Celtic-Scandinavian acoustic fusion is what Kerstin Blodig calls her music. On Valivann, I hear most of that, especially the “fusion” part, but I’m too much of stickler to call it “acoustic”, with all of the electronics and sampling in use here. There’s an assortment of songs from Scotland and Norway, ballads for the most part. When I say ballad, I’m referring to a narrative, a song that tells a story, but Blodig also shows influence of another type of ballad, the jazz ballad.
I mentioned early that this recording is long on fusion; a wide variety of influences can heard. The title track reminds me of early Pentangle, with modal acoustic guitar, and bluesy electric guitar, but then the uilleann pipes and faint choral background vocals drop into the mix. “Fause, Fause Hae Ye Been” sounds like a Scottish torch song. Creepy murder tale “Horpa (The Harp)” has Blodig singing over industrial percussion samples and an electronic drone. Related song “The Cruel Sister” has a placid melody with pretty harmony voices accompanied by electric guitars, and what sounds like a sampled sitar. “Lullaby” is New Age all the way, with washes of keyboards, faux tribal synthesized drums, and some Kate Bush-inspired wails in the background.
Blodig’s original “Mystical Man” tells of an encounter with a supernatural lover, and features smoky vocals, icy piano, and some sizzling, fried-egg muted trumpet. “The Seal Man” mixes a Scottish text with a Nordic-sounding original melody, guitar, uilleann pipes, and Latin-influenced percussion. A sampled hurdy-gurdy provides a buzzing undercurrent for “Sven Svane”. “Kjetta (The Pussycat)” is techno; busy synthesized drumming, digitally delayed voices, and general odd noises, but then I the middle of it all, a mandolin and bouzouki tear into an Irish reel, “The Mason’s Apron”. The disc closes with “Mine Viser (My Songs)”, another brooding, Pentangle-esque folk-jazz number.
I’ll admit, I don’t care for electronics in traditional musical forms, so I didn’t expect to like this CD. I didn’t want to like it. In the end, though, the arrangements were so inventive, and Kerstin Blodig’s voice so compelling, that I found myself listening to Valivann over and over again.
(Alula Records, 2002)