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FRIBO - Happ

FRIBO - Happ
Fribo Records 00035

This enterprising outfit made great waves with its debut CD (The Ha’o Habrahellia, Fellside, 2007), largely but not exclusively due to the pioneering efforts of one of its founder members, fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers. She’s now moved on, but not before contributing significantly to the recording sessions for the follow-up release and paving the way for her replacement, Hannah Read, who appears on just two of the CD’s 11 tracks, and whose playing style will no doubt in time be bringing more pronounced elements of Scottish fiddle music and even jazz into the established, predominantly Scandinavian-influenced “new music from the old north” that characterises the band mix.

Happ is thus something of an album of transition, with the remaining two co-founders (charismatic singer and flautist Anne Sofie Linge Valdal and innovative guitarist Ewan MacPherson) now joined by Swedish percussionist Magnus Lundmark to make Fribo into a quartet. Musically, it presents a similar kind of tapestry to the band’s debut, although there’s further evidence of the eager broadening of their musical experiences that the band members have undergone over the past four years, in the lively percussion embellishments on some of the tracks especially, also perhaps in the slightly fuller overall sound-world enabled by the addition of double bass lines from guest musician Ailig Hunter on half of the tracks.

The disc contains a generous handful of compositions by Ewan, three by Sarah-Jane and one by Anne Sofie, with the bulk of the rest being skilful, if at times a touch idiosyncratic, arrangements of traditional material. There’s an infectious and exhilarating (even cheeky) vibe about the music-making, and yet the musicians can still pace themselves and relax into slower tempi when needed, as on The Honey Waltz, which steadily drips its languorous, sweetly eerie atmospherics, Anne Sofie’s charming and delicate sing-song vocalisation that introduces Galen-Maret and its increasingly frantic tune-companions, and Ewan’s contemplative rendition of Robert Frost’s poem Miles To Go (here done in Rowan Rhenigans’ setting). In common with Fribo’s debut disc, the new record similarly contains a spirited example of puirt a beul (in this case wedded to the Norwegian song Kvennaviså), with guest singer Naomi Harvey joining Anne Sofie. The “open house” musicians certainly sound “happ” (in good health) here, and the disc augurs well for a similarly healthy future for Fribo.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.