BOREAS – Ahoy Hoy (Isle Music ISLE04CD)

BOREAS Ahoy HoyAhoy Hoy is the debut album from Boreas, the latest expression of Scandi-Scottish music fusion. Britt Pernille Frøholm and Irene Tillung represent the Scandinavian side while Lori Watson and Rachel Newton wave the saltire for the Caledonian contingent. An all-female, mostly string line-up – including Hardanger fiddle and electroharp – with two voices and Tillung’s accordion standing up for free reeds.

The combination of instruments allows for some spooky sounds with the accordion bass and Frøholm’s hardingfele providing drones when needed. A prime example is Frøholm’s ‘Bjørnen’, a dark and gloomy pair of compositions. The first song we hear is the single, ‘North Sea Holes’, written by Ewan MacColl for Singing The Fishing and a most appropriate choice for Boreas. We may think ourselves fortunate that they chose to include ‘Happy Set’, four traditional tunes including a puirt a beul, ‘Bat’ An Tàilleir’, and ‘Geld Him Lasses, Geld Him’ which I’m pleased to say doesn’t have words but which can be found in a collection of bawdy tunes. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

The second song is a superb setting of ‘Braw Sailin’, traditional but with adaptations by Watson. It’s a perfect example of the way Boreas construct a track. Lori’s is first heard unaccompanied but a fiddle drone creeps in quietly. With each verse the accompaniment builds in intensity and then, for a split second, everything stops before picking up again.

This is a record that demands repeated listening – I swear that some tracks sound different the second time round. Impossible, of course, but you’ll hear different things, a perception informed by listening carefully the first time, no doubt.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://boreasband.com/

Bjørnen – official video: