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CD-review - '03#109


GLIMMER   sturla|andreas  distr. Musikkoperatørene AS   [2L17]

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."
- Henry David Thoreau, 1854

I love a big band, full of percussion, strings and horns, with enough wild dynamics to make your head spin. And I am certainly no enemy of fusion, electronics and studio paraphernalia, and often welcome their intelligent and creative use in the music I listen to. But there are times when a simple, stripped down, in-your-face acoustic approach is really the best.

Norwegian musicians Sturla Eide Sundli (fiddle and hardanger fiddle) and Andreas Aase (guitar and bouzouki) offer a prime example. Their GLIMMER (2L, Norway) offers pure and unadorned duets, traditional and trad-inspired, that will please both lovers of Nordic tradition and anyone with a love of good dance music from anywhere in the world. The opening set, three pieces from the legacy of Sven Nyhus collectively called "Blå", offers a brilliant seven minutes of pure, unadulterated energy, with the stomp of the foot, the cd coverscrape of the bow and a slap on the box carrying the melody on an unstoppable rhythmic wave. The entire recording carries on what the musicians call a "search for the core of the tune", a stripping down and rebuilding of classic ideas until they make them completely and uniquely their own. In a recent e-mail exchange with Aase, he wrote to me, "Fiddle music from Norway is a pretty intense affair, with drones and ornaments providing a lifetime of challenge to any aspiring performer of the instrument. We chose the opposite direction, and started peeling away almost everything but the essential melodies and the rhythms and harmonies they suggest." And that is the essence of what they do, as they move through regal marches, elegant set dances, roaring dance pieces and along the way interject bits of non-Nordic finger-picking on the guitar and occasional Celtic flourishes on the fiddle. It is all recorded live in the lush aural space of a church in Oslo, adding to the magical sound these two musicians can create with two simple instruments.

- Cliff Furnald