The colours of The Magical Forest glow in this remarkable recording which brings together Sinikka Langeland’s Norwegian-Finnish-Swedish Starflowers quintet with the singers of the Trio Mediӕval. It’s an inspired concept: the Trio Mediӕval, with their affinity for folk music and their unique vocal blend, adapt themselves ideally to Sinikka’s sound-world, which is once archaic, timeless and contemporary. The quintet members, all bandleaders in their own right, are amongst the most characterful players in Scandinavia today, and Sinikka sets them free to improvise around her cycle of songs, built upon myths and legends of the world tree. The Magical Forest was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in February 2015, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Norwegian folk musician Sinikka Langeland, singer and player of the kantele (the Finnish table harp) is a distinctly non-traditional traditionalist, redefining "folk" in successive projects. 'Maria's Song' finds her in the company of two distinguished classical musicians - organist Kare Nordstoga and "giant of the Nordic viola" Lars Anders Tomter - and on a mission to restore Marian texts to sacred music, weaving folk melodies in between the timeless strains of J S Bach. Langeland made a lot of friends with her sparkling ECM debut Starflowers: "There are jewels everywhere on this arresting example of ego-free music-making. One of the albums of this or any other year" raved the Irish Times. Where Starflowers brought Langeland into the orbit of jazz improvisers, Maria's Song is a meeting and cross referencing of folk and 'classical' energies, and also a righting of historical 'injustice': Religious folk songs are amongst the most distinctive elements of the Norwegian folk tradition, yet the Virgin Mary rarely appears in them. Once a much-worshipped figure in the Far North she was, as Sinikka puts it, "reformed" away in 1537, so this album brings Maria back into the music. It was recorded in the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, famous for its Baroque organ heard here.
From Norwegian folk singer and harpist Sinikka Langeland comes a seductively subtle contemporary jazz album. The lyrics are all Norwegian or Swedish (the sleeve notes have translations), and celebrate the poetry of Edith Södergran and Olav Håkonson Hauge – the first a shortlived pioneer of modern Swedish poetry, the second the Norwegian "lumberjack poet" who came to the art in his 40s. Langeland's band brings together trumpet-player Arve Henriksen and saxophonist/composer Trygve Seim, and it's a magical combination. Despite a predominant feeling of tranquillity, the singer sometimes adds an almost Nina Simone-like bite, for which Seim's smoky sound, Henriksen's ghostly multiphonics and Anders Jormin's bass are ideal foils. The mood is often broken by grooves that suggest some strange fjord-village cabaret music, or episodes that are like Nordic Miles Davis. It's a real one-off.
The half-finished heaven is the fourth ECM album from Sinikka Langeland, the kantele player, singer and composer from Finnskogen, south-eastern Norway’s “Forest of the Finns”. The music she has written for the ensemble here touches on, as she says, her “whole scale of expression”. Sinnika’s highly original and self-contained oeuvre is informed, in changing degree, by folk traditions of Norway and Finland, as well as classical and contemporary music and improvisation from jazz and other sources. Each of her gifted bandmates brings his own range of colours to the music.