Erlend Apneseth Trio: Det Andre Rommet

There's much to recommend about Det Andre Rommet, but one thing above all others stands out: Erlend Apneseth's Hardanger fiddle, the mere sound of which captivates whether the track in question is a formally composed piece or improvisation. Similar to Blikkspor, his debut album, the new, forty-minute collection includes both original compositions and improvs, though admittedly the differences between them are less pronounced when the material as a whole exudes a live, spontaneous spirit.

The instrument's natural timbre lends itself to a plaintive folk expressiveness, but while that aspect is definitely present on the recording, Apneseth also aspires to push the Hardanger fiddle into less familiar territory (in the liner notes to the release, he writes, “One of my greatest sources of inspiration has been exploring my own instrument, finding new sounds, discords, really anything that can evoke a new mood or association”). He's abetted immeasurably in that quest by the sympathetic support of drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde (Electric Eye, Building Instrument) and guitarist Stephan Meidell (Cakewalk), who first appeared alongside Apneseth on the closing track of Blikkspor. In fact, it would be more accurate to describe Hegg-Lunde as percussionist than drummer on Det Andre Rommet, given how much he and Meidell channel their energies into generating textural support for the leader's playing. Still, however far Apneseth, who hails from Jølster, and his partners venture into experimental realms, the fiddler's connection to the Norwegian folk music tradition remains firmly in place.

The Hardanger fiddle's ability to mesmerize is evident the moment the folk drone “Trollsuiten” inaugurates the recording with Apneseth's keening tone and hypnotic bowing, Hegg-Lunde and Meidell subtly present in their near-subliminal enhancements. Rarely on this album does the former play a straight beat and the latter never solos in the conventional sense, but their contributions are nevertheless integral. The rich percussive colour Hegg-Lunde generates from bells and cymbals during “Det Andre Rommet,” for instance, does much to distinguish the piece, just as the atonal shards Meidell coaxes from the guitar make for an effective counterpart to the fiddler's strangulated wail.

A distinct similarity between Apneseth's trio and Dirty Three asserts itself during the fourth track, “Sapporo,” when the distance separating the cry of Apneseth's fiddle and Warren Ellis's violin in the Australian trio begins to seem modest indeed. Still, if there's a go-to track on the album, it might be “Magma” on account of a haunting theme that reaches a glorious, hellacious roar when delivered with maximum intensity by the trio. Regardless of whether he's heard alone or in the company of others, Apneseth's a naturally inventive and ever-searching player who commands one's attention whether playing an entire setting using pizzicato (“Dialog”) or plumbing the greatest rustic depths possible of a given piece (“St Thomas-klokkene”).

November 2016