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Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik – Hugsjá album review

Nordic visionaries Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvikfind new worlds to explore with Hugsjá

Hugsja album cover

1. Hugsjá
2. WulthuR
3. Ni Døtre av Hav
4. Ni Mødre av Sol
5. Fornjot
6. Nattseglar
7. Nytt Land
8. Nordvegen
9. Utsyn
10. Oska
11. Um Heilage Fjell

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Pooling their expansive visions once again, Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and Enslaved’s Ivar Bjørnson return with another evocative journey back into the mists of Norwegian history. Their 2014 collaboration, Skuggsjá, was commissioned to mark the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution and it enjoyed international acclaim for its distillation of ancient Norse music and modern instrumentation. Hugsjá was commissioned by the Bergen International Festival around a theme of migration, and the creative vanguards approached the project with an apt freedom to explore whatever sonic sirens beckoned them – an advantage which they have masterfully exploited. With the mournful thrum of a lyre, the titular opener unfolds into a work of staggering emotional depth, with sparse primal rhythms and droney atmospherics building around soaring vocal harmonies.

This is an album of profound dichotomy; fragile melodies give way to breathtaking crescendos and passages of profound sadness cede to fleeting moments of innate joy. Traditional Norwegian folk music was once the central method of passing stories and traditions through the ages, with each generation augmenting the music with new sounds, stories and ideas. As nomadic people, these songs absorbed elements of the cultures they encountered, both within and outside of Scandinavia. Likewise, with each track, Hugsjá draws in new tones, instruments and melodies, investing each song with a unique resonance. The dramatic closer, Um Heilage Fjell, spins spectral harmonies over velvety acoustic texturing, ending with a sombre a cappella chant followed by a taut silence – a potent culmination to this highly spiritualised experience. Utterly arresting, Hugsjá is a masterpiece.