With the album Ara, Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Erlend Apneseth and his trio (drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell) signal a folk music retelling of ancient stories that bring to mind Viking landscapes of ice and snow. Winter is coming -yet the music suggests this winter provides deep and breathtaking introspection amid icy drifts, snow-capped mountains, and the surf of a wind-chilled frozen ocean shore.
Take the opening track, "Utferd," a composition that conveys an early morning eeriness, as though peering through the fog at distant crashing waves. Hegg-Lunde's drums provide an ancient back beat to Apneseth's beautiful wind-swept melody. "Tundra" reveals the subtle interplay of the trio. Apneseth plucks away at the melody while Meidell's guitar quietly howls below the surface of Hegg-Lunde's trotting drum.
In "Øyster," the meter is drawn out. Guitar and fiddle develop the folk melody and Hegg-Lunde knows how to support the music with just the right touch of flourish. "Stryk" is notable for the interplay of soundsone can hear a wind harp and an almost bagpipe echo in the distance. "Undergrunn" harkens back to Medieval days, as it moves the listener from castle courtyard outward on a galloping ride through wind and snow.
The highlight of the album might be "Sakura," where the trio mix in an Asian flavor to the music the floor tom drum and an electronic rumble shift below the guitar while the fiddle plays winsome notes above the repeating Asian motif.
The delicate nature of the tunes on Ara demonstrate the trio's immense talent. Pensive, contemplative, minimalist, the music elicits a soft fire on a chilly night. Atmospherics aside, this is music of sublime beauty. Highly recommended.