Kristian Blak,
Shalder Geo
(Tutl, 1997)

Shalder Geo, by Kristian Blak, is a collection of instrumental music based on traditional vocal and instrumental music from the Faroe and Shetland islands. The name "Shalder Geo" refers to a place in the north of the Shetlands where shalders (oystercatchers) nest. The CD jacket and booklet are covered with references and explanations concerning the traditional elements of Shetland and Faroese music, leading one to believe this is going to be a collection of traditional music. But, while some of the pieces have a traditional sound, there are some that don't support the implied "traditional" theme.

For instance, "Naanie an' Bettie," based on a "very old reel from Whalsay, Shetland," sounds like something straight out of a period concert. It begins with a light piano and something that sounds like a plucked cello (nothing similar is listed), then flows into a beautiful recorder with the piano stepping back as accompaniment. It's a very lovely and airy piece that actually seems like it's from another time.

After "Naanie an' Bettie," a faded-out electric guitar of the title track is a rather sharp contrast that is a bit hard for the ears to accept. This electric guitar is not simply playing older tones; this is more like Eddie Van Halen only with a subdued volume.

The sharp contrast effect also occurs within the same song, such as "Trana Tryta." Again, there's a faded-out electric guitar as the focal element when it suddenly and abruptly stops. Then, woodwinds and percussive elements appear in a punctuated manner that is seemingly unrelated to the previous music. (I checked and they are indeed the same track.) The lack of coordination between the two phases of the song makes the composition seem disjointed and lacking any sense of cohesion.

The main problem with this album is its inconsistency. Taken individually, most of the tracks are quite nice, but the album itself doesn't seem to be coordinated. While the packaging may lead to expectations of traditional-sounding music, don't harbor those expectations. Instead, approach Shalder Geo with expectations of eclectic sounds and you won't be disappointed.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 24 July 2004

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