Ellika Frisell,
(GIGA Folkmusik, 2004)

Ellika Frisell is an accomplished Swedish fiddler who has played with the groups Filarfolket, Den Fule and Rosenberg 7; she has also released music under her own name with Sven Ahlback (of Rosenberg 7) and Mats Eden (of Groupa). Some of her other endeavors include touring with Senegalese kora player Solo Cissokho and playing Baluchi music in the band Padik.

Frisell grew up listening to rock and pop music, then got into folk after she left high school to "start a revolution in the countryside," as she puts it in the liner notes. She started fiddling for village dances, and one thing led to another as she met other folk fiddlers. Playing with musicians such as Ole Hjorth and others led to learning from them; she has also studied with the Indian violinist K. Shivakumar.

In other words, her varied musical background has translated into a career with many facets. On Prat, she dispenses with anything other than herself and her fiddle, and she lets her fiddle do the talking.

The first piece, "Kopmanpolskan," sets the pace well; brief, with the unusual dissonances that are a hallmark of Nordic folk music. The casual listener may find this off-putting on initial acquaintance. Once listeners get a few tracks into the album (there are 22 pieces here), they may find a subtle alchemy occurring; what were odd musical juxtapositions start sounding normal.

The setting is spare, no question about it; it is to Frisell's credit that she can keep interest from flagging with a varied program of traditional dance tunes and some of her own compositions. The traditional "Lansmansvalsen" is a lovely waltz that is the antithesis of saccharine. "Ack Om Jag Hade/Polska" is a medley of two polskas that is simple in tone, but wonderfully convoluted in structure.

As always with a GIGA release, the liner notes (in Swedish and English) are detailed and give context to the tracks, including memories of the musicians from whom Frisell learned some of these tunes.

Prat is a good example of contemporary Swedish folk fiddling; with its roots in the tradition, it reaches for different places. It's recommended for those who would like a taste of modern Swedish folk in a spare setting.

by Jennifer Hanson
17 June 2006