“The Half-Finished Heaven”
Dagsavisen – 27.02.2015
New music from Sinikka Langeland is always an important event. As one of Norway’s few kantele players she is much more than merely a curiosity; she is a unique artist who preserves and modernises a distinctive musical heritage. Since her previous album, the masterly The Land That Is Not (ECM, 2011), she has, among other things, composed several highly acclaimed commissioned works which certainly ought to be recorded, and was a guest artist with the group Big Bang on a recording and at the Oslo Spectrum concert hall. The Half-Finished Heaven is a continuation of her series of albums with ECM. This is truly pan-Nordic music, and she becomes a one-woman Nordic Council when she brings together Finnish and Norwegian jazz and classical performers and sets major Nordic poems to music. This time she sings three poems by Tomas Tranströmer, but her main focus is on newly composed instrumental music, some of which is based on traditional music from Finnskogen.
Yet again it is exquisitely beautiful; the forests are singing out with something great and ancient in this music. Birds are a recurring theme, as the title of the album suggests, and several song titles underscore the theme of stretching out and finding one’s wings. All the same, I cannot shake off the feeling that the ensemble work was more exciting in the previous record, which featured Arve Henriksen on trumpet and offered more challenging sounds. Here there is less contrast between strings and strings, with Lars Anders Tomter on viola, while Trygve Seim on trumpet sometimes veers towards the clichéd image of ECM jazz (reverb, repetition of simple melody lines, very breathy tone). But we can comfort the critic from Bergens Tidende, who when reviewing Langeland’s previous record stated that it was certainly good, “…but this is demanding music”. This one is, for better or for worse, less challenging.
Playing at the National Gallery, 19 April.
BERNT ERIK PEDERSEN