one hears the translation of the word "oska"--it means "ashes"!) (9.5/10)

11. "Um Heilage Fjell" (5:26) again based in more familiar Western European sounds and structures, this one seems to be sung in tones of respect, awe, and reverence. Great plaintive vocal from Einar while full chorus and big band/big sound accompany him with a stream of supportive, sometimes antiphonal, and, later, echoing vowels and phrases. Amazing end to a stunningly powerful album. (10/10)

Five stars; a masterpiece of very powerful Prog Folk--this one of the Nordic variation. An absolutely riveting album from start to finish. One of the best albums of 2018 and certainly one of the most refreshing. I think it will be quite challenging for you to go away from listening to this one without being deeply affected, perhaps even haunted.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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