Kristian Blak
& Yggdrasil,
(Tutl, 1988)

I never thought of the Faroe Islands as a center of music. Actually, I never thought much about them at all. But this Northern European island group, located between Iceland and Norway, has its own record label and studio, although its population is just under 50,000. If this CD is any indication, the studio puts out some great music.

Kristian Blak has released a number of CDs. Here he teams up with the band Yggdrasil to produce music that covers a lot of ground, bridging the gap between free and traditional jazz. Blak stays in the background for most of Broytingar, taking only occasional piano solos.

Each of the eight cuts has a different flavor. "Street Music" contains a rather avant-garde background over a mainstream sounding jazz guitar solo by Lelle Kullgren. "Umiaq (Boat)" begins with a melodic tenor sax solo by John Tchicai accompanied by Blak, bassist Yasuhito Mori and drummer Christian Jormin. It then has a drum solo by Jormin, a solo by Blak and a flute solo by Anders Hagberg, accompanied only by hand percussion. Throughout all but the tenor solo is a recording of two motorboats that weaves in and out at various times.

The flute solo continues into the next track "Til Tiden (Time)," with Kullgren on rock guitar and Blak playing keyboards, backed by various clock sounds that tick, beep and ring. The title track is a dicey experiment with Kullgren and Tchicai singing wordlessly in a sort of yodel/scat over samples for about six minutes. This one might make you think that the guys should get off the islands now and again.

"Avtoftao (The Abandoned Village)" and "Middle of the Road" blend into each other, with free sax solos by Hagberg (soprano) and Tchicai (tenor). "Kowato" is a traditional jazz number with solos by all the above except bass and drums, and with lively standout by Hagberg on flute and Tchicai on tenor.

It seems that the isolation of these islands has given the musicians here a unique sound, both unusual and sometimes a bit harsh, but having a beauty like the Faroes themselves. If you cannot visit them across the sea, it is at least worthwhile to explore this CD.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 4 September 2004

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