Sinikka Langeland: The Land That Is Not (ECM 2210)

The Land That Is Not

Sinikka Langeland
The Land That Is Not

Sinikka Langeland vocal, kantele
Arve Henriksen trumpet
Trygve Seim soprano and tenor saxophones
Anders Jormin double-bass
Markku Ounaskari drums
Recorded September 2010 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Norwegian singer and kantele virtuoso Sinikka Langeland expands the brilliance of her ECM debut, Starflowers, in a program of original settings of poems by Edith Södergran (1892-1923) and Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994). Here the enmeshment of her roots with modern jazz achieves a harmony of the spheres. “I long for the land that is not,” she sings in the title song, “for I am weary of desiring all things that are.” Södergran’s words reveal a shaded, modernist voice that, like Langeland’s, tracks border zones between melancholy and luminescence. The rasping of her bandmates sets a tone of expanse by a sound that is both new for Langeland and an intensification of the traditions feeding every word she shapes.

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Regarding said bandmates, Langeland nestles herself in the company of trumpeter Arve Henriksen, saxophonist Trygve Seim, bassist Anders Jormin, and drummer Markku Ounaskari—all familiar names to anyone whose ridden ECM’s Nordic currents in the past decade. Yet despite recognition of those names and the varied styles flowing from beneath them, this is not an album of solos and highlights. Verily, one might point to Seim and Henriken’s trajectories in “What Is Tomorrow?” and the herder’s call that begins “Spring In The Mountain,” or even the anchored bassing of “A Strip Of Sea,” but these are three stars in a galaxy of thought that spins outward from the program as a whole. They emit light as melody incarnate, dusting the crops of Langeland’s salt-of-the-earth voicings with affection.

The Land That Is Not, then, is not just a title but also a method. In being so vividly founded in language, its awareness peels away from terrestrial understandings. The larger questions put forth by such songs as “Triumph Of Being” and “It’s The Dream” seem to shine from the mouth of Time personified: a creator and destroyer in one. The grooviest passage thereof pave equal deference through light and darkness, while around it all Langeland’s kantele paints an ever-growing ice shelf of c(h)oral colors before planking a harbor of need at which we may all dock ship, spouting the rhyme of the most ancient mariner of them all: love. This is how we arrive at such a cosmic reach. Be it through the thaw of spring in the words of a laboring current (“The River Murmurs”) or trembling of first encounters blown into dust (“The Day Cools”), left like a trail of breadcrumbs along a freely woven path of fortune (“Lucky Cat”) or as the bloodstain of a heavy heart (“Slowly The Truth Dawns”), we can feel in these arrangements the ticking of some giant clock, of which we are the faintest passing seconds, such that by the end flesh becomes the shroud of a new year, a new era, a new self-awakening.

Like the label it calls home, this music travels by unraveling, even as it unravels by traveling.

(To hear samples of The Land That Is Not, click here.)

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