Erlend Apneseth - Fragmentarium [Hubro Music - 2020]
Erlend Apneseth is best known as a hardingfele player from Jølster in Sogn og Fjordane in Western Norway. The hardingfele is a traditional Norwegian stringed instrument similar to the fiddle or the violin, the name itself translating into English as Hardanger Fiddle. Fragmentarium is his third solo album since his 2012 debut, but he has also appeared with his own band the Erlend Apneseth Trio on three albums, as well as being part of the collaborative project Jølster alongside Gro Marie Svidal, Synnøve S. Bjørset, and Sigmund Eikås.
Musically Apneseth is rooted in jazz, but he tends to adopt a holistic attitude to music, drawing from a variety of musical styles to create his own modern take on a jazz, folk, improv style. Opening track Gangar has a gypsy feel to it with Apneseth’s hardingfele at the center of things alongside Ida Løvli Hidle’s wonderful accordion playing. Du Fallande Ford is up next and definitely fits more into the traditional folk camp, however, there is an experimental aspect that gives the song a freshness that I really quite enjoyed. The title track Fragmentarium is up next and ambient field recordings are the order of the day, a meshing of spoken word segments intermingle to act as an intro before we are treated to something far more traditional sounding, one can’t help but imagine this being played in the Scottish highlands by bagpipers and the sound wafting down into the valleys below. Gruvene is up next and represents something far more experimental, whilst still with its roots in folk music. I quite enjoyed this one it takes traditional music for its basis and builds a little more improvised weirdness into the song structure, creating something that is identifiable as both traditional music and something quite Avant-Garde.
No, Etterpå is the shortest track on the album at only one minute and twenty eight seconds long, a fleeting piece of music dominated by Apneseth’s fiddle playing that operates as an introduction to the next track Det Mørknar, which is one of the standouts for me, hints of Pink Floyd’s 70s heyday sit alongside avant-garde jazz. The Floyd influence can be heard especially in Stein Urheim’s wonderful guitar playing. This track really stands out on its own as something quite unique and interesting. Omkved is the album closer and would make a fitting choice to soundtrack the Norse sagas, and at only three minutes long it is one of the shorter numbers on the album, yet it still manages to exudes a certain amount of power for something so short.
Overall, Fragmentarium is a beautifully produced album that mixes styles effortlessly from a 30-year-old bandleader whose age belies his incredible ear for music. Apneseth is a true star of modern music and still has a great many years ahead of him. The fact that as he matures, he may become even better is fabulous news for us, as if this album is anything to go by, he will be making interesting music for a long time to come yet.Darren Charles