Knút Háberg Eysturstein,
(Tutl, 2004)

Havsglóð is Knút Háberg Eysturstein's debut album, and I am reviewing it here because I had missed a chance to review it elsewhere and happened to note to our editor-in-chief that it's a good one. It showed up in the mail a few days later.

I ran across a notice on the Internet that opened with "Here's another Faroese singer-songwriter...," a statement that threw me a little. It then went on to list a number of Faroese musicians on whose traditions Eysturstein has built, and I can only echo the words of that commentary: his music "takes things one step further." I'll take it on faith that he goes beyond the traditions of contemporary Faroese music, but I found that Eysturstein's music doesn't really sound all that different from a number of American singer-songwriters -- until one listens closely. Quite aside from the fact that some songs are done in Faroese, there are contrasts, tonalities, rhythms that aren't quite what one expected. I'm sure the combination of electronics, synthesizers, acoustic instruments and vocals is not unique to Eysturstein (in fact, let me cite Dead Can Dance and Qntal as just a couple of groups who come close), but I've not heard anyone else who sounds like him.

"Í Hesi Nátt" grabbed me immediately and made me go back and listen to the first few tracks more carefully. And then I sat down to really enjoy the rest. "Shine," which follows the showstopper, is a deceptively simple ballad that becomes a magical interlude, graced with subtle electronics and a peaceful melodic line, not to mention Eysturstein's quiet and magnetic vocals. The title track, which finishes the album, is haunting, a mostly instrumental track that just winds its way quietly through some very appealing changes.

I have to admit to being completely charmed by this collection on close listening. There's an ethereal quality to a lot of the music that calls to mind rain and sea and looking off into far distances, and yet there is also a definite sense of being solidly planted on the earth, as well. Stuck in a backwater like Chicago, I hadn't even been aware that there was a music scene in the Faroe Islands (to be perfectly honest, it wasn't something I had thought about at all), but it's obviously one to keep an ear to, if Eysturstein is any indication.

Personnel: Knút Háberg Eysturstein, vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitars, keyboards, synthesizers; Jana Halgrímsdóttir, backup vocals; Ólavur Jákupsson, backup vocals; Baður Ó Lakjuni, flute; Høgni Lisberg, drums; Allan Tausen, bass; Jens L. Tomsen, bass; Jákup Zachariassen, pedal steel guitar.

by Robert M. Tilendis
4 February 2006

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