NILS ØKLAND – ‘BRIS’ (2004)

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THETAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE -

CaoimhínÓR­aghal­laigh

In early 2005, I wanted to buy a hardan­ger fid­dle, and the uil­leann piper Mick O’Brien put me in touch with the Nor­we­gian vi­o­lin­ist and Hardan­ger fid­dle spe­cial­ist, Nils Økland.

At the time, I knew noth­ing of Nils’s mu­sic, but when I met him in Lon­don to pick up the fid­dle, in ad­di­tion to the Hardan­ger, he gave me his al­bum Bris. This quickly be­came an all-time favourite of mine, and ex­erted a huge in­flu­ence over me – I think.

At that time, I felt as though I had two par­al­lel lives as a fid­dler: one quite tra­di­tional, and one some­what ex­per­i­men­tal. It was im­por­tant to me to keep them sep­a­rate, to keep the tra­di­tion some­how “pure”. But Bris gave the im­pe­tus to al­low the di­vid­ing mem­brane to breathe a lit­tle, to re­lax the polic­ing of those bor­ders and wel­come the out­side in­flu­ences in.

I think one of the big­gest in­flu­ences the al­bum had on me was the tonal land­scape of Nils’ playing – it felt in some ways very fa­mil­iar, and yet pushed things so much fur­ther than I had pre­vi­ously en­coun­tered. In playing our own tra­di­tional mu­sic, I had found my­self drawn to a sound that felt more drift­wood than stain­less steel to touch. Some­thing richer, dirt­ier, and more com­plex than clearly ar­tic­u­lated notes. There’s a wealth of un­ac­knowl­edged power that mu­sic gets from a bit of dirt un­der the fin­ger­nails.

The mi­cro­cli­mates of in­to­na­tion in our own tra­di­tional mu­sic have also al­ways fas­ci­nated me, but Nor­way has a whole other en­tire uni­verse of choices for the pre­cise tun­ing of notes. So this al­bum from Nils showed me ways that you could ex­tract these spe­cific things and hold them up to the light on their own, turn them over and over and ex­am­ine them from ev­ery an­gle.

An­other path Bris opened to me was the world of Scan­di­na­vian per­cus­sion, which is so dif­fer­ent from any­thing I had ever heard be­fore. Less of playing/con­trol­ling the beat, and more of cre­at­ing sound, noise, tex­ture. It’s a path that I con­tinue to ex­plore through playing with Pet­ter Bern­dalen in This is How we Fly, who is such a fas­ci­nat­ing hu­man be­ing. NIALL BYRNE

This Is How We Fly kick off their Ir­ish­touronSatu­r­dayNovem­ber3rd in­TheModel,Sligo,and­con­tinue un­tilSun­day,Novem­ber18th,with the fi­nal date in Cough­lan’s, Cork thi­sishowwe­fly.net

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