Runoja (Heilo HCD 7180, 2003)
There has been a great deal of interest in new music coming out of Norway, mostly in the field of jazz/ambient, so it is good to hear something which has its origins in older words and music. In this case it is rune songs, which are partly based on shamanic incantations. Since these don’t have melodies as such, Langeland has borrowed themes and tunes from Finland and Karelia.Runic incantation is often used for healing and protection and requires a powerfully emotive delivery. She certainly follows this tradition. Her voice is clear, intense and covers a wide range of expression. Of course, I don’t actually know what she is singing about but the power and purity are moving and transcendent. She fixes the listener’s attention as she shifts from near whispers to sustained vocal somersaults.
Although this is an older music there are contemporary presences here in the form of Arve Henriksen and his weird otherworldly trumpet, bassist Bjorn Kjellemyr and drummer Pal Thowsen. They are all skilled improvisers, an important concept in rune song, and they contribute varied settings, both sparse and rich, alongside her commanding voice. Henriksen’s vocal style of playing is a perfect foil to Langeland, especially on Ukko and Tirun Lirun. But look out for the rhythmic bass which drives Pakeneva.
Further instrumental colour is added by Langeland’s kantele, that ancient stringed instrument which produces cascades of ringing crystal notes that, alongside bowed bass and trumpet, enhance the haunting atmospheres of tracks like Vinterrune.
At times she displays a hard edged tone to her singing, a bit like Julie Tippetts. At others there’s a trace of Mari Boine Persen. But that apart I can’t readily think of any real comparisons. It is a refreshing sound and one that I would like to hear more of.