Otherworldly Norwegian Folk-Influenced Sounds From Sinikka Langeland
Sinikka Langeland‘s axe is the kantele, the magical rippling Norwegian stringed instrument which is sort of a Nordic counterpart to the English psaltery. Langeland got her start in the world of traditional music and then moved from that seemingly inexhaustible well to writing her own songs, and then to improvisation. Her latest album, Wolf Rune – streaming at Spotify – features solo instrumentals and original songs.
She sings in Norwegian in a full, expressive, sometimes grittily soaring voice. She plays with a purposeful, lingering approach, using the kantele both for ringing, chiming textures akin to a twelve-string guitar, and also for violin-like washes in places. And she uses its full range: on the sparse Kantele Prayer, for example, she gets a muted, low-register texture almost like an oud.
Most of the songs here have a slowly drifting pace, occasionally blurring the line into ambient music. That aspect is what’s going to appeal to non-Norwegian speakers. For those who can appreciate her lyrics, she typically uses nature imagery, often metaphorically. The lure and perils of the ocean are recurrent themes; otherwise, these songs are populated with moose, wolves and wintry tableaux.
In the album’s epic centerpiece, When I Was the Forest, she rises to a symphonic, energetic peak: in places, it could almost be early 70s pastoral Pink Floyd with a woman out front. In Winter Rune, she alternates between a spare, hypnotically plucked interweave and harsh, cello-like scrapes. The best song title – and most warmly immersive track here – is Don’t Come to Me With the Entire Truth. There are no boisterous salutes to bellicose Norse gods here: Langeland is dedicated to creating a much more contemplative, original sound world.