Border Woods by Frode Haliti

Frode Haliti | Border Woods
Hubro (CD/LP/DL)

Norwegian Hubro label has established itself in recent times as a hub(ro) of some exciting experimental music coming mostly from Scandinavia. One of its specifics is particularly stretching the boundaries of folk music, or to be more precise, envisioning folk music in its true glory and incorporating, or giving back to it, the experimental elements it always contained anyway.

So it is no surprise that one of its more renowned artists is accordionist Frode Haliti, who also records for ECM, whose 2018 album Avant Folk created quite a buzz in avant-garde musical circles for its outgoing combination of folk, improvisational jazz, post-rock and modern classical music.

Now Haliti is back with his follow-up effort Border Woods. But while Avant Folk was going out in all directions, with a ten-men strong band, Border Woods researches the limits of folk music in completely different directions. First of all, the number of musicians is limited to four this time around, and along with Haliti’s accordion, the featured instrument is Emilia Amper’s nyckelharpa, a very old Swedish national instrument that can be explained as a keyed fiddle. The other two involved musicians are percussionists Hakon Stene and Eirik Raude. Take that percussionist description in a very loose manner, as Stene and Raude use different percussion setups, play vibraphone and marimba as well as different object that can produce rhythmic sounds.

Secondly, on Border Woods Haliti goes on a somewhat different musical exploration – he mainly sets up duo musical combinations, setting a Scandinavian folk tune and then searching for different tonal and percussive modes those tunes can present. For example, as Haliti explains, for the composition ‘Quietly the Language Dies’ “The percussionists played on glasses tuned in quarter-tones, while Emilia played a quarter-tone tuned tenor nyckelharpa, and I used a quartertoned tuned accordion. It’s the same instrument I used on the track ‘Kingo’ on Avant Folk. I had it tuned in Cairo years ago, with some notes tuned to Arabic scales. The fun thing is that it fits so well with Emilia’s harp, where some notes are tuned in quarter-tones too, but intended for Scandinavian traditional music. The result is some archaic sounding music from who knows where!

Actually, ‘archaic sounding music from who knows where’ is an almost precise description of what is going on in the track Border Woods, an almost precise title in itself, because the album is like a walk through (misty?) woods where you are not certain what lands they are bordering, but certainly presenting quite a mystifying experience.

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