Flod og Fjora
(Tutl, 1996)

Flod og Fjora is a fun album. Spaelimenninir is Kristian Blak (piano, harmonium, drum and vocals), Ivar Baerentsen (mandolin, guitar and vocals), Jan Danielsson (fiddle), Erling Olsen (fiddle), Sharon Weiss (recorder) and Charlie Pilzer (bass). This transatlantic group boasts members from Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Sweden and the United States. Everyone involved brings some music from home along, so Swedish polskas, Faroese skjaldurs, Danish reinlenders and others sit side by side. What it all adds up to is one good North Atlantic kitchen party.

The dance tunes are the backbone of this album. Flod og Fjora would be a great CD to spin at a folk dance get-together; there's a lot of variety and the playing is lively and enthusiastic. Your toes will tap, at the very least, and you may find yourself dancing around the room if you're not careful. Most of the tunes are up-tempo: the ultimate example of this is "Raby Hopsa," a Danish hopsa that sounds like a day at the races. "Hamborg Sekstur," "Freeland's Jigs" and "Da Ferry Reel/Lay Dee at Dee/Miss Spence's Reel" are a few more examples of the tunes on this album. "Freeland's Jigs" were composed for Scottish accordionist Freeland Barbour and "Da Ferry Reel/Lay Dee at Dee/Miss Spence's Reel" is a medley of Shetland tunes, while "Hamborg Sekstur" is a well-known Danish dance number. With the comments in the liner notes, Flog og Fjora is almost a thumbnail course in good dance tunes from the North Atlantic region.

To vary the mood there are a few slower dance numbers, such as the Swedish "Vals Efter Per Rost." The Faroese skjaldurs are the most sober cuts on the album. These songs are sung a cappella by adults to children and they contain images that might be taken straight out of Norse mythology. Most are played in instrumental versions and the arrangements are quasi-medieval ones playing up the recorder ("Rogva Ut a Krabbasker"), or stark ones with the piano taking prominence ("Uppi a Einum Kasi"). Even without the words, the skjaldurs are clearly traditional music of a different order than the lively dance tunes with which they share this album.

To fill the album out, there are a few tracks that don't fall into the CD's main themes but which settle in next to the other tunes just fine. Hedningarna fans will realize that this CD's "Konvulsionslat" is actually the Swedish half of "Vargtimmen." The melody for "Umiaq," written by Blak, reappears on the Piniartut project, in which Blak also participated. Sort of a modern equivalent to a skjaldur is the song "Tolin Hann Situr," which is a Baerentsen original about turning from the material things in life toward the non-material.

The generous helping of 24 tracks and the ample variety mean that this album is one that will get plenty of spins. Flod og Fjora is essential for anybody interested in North Atlantic dance music or in groups of musicians that are obviously having fun playing together. A delightful album indeed.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 6 December 2003

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