Sometimes ancient musical expressions and their deep melodic luminosity can be brought forth anew in stronger and more immediate lustre by combining the traditional musical substance with modern arrangements, skills and production.
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Bruvoll/Halvorsen is a new and stirring Norwegian duo that manages to do exactly this in exquisite and truly ear-opening manner by rearranging and reinterpreting Norwegian medieval ballads.
Their debut “Nattsong” was warmly embraced when released in 2004. And this year’s “Trillar for To” has been even more keenly praised, for with it they have established a niche in the musical landscape that merges ancient musical tradition, and its strong lyrical properties, with almost pop-like catchiness. As with their debut, medieval ballads form the backbone of “Trillar for To.” New arrangements and novel instrumentation furnish these songs, some of which date back more than seven hundred years, with new robes and a totally new appearance. Traditionally the songs were mainly vocal expressions with a one-dimensional and probing simplicity. Bruvoll and Halvorsen have taken these gems into a new expanded musical landscape by letting the stark vocal melodies be accompanied by guitar and tasteful modern band arrangements. And this time around they have also included some compositions of their own as well as adding verses and expansions to the traditional tunes.
As is well proven, the guitar has a sonority that locks extremely well with the human voice, and in the hands of Bruvoll/Halvorsen the combination enriches the melodies and weaves a delicate sphere around them, making the listening experience subtle and complex. The melodies stand forth in new lustrous clarity with the gentle shimmer of acoustic guitars around them. Tore Bruvoll’s playing is delicate and rich, with different moods and techniques intertwining creating a wonderful aural atmosphere. But the pair go further than just enriching the melodies, they also expand the songs as such, introducing influences of blues, bluegrass and country and even pop. Thus they are taking the medieval ballads into the landscape of modern folk music at its best, with virtuous instrumental skill, crystalline arrangements and exquisite production. No less than forty musicians contributed on “Trillar for To”, but the core is always Bruvoll’s guitar and Halvorsen’s intense, fine singing which subtly changes in mood from haunting will-o-the-wisp-like invocations to merry, folksy tunes. Trained from early age in the traditional song technique of his home realm of Telemark –perhaps the strongest citadel of folk culture in Norway- it is Halvorsen who provides the duo with the song material, and his singing that represents the unbroken thread of tradition in their musical enterprise. With such a virtuous and insightful instrumentalist as Tore Bruvoll the ancient expression stands forth in new and moving lustre.