Einar Selvik and Ivar Bjornson will be familiar names to fans of Wardruna and Enslaved respectively and it’s clear from the very beginning that the ‘Wardruna’ sound is very much present on this album, as the whirring wind-like effect kicks off the introduction on opening track ‘Hugsjá’.  Primal, earthy and evocative, it’s the closest to Einar’s work with Wardruna on this album.  What follows is an interesting blend of ancient instrumentation and contemporary folk, including a selection of modern acoustic and electronic instruments.

‘WulthuR’ and ‘Nattseglar’ both open with foreboding drones; the former featuring a mournful horn accompaniment.  Both have a rather stripped-down approach, yet with a contemporary folk edge – ‘WulthuR’ featuring a drum kit and acoustic guitar, whilst ‘Nattseglar’ opts for synths to accompany the kit.  On ‘WulthuR’ the chord progressions and harmonies carry the track, lifting it from it’s gloomy foundations, bringing feelings of hope and strength.  ‘Nattseglar’ heads in a more hypnotic, psychedelic direction with use of reverb, a merry-go-round of swirling melodic repetition, complimented by unusual time signatures and complex rhythmic patterns. 

More rhythmic complexity can be heard on ‘Ni Døtre av Hav’ with its unusual time signatures and syncopation.  Stylistically, this track has more of a traditional Pagan Folk vibe, with a well-defined Verse-Chorus structure and plenty of musical & emotional peaks and troughs.

Ambient field recordings are scattered throughout the album, in particular the sound of birds to open ‘Ni Mødre av Sol’ and the sound of a boat navigating the open seas on ‘Utsyn’.  The former has a distinctly gentle, reflective mood and chords seem to hang in suspense, leaving the listener stranded, wondering the direction the song will take.  There is a wonderful blend of traditional, acoustic instrumentation and modern electronica heard here, neither being a distraction away from the other – everything comes together so harmoniously. As for ‘Utsyn’, it’s for the most part another almost Wardruna-esque track, especially during the powerfully uplifting chorus, with the only difference being the introduction of modern instrumentation part-way through the song.

Surprisingly, ‘Oska’ and ‘Nordvegen’ offer up something a little different to the rest of the album.  ‘Oska’ is rather modern sounding, with its psychedelic folk-rock vibe.  The lead string instrument reminds me of Devon’s own modern folk singer-songwriter Seth Lakeman and as a whole arrangement, of Scottish Folk band Lau. There is even a mid-tempo Dark Country stomp at the half-way mark.  ‘Nordvegen’ takes a straightforward, traditional acoustic folk ballad approach with only simple reverb to expand the sound, making it appear larger and fuller than it’s stripped-back instrumentation would naturally produce.

The one weak point for me personally is the track ‘Nytt Land’, which is mostly dissonant and almost atonal at times.  It has moments of being lifted from its uncomfortable din when momentum builds after the first third and as harmonies and melodies begin to develop.  During these pleasant moments of respite, the song takes on life and is rather listenable and somewhat enjoyable, in fact certain parts remind me of Sigur Ros’ compositional and musical style.  Whilst not being a complete turn-off, the less tuneful aspects of this song take the edge off the overall enjoyment, which is a shame because there are moments of brilliance interwoven amongst it all.

The album’s finale is provided by ‘Um Heilage Fjell’ with a reflective and heartfelt performance all round.  I get the sense of deep longing and calling out to the ancestors in Einar’s vocals, which is all the more emotive with the use of sparse arrangement featuring predominantly ancient/traditional instrumentation.  The sobering sound of the wind blowing brings the song and the album to its close. 

It feels an absolute privilege to witness such thoughtfully crafted, immersive compositions, written and performed with such wholeheartedness and passion for the subject matter.  You can tell that Einar in particular really expresses himself, his knowledge and his beliefs through the music and he’s doing a great job of bringing the Old Ways to our modern era.  A connection with earth-based practices, nature and ancestry, respectfully honoured and brought to life through music.  I believe fans of Wardruna can certainly connect with this album in a similar, if not entirely identical way.





Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik - Hugsjá

Release Date: 20th April 2018
Label: By Norse
Band Website: Official Facebook
Buy Album (physical): By Norse Official Store
Buy Album (digital): Bandcamp

4.0Overall Score

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