Väsen — Trio
(NorthSide NSD6077, 2003, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2004-04-01
I’ll admit that one of the things I normally like most about Väsen is the unconventional use of percussion, so the prospect of a Väsen album without a percussionist was not at first promising. I know that the group started as a trio, but I found the expanded lineup more interesting. While Trio may lack the punch of the quartet’s recordings, there’s plenty of energy, and the result is not in the least sleepy or mellow. The basic combination of acoustic guitar, violin/viola, and nyckelharpa is a pleasant one, and certainly not familiar to fans of American, British, or Celtic folk music. In this hour of music, there are many moments that seem to adhere to traditional arrangements, but also much playful modern influence, especially in Roger Talroth’s guitar, when he breaks into some chunky, rock-flavored barre chords to accent a melody. Often, Mikael Marin’s viola will pick up those accents, providing a nice contrast to the droning of Olov Johansson’s nyckelharpa. Many of the tracks are polskas, which seems to be the dominant type of tune in Swedish folk. The polska is a dance in 3/4 time, but Väsen has a habit of messing the accents about so it’s often hard to pick out the 1-2-3. I swear they sometimes add a 4, or drop the 3, maybe to throw off the dancers, maybe to keep it interesting for themselves, or maybe as a way of foiling expectations. In any case, it can be a lot of fun.
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