NILS ØKLAND: Monograph (ECM Records)


Posted on Jan 12th 2010 12:11 am

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Nils Økland: Monograph

ECM Records 2009
13 Tracks. 51mins52secs

Amazon UK: CD Amazon US: CD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

Norwegian Hardanger fiddler and violinist Nils Økland has collaborated with a number of Norwegian jazz and folk formations over the years, most notably with the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, but it is with his solo records, two of which were released on Rune Grammofon, that he is best known. Classically trained, he studied classical violin with Terje Tønnesen, first violin of the Oslo Philarmonic Orchestra, Økland also studied Hardanger fiddle, a traditional Norwegian eight-string cousin of the violin, with some of the most renowned masters of the instrument, before taking on the role of musical director at the Ole Bull Academy, situated in Voss, southern Norway, an institute largely devoted to Norwegian folk music, for a number of years.

On previous albums Straum (2000) and Bris (2004), both released on Rune Grammofon, Økland worked with a number of collaborators, who, despite the stripped down aspect of the records, added textures and undertones to his delicate compositions. For his ECM solo debut, Økland is sole on board. Relying solely on his instruments, three different Hardanger fiddles, for the most part, viola d’amore on three tracks, and an old violin dating back to the 1700s, on two compositions, Økland creates with Monograph a fascinating soundtrack, where earthy sounds gather into wonderfully delicate celestial melodies and tradition and modernity cohabit harmoniously.

While heavily feeding from traditional Norwegian folk, Økland’s music is also imbued with improvisation, giving his work a contemporary experimental slant and making it totally relevant. This was perhaps more prominent with the added instrumentation of pervious records. Here though, the purity of the melodies, combined with the grain of Hardanger fiddle and viola d’amore especially, blurs the boundaries between tradition and experimentation in completely new ways. The fluidity and level of details of Økland’s pieces are staggering, and his performance, at times drawing on melancholy and introversion, especially on Mønster, Horisont or Dialog, at others fuelled with uplifting trills and motifs (Rite, Slag, Seg), captivates and surprises throughout.

For his first ECM offering, Nils Økland has created a work of incredible depth and beauty, all in poetic nuances and subtle touches. Økland’s refined and understated balance between the tradition of his native land and contemporary music gives Monograph a particular hue and is a stark testament to his musicianship.


ECM Records
Amazon UK: CD Amazon US: CD iTunes: DLD Spotify: STRM

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