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Emilia AMPER (b.1981)
Trollfågeln - The Magic Bird
see track listing below review
Emilia Amper (nyckelharpa)
TrondheimSolistene (strings)
Johan Hedin (nyckelharpa II)
Emilia Amper, Dan Svensson (vocals)
Helge Andreas Norbakken, Olle Linder, Dan Svensson (percussion)
Olle Linder, Dan Svensson (guitar)
Anders Löfberg (cello)
rec. Länna Kyrka, Sweden and Trondheim Frikirka, Norway, April 2012. DDD
BIS-SACD-2013 [59:42]


This is a debut solo disc for Emilia Amper, described by BIS as "one of Sweden's most exciting young folk musicians". She is, as this recording demonstrates, undeniably a top artist of the nyckelharpa - the large Swedish keyed folk fiddle pictured on the CD cover.

The tracklist above is arranged for clarity and does not correspond to the playing order, which in fact delivers a satisfying mixture of traditional Swedish folk pieces and Amper's own compositions. The latter are all in folk style, foot-tappingly well crafted and stylistically true on the whole, albeit with certain 'embellishments' - harmonic clichés and rhythmic overlays that pander in the modern way to pulse- and pop-loving modern audiences. Worst-case scenario is realised in Galatea Creek, which encapsulates all that is wrong with contemporary pseudo-folk. The scratchy dissonances of the first minute or two of the opener, Till Maria, really do amount to mischievous misdirection!
 
Most of the items will nevertheless be enjoyed by fans of the more familiar traditional Irish or Scottish music. Purists will especially like the Polska in G minor (a traditional Swedish dance, not a polka) and the pairing of Pigopolskan - Den Glömda Polskan, whereas those more attuned to the contemporary neo-folk scene will be nodding and swaying in time to just about everything else. Rather curiously, BIS's blurb describes Amper's programme thus: "In turns hypnotic, melancholy and meditative, groovy and jubilant, Trollfågeln is a breathtaking roller-coaster of a disc." In fact, this is a typical ceilidh: simple but effective dance tunes blended with a few dreamy slow numbers. The final track, the nine-minute Waltz from Valsebo is a memorable Boccherini-Retreat-from-Madrid kind of thing, leaving the listener in a generous mood to overlook the more dubious inclusions that went before.
 
Most of the tracks are instrumentals, and the chosen ensembles are generally appropriate and stylish. But, as folk musicians inevitably do, Amper breaks out into song on one or two. Her voice is of the type one would expect on a folk-music album - good if you like that kind of thing, otherwise less appealing.
 
Sound quality on this Hybrid SACD is excellent, though possibly unnecessarily extravagant for a basically straightforward recording exercise. There is some reverberation in the church acoustic. The booklet, chiefly in Swedish and English, has several glorious colour close-ups of the unusual but beautiful nyckelharpa, as well as a description of its design, origins and prospects, which appear to be promising - there is now even a nyckelharpa society in the UK!
 
Byzantion
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk

See also review by Dominy Clements

Track Listing

Till Maria (For Maria) [5:00]
Ut i Mörka Matten (Into the Dark Night) [4:55]
Isadoras Land (Isadora's Land) [3:50]
Polska from Hoffsmyran [4:02]
Herr Lager och Skön Fager (Herr Lager and the Fair One) [3:08]
Kapad (Hijacked) [4:44]
Galatea Creek [3:19]
Traditional
Polska in G minor, after A. G. Jernberg [3:25]
Trollfuglen (The Magic Bird) [2:25]
Brännvinslåt från Torsås (Drinking Song from Torsås) [2:40]
Pigopolskan/Den Glömda Polskan (The Maid's Polska/The Forgotten Polska) [5:08]
När som Flickorna de Gifta sig (When Young Women Get Married) [4:05]
Bredals Näckapolska (Näckapolska after Bredal) [3:01]
Vals från Valsebo (Waltz from Valsebo) [8:56]


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