CD REVIEW: Sinikka Langeland – The Magical Forest

Sinikka Langeland - The Magical Forest
(ECM 2448. CD review by Henning Bolte)

Finnish singer / kantele-player(*)  Sinikka Langeland’s latest album with her eight-piece ensemble is a wondrous instance of spiritually unfolding pure and deep musical sounds. In close connection/communion with her strongly dedicated fellow musicians Langeland gives shape to the ancient mystical image of Jacob’s ladder, truthfully and abundantly in all its facets and dimensions. In firm togetherness of their individual voices the musicians evoke and celebrate moments of shining as well as moments of feeling secured within inscrutable wideness.

Time and again these eight musicians bring about moments of sound which radiate like light,  and conjure up visions of buzzing illumination. The feeling of physical space goes together with elevating imaginations. The emergence of these particular qualities is due to a special alchemy of sound with continual inversions of high and low, dark and light, the vocal and the instrumental, deeply breathing pagan rhythm and vaporizing sound-streams.

It is neither ambient nor common song singing, it is a third entity arising from the distinguished interplay of these eight musicians: Sinikka Langeland, kantele  and vocals, Markku Ounaskari, drums, Anders Jormin, double bass, Trygve Seim, saxophone, Arve Henriksen, trumpet and Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Berit Opheim, the three voices of Trio Mediæval. Involving these three female voices here is a superb choice. These musicians have an extraordinarily well-developed organ for the orchestration of sound forces, sound temperatures and sound colours.

I was lucky to experience the first public performance of this music deep in the nightly wintry Finnskogen(**) forest, the forest that inspired and nurtured this music. It is a great pleasure to experience how these sounds born from and deeply connected to this forest environment have found their way into the artificial context of the recording studio, losing nothing if the concentration and pointedness they have in their original environment. It is a touching example of what art can do and accomplish with its own combination of intuition, engagement, focus and discipline. This manifestation is a magic door to something real outside and inside us.

The purely typographic album cover is a boon. It generously and fully leaves everything to the listener’s feeling and imagination. The music’s cyclical nature allows different routes through the album’s nine pieces/tracks. By accidental circumstances I departed from track five, which appeared to be the title piece. Its gripping, fascinating simple motif opens the floodgates of the imagination. As in nature, each sound has its own space in this music. It reveals itself to the audience by a wonderful polyphony of voice(s) in space. The singing and instrumental voices find each other confidentially in sound and soul in unprecedented way.

NOTES (*):The Finnish kantele is a clear and light sounding table harp. This kind of table harps are found in countries from Finland to Japan, in manifold variations and sizes.

 (**): Finnskogen is a deep forest area 130 km northeast of Oslo at the Swedish border where Langeland was born and still lives. This area was settled by Finnish migrants in the 17th century. The music is deeply rooted in the specially preserved and developed Finno musical culture of Finnskoge

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