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Torgeir Vassvik: Saivu (2006)

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Torgeir Vassvik: Saivu Sáivu is the first release by Norwegian Sami musician Torgeir Vassvik, who combines elements from the ancient, shamanistic joik singing of the Samis of northern Scandinavia with Siberian throat-singing and modern soundsacapes. Vassvik has also composed music for theater, including a production of Henrik Ibsen's On the Heights, and films. Like another Norwegian Sami musician, Mari Boine, he adds new musical ingredients and aromas to the traditional yodel-like Sami joik singing; and like her, he plays the frame drum. But the textures that he creates on Sáivu, on which he collaborates with fellow countryman, trumpeter and vocalist Arve Henriksen, who produced this release, and Swedish double bass great Anders Jormin, are quite ethereal, as expected from a Henriksen production.

Vassvik and Henriksen manage to marry the past and the present on Sáivu. And though this release introduces a distant musical tradition, it represents this tradition in contemporary manner that charges it with imaginative vitality. The past does not conflict with present or the future, instead meshing and completing these other dimensions in a magical way.

Henriksen's whispery, flute-like trumpet playing contrasts with Vassvik's deep ceremonial vocals on the opening track, "Halo," while Jormin and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen channel the piece into rhythm-based texture. Henriksen adds electronic loops on "The Sea," and his gentle, slow trumpet playing embraces Vassvik's distant vocals. Jormin's scare arco playing adds a drone dimension to this tranquil composition.

"Calling" begins with a simple repeating bass line by Jormin and eerie electronic soundscapes by sound engineer Reidar Skår that set the tone for this ancient shaman dance-like piece. "Siberia" is true to the shamanistic Siberian-Tuvan throat-singing tradition, and Henriksen suggests a modern echo for these ancient sounds. Jormin and Henriksen challenge Vassvik in the more contemporary setting of "Silver," which offers nice playful interplay among all three musicians, who sound at times as though they're participating in a futuristic shamanistic ceremony in an urban setting.

The title song is based on an ancient Sami rhythm and joik singing, but Jormin's brilliant arco playing, as well as the soft touches by Johansen and Henriksen, add an almost untimely and beautiful dimension to this short piece. Johansen makes clever use of bells and cymbals, and the electronics that Henriksen throws into "Fire Song," with another masterful articulation of the theme by Jormin, carry this ancient ceremonial piece into a modern context. The short "Varg" again demonstrates the musical affinity and playfulness shared by Vassvik's groany singing, Henriksen's ethereal presence and Jormin's economic and imaginative playing.

Jormin's arco sets a low drone for the longest track, "Toundra," soon followed by Vassvik, who improvises with rhythmic wordless phrases and deeper throaty sounds, while Henriksen reflects from behind and Isungset's assorted percussion adds very gentle emphasis. "Toundra" leads directly to the solemn "Blue Membrane," where the new musical language that Vassvik and Henriksen have created shines throughout.

A beautiul and unique gem.


Track Listing: Halo/itlast; The Sea/hpi; Calling/Rvkan; Siberia/Sibirij; Silver/Silba; Sivu; Fire Song/Dolla; Varf/Ruomas; Toundra/Duottar; Blue Membrane/Alit Cuozza.

Personnel: Torgeir Vassvik: vocal, frame drums; Anders Jormin: double bass; Arve Henriksen: trumpet, vocal, electronics; Per Oddvar Johansen: drums (1,6,7); Terje Isungset: drums (9,10); Reidar Skr: electronics (3).

Record Label: Idut

Style: Latin/World


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