Review: Daniel Herskedal and Marius Neset – Neck of the Woods – released Aug 2012

I was wondering how to sum up the feelings prompted in me by this interesting new album.  On Twitter I posted one word – sublime.  I think I have another three words inspired by Shakespeare ” …a dying fall”.    If you never knew what that meant, then listen to this album and you may find they make sense. This album is the latest from the Edition mine of beautiful music. The cover is lovely, the CD itself is a work of art with delicate snowy patterns on it.  Norwegians Daniel Herskedal on tuba and Marius Neset on saxophones are supported by the Svanholm Singers from Sweden.  This is not just everyday Scandinavian melancholy, no there’s humour and playfulness here, wistfulness and peace within its forty minutes.  It creates a very special mood, not one to easily classify, not least because of the unusual pairing of instruments.  I think it will grow on you.  Most of the compositions are by Daniel except for The Wedding by Abdullah Ibrahim.

Marius literally blew us off our feet last year with his Golden Xplosion tour and album. He’s spellbinding in performance, you can feel heat, there is so much energy in the room emanating from him.   His saxophone seems to float, it’s a living thing almost.  I recently saw him at Pizza Express where he surprised even himself at the tempo he played City on Fire, blisteringly fast.  I also saw him at St Georges Brandon Hill (see my review of Dave Stapleton’s Flight) where he revelled in the perfect acoustic.  But it’s not just technique or virtuosity you remember with Marius, it’s passion and fire, the sheer joy of performance.

The first and title track Neck of the Woods will leave you spellbound,  Marius and Daniel have created a piece of heartbreaking beauty.  The gorgeous swoops of Marius’s sax, the feather-light tuba supporting it, the voices, some subtle electronics – they all work together.

Eg er Framand shows off the beautiful solo voice of Hallvar Djupvik.  If I can trust an online translation of this song it is “I am a pilgrim who will stay only one night here. I seek the City of God where sorrow & death are no more. Dear Lord, lead me to Heaven’s shore.”   So I feel a bit more comfortable with my initial impression of this album, it is a bit melancholy and full of lamentation.

But it’s balanced by some pastoralism and the magic we heard on Golden Xplosion’s Angel of the North (about a fjord) we hear on this album.  If Golden Xplosion was urban, then this album is pure Norwegian fjord.   The light, clear voices of the choir add to the feeling of space, coolness and echo.  The Christmas Song’s haunting melody will be part of my Christmas from now on. If I need snow and moonlight on Christmas Eve, here it is in this charming composition by Daniel.

The final track, The Wedding by Abdullah Ibrahim, is played so delicately and ends so gently, you wonder if you are dreaming.   Here is the dying fall I started with, it just floats off into the distance, leaving you to savour a very pleasant feeling of Scandinavian melancholy.

Neck of the Woods - Daniel Herskedal & Marius Neset

You can see Marius and Daniel at the Edition Records Festival at Kings Place on Sunday 16 September 2012 at 2pm. I cannot wait!

You can also see them at St Georges Brandon Hill on 17 September and at Dempseys in Cardiff on 18 September (supporting Asaf Sirkis).

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