SVER – Reverie (Folkhall Records FHR002CD)

ReverieIn celebration of their ten years as a quintet, SVER release their fourth album, Reverie. Recorded live over two days and steeped in Nordic tradition, SVER’s tight-knit musicianship, versatility and sense of sheer enjoyment simply shines through. The band may describe their sound as ‘folk-rock’ but it gleefully transcends obvious categorisation.

SVER’s band members – Olav Luksengård Mjelva (fiddle/hardanger fiddle), Anders Hall (fiddle/viola), Leif Ingvar Ranøien (two row accordion), Adam Johansson (guitar) and Jens Linell (drums) – share an astonishing quality of flow and interplay, smoothly passing melodic phrases and thematic variations, seamlessly and gently leading the listener’s focus from one instrument to another.

Mjelva and Hall (familiar from their Nordic Fiddlers Bloc collaboration with Kevin Henderson) create a pair of delightfully dextrous polkas in each other’s honour. Mjelva embellishes Sjur Viken’s twisting, lively, ‘Lille Grisen’ (‘The Little Pig’), its lithe, taut fiddle pivoting around the drums. In contrast, Andreas Bjørkås’s ‘Lassi’ is an angular, muscular beast of loose, bending notes and a slurring fiddle phrase.

Guitarist Johansson’s ‘E14’ (the name of the road to his home, rather than Canary Wharf’s postcode) is beaty but mellow, the pace gradually accelerating with the joy of returning home, including some rather funky guitar and, unusually, a fade-out. His ‘Annas Vals’ is equally hard to define, with different instruments carrying the slow and tender air by turns, as the rest slide softly around it. The cacophonic clatter of ‘Boot’N Rally’ opens out into a pure, clean guitar that lures the listener onwards to an irresistibly wiggly dance tune.

Mjelva takes on the remaining composition honours, starting with a sweetly rolling tune for his girlfriend, ‘The Doctor’. ‘Batch 15’ is a tight little jig whose woozily reflective mid-point (that moment when you get a bit head-spinny, realise that your legs don’t work any more and order another pint anyway) goes on to ramp the energy back again with a masterful control of pace. The contemplative ‘Reverie’ is probably as dark as this album gets, but is followed by a most light-hearted homage to 70s tv show The Love Boat. A slow fiddle, joined by accordion and guitar, plays a variation on the show’s theme tune, any brief illusion of tastefulness rapidly evaporating in an explosive jazz-rock finale loaded with extra cheese.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ website: www.sverfolk.com/en

‘The Doctor’:

RANT – Reverie (Make Believe Records MBR6CD)

ReverieIf you’re going to make music with a band that consists of just fiddles and violas you have to pretty sure of your ground otherwise it’s going to get rather dull.

Sure, Bethany Reid, Jenna Reid, Sarah-Jane Summers and Lauren McColl stretch the point by importing vocalists for two tracks but they import the best – Julie Fowlis and Ewan McLennan. The opening track, ‘JT’s’, written by Bethany makes a bold statement with almost staccato fiddle phrases leading into a sweeter restatement and then a rocking melody. The mood changes immediately with a set of two traditional tunes, ‘Miss Drummond Of Perth’s Favourite Scotch Measure’ – another great old title – which is given an almost eerie opening and ‘Strathbogie’s Toast’ from Niel Gow’s collection. ‘Dad’s 60th’ is another tune by Bethany, a bright march with echoes of older pieces hidden within it.

The first of the songs is ‘Mary’s Dream’. The words are by the 18th century Galloway poet, John Lowe’ and the tune is traditional – a variant of ‘The Parting Glass’. McLennan’s warm voice is complemented by almost tender fiddle parts. Julie Fowlis sings the other song, ‘Thug Thu Chonnlach As An T-Sabhal’, a strathspey tune with a very different feel. Her vocal dexterity with the Gaelic language is always a delight.

There are two pieces from James Scott Skinner who is always good value, two by Lauren and a couple of covers and the final track is an Icelandic hymn, ‘Fyrir Mig, Jesú, þoldir þú’, brought to the band by Jenna and rearranged by Bethany with an ethereal feel that’s almost chilling, bringing the album to a lovely close.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.rantfiddles.com

The promotional video: