Norwegian folk singer Sinikka Langeland has spent the past 15 years making music with a variety of musicians. That work resulted in five studio recordings, all released through ECM Records GmbH. Now this year, Langeland branched out and released her debut solo record, Wolf Rune. Released April 9 – also through ECM GmbH — the 42 minute album is an interesting presentation. That is proven through its musical and lyrical content. The record’s musical arrangements blend elements of older Norwegian folk music with a modern influence for a whole that makes for its own share of interest. The depth in the album’s lyrical content adds its own interest to the presentation. Together, they make the album a presentation that will appeal to Langeland’s most devoted audiences and an interesting introduction to her and her catalog for all others.
Sinikka Langeland’s debut solo album, Wolf Rune, is a presentation that is worth hearing at least once among audiences new and established. That is proven through the record’s musical and lyrical content. ‘Polsdance from Finnskogen’ is just one of the ways in which the record’s musical content supports the noted statement. The three-minute-plus composition is a full instrumental opus. It features Langeland by herself performing on one of a variety of kanteles. For those who may be unfamiliar with the instrument, a kantele is a wooden, stringed instrument that looks kind of like a hammer dulcimer, only slightly smaller. The minor key that Langeland uses in the arrangement and the subtlety in the arrangement makes the song so rich and immersive. The use of the layering here enhances the arrangement even more and immerses listeners in the song that much more. What’s really interesting here is the modern sound that it produces. Even with the folk instrument at its heart, the song’s arrangement sounds like it would fit well in with any modern renaissance movie’s soundtrack. At the same time, it works just as well as its own modern/folk hybrid composition.
‘Polsdance from Finnskogen’ is just one of the songs featured in this record that proves how its musical and lyrical content makes it worth hearing. ‘When I Was The Forest,’ the record’s midpoint is another example of what makes the album’s overall content so engaging. The song clocks in at just over seven minutes. Even in that time, the song does well to keep audiences engaged. That is because while the arrangement is subdued and contemplative in its own right, it still boasts its own sound and stylistic approach. In this case, the song sounds more akin to something Celtic and even a little country than anything from Norway. That in itself might make for its own cultural statement.
As much as the song’s musical arrangement does to engage audiences, its lyrical companion adds its own touch to the whole. The song’s lyrical theme presents a message of positivity and even touches on a bit of epicureanism. That is evidenced in the song’s lead verse, in which Langeland sings, “When I was the stream/When I was the forest/When I was still the field/When I was every hoof/No one ever asked me/Did I have a purpose/No one ever wondered/Was there anything I might need/For there as nothing I could not love.” This is that seeming naturalist mentality. At the same time, one could also argue that it is also a statement about being happy with the simple things in life. This is especially the case when she adds, “It was when we left all we once were/That the agony began/The fear and questions came/And I wept/I wept/And tears I had never known before.” Here again is that sense of gaining enlightenment and pleasure in the simple things in life. It also continues to present that theme of epicureanism. Langeland’s note of God being “ever present in my arms” when the song’s subject returns to nature in the song’s second verse adds even more to that aforementioned sense. The positive nature (no pun intended) of the lyrical content that encourages listeners to appreciate the simple things in life (including nature) pairs with the song’s gentle, flowing sound and stylistic approach, the whole makes the song that much clearer in its strength. The whole makes the song that much more proof of why the album’s collective content makes it worth hearing. It is not the last of the songs that exhibit that strength, either. The album’s title track, which closes out the record, is one more example of the importance of the record’s collective content to its presentation.
‘Wolf Rune’ is so intriguing because of how different it is from the rest of this record. The arrangement here, together with the lyrics, makes the song sound comparable to a Gregorian chant for most of its nearly five-minute run time. Of course as the song progresses, Langeland does start to make the song grow and change. Through it all, there is still a certain chanting sense about the song. That is especially the case as she sings/prays to “St. Anne/Mother of Greywolf/Forest queen/Forest woman…Honeyed rain from the could/Dripping from the roof of the heavens.” She also sings/prays to St. George, telling him to “Tie up your dog/With an iron bit and an iron saddle. She closes out the whole thing, which basically urges the taming of the wolf, by praying “In the name of the father/The son/and the Holy Ghost.” It really is an interesting presentation in itself. Again, here is that spiritualism also somewhat displayed in ‘When I Was the Forest.’ That element and the general approach here is one more example of what makes this record’s content so important to its presentation. When it is considered with the presentations in the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s songs, the whole becomes an interesting addition to this year’s field of new World Music offerings.
Sinikka Langeland’s debut solo album, Wolf Rune, is an intriguing presentation that her established audiences and World Music audiences alike will find worth hearing at least once. That is proven from beginning to end of the 42-minute record through its musical arrangements and lyrical content. The arrangements, while all very subdued in their sound and stylistic approach, are all different from one another. That in itself makes for reason enough to give the record a chance. The lyrical themes are unique in themselves, offering topics and approaches that are rarely if ever touched on in any genre of music. All three of the songs examined here serve well to support the noted statements. When they are considered along with the album’s other songs, the whole makes Wolf Rune an interesting addition to this year’s field of new World Music albums.
Wolf Rune is available now through ECM Records/GmbH. More information on the album is available along with all of Langeland’s latest news at:
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