Saturday, January 25, 2014

Frifot - (untitled, 1999)

(untitled; 1999)
ECM Records (Out of print)

This is probably my favorite of their work. This album shows the diversity in the beauty of the groups folk-style playing: some tunes emphasize vocals, some straight-up tunes, some moments have loose solo instrumentation. Although the band seems to be centered around 3 players (viola, violin, and mandola/cittern), they additionally play other instruments, such as various flutes, pipes, harmonica, dulcimer, cowhorn, etc.
Most of the tracks are stunning.  Fafänglighet features fiddle harmonies that crosses over each other, and the tempo seems to fluctuate.  There are moments where it seems the tune might come to a screeching halt, and times when it feels like they're racing through a portion of their melody.  But, as you can easily hear in the quieter passages, their feet are tapping on the 1st and 3rd beat of every measure, and their playing stays totally in time:

There are times where the players seem to be straining the volume and tonal abilities of their instrument to their peak, especially on their harmonies:

There is also a sense of "melodic compression" in a couple of the tunes... Where a main melody is repeated, or its rhythm is condensed or altered, with a lesser note value than originally introduced, until it catches up with the beat once again.

The one track the stands out the most is "I Hela Naturen/Mjukfoten."  Divinely executed, it starts like a loosely-woven ballad with Ale and Lena.  Moving into a solid rhythm on solo mandola, fiddles come in only for last minute or so and truly take it to supernatural planes with engulfing dynamics: