If you think Arvo Pärt’s Fratres sounds beautiful then this gem from the consistently fascinating Norwegian label Hubro should be on your must hear list. It’s stark music lead by Hardanger fiddle player Apneseth but it is also radiant with Nordic light, timbrally rich and unquestionably essential. Stephan Meidell provides accompaniment on guitar and electronica in an unobtrusive fashion and there’s not a great deal in the way of Øyvind Hegg-Lund’s drums and percussion, but what there is counts. The three have been playing together since Apneseth’s debut Blikkspor in 2013, and clearly the time has been well spent in honing the 10 pieces on this album into extraordinary atmospheres, alien atmospheres to many ears I suspect, but strangely appealing ones nonetheless.
Blikkspor was largely based on folk tunes and Apneseth has high standing in that field but Det Andre Rommet (The Second Room) rises above traditional music while remaining informed by it. That is why it is at once familiar yet new, powerful but not aggressive, and rich in tone and texture. The latter is what it shares with Fratres, in other regards it’s very different, it’s not serene and although you wouldn’t call it jarring although it does skirt close to dissonance on a few occasions. Its appeal will rest on whether the sound of the Hardanger fiddle, a variation on the violin with resonator strings under those played, a bit like a 12 string guitar, appeals. It certainly does to me and at 39 minutes this album ends far too soon, but that’s usually the case with the best ones.