Was it not Jebediah Springfield who once said: “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”?
Likewise, and with all certainty, music of true quality embiggens the soul, and few artists have a spirit as noble as Kim Rafael Nyberg and his collective, Afenginn.
Their 2016 album, OPUS, made a huge impression on me, cleansing my musical soul with its intoxicating mix of folk, pop, orchestral classicism and prog, a heady brew that I played A LOT, and still do. There is a reason why the project was given an Old Norse name that means ‘strength’ and, indeed, ‘intoxication’.
And now to the latest release Klingra, a word from the language of the Faroe Islands which translates to ‘circle’, ‘ring’, ’round’, which ties in with the circular feel of the music, built on minimalist repetition, as evidenced by the use of piano in opening track Skjálvtin, twinkling like steady rain, leading into sweeping strings, delicate yet persistent, clashes of percussion adding a purposeful edge. The warm voice of Ólavur Jákupsson arrives with skittering drums: “‘the ocean is nothing without faith in the Droplet’ whispers the deep as it’s rising”, in translation from the sung Faroese. It’s beautifully arranged and a heart-warming listen, cleansing in the way that truly organic music can be. A low narrative, adds depth, there are clearly stories to be told here in the earthy folk tradition.
What sets this music apart is the low-key momentum of the various drums and percussion, when they appear within the orchestral sweep. It adds a new and compelling dimension that disappears as quickly as it arrives, like a will-o’-the-wisp. This is central to Ivin, the base upon which all else is built, a dynamic multi-rhythmic pulse, with a deft lightness of touch – a rhythm to live within.
The dynamic of the music moves from sparse and delicate to thunderously orchestral, and it can be an emotional ride, brimming in turns with sadness and uplifting joy. Composer, arranger and creative force Nyberg has done another amazing job here, framing the lyrics of Dánjal á Neystabø, shot through with vistas and textures of the natural world, to perfection in four of the tracks.
Here and there the soaring violins remind me of some of the gossamer elements of Michael Nyman’s more ethereal work, effortlessly gliding in a descending arc above piano and the other strings, as during Litirnir. Just beautiful. The gorgeous colours of Litirnir move into the heavenly celestial bodies of Himnakropparnir – these tracks are named for a reason, and named well: “We crash to the ground and bounce to the sky…”.
Vitin is the lighthouse, standing alone, desolate and distant against the storm, solid and unremarkable, yet extraordinary, the Creation that follows in Skapanin having an incandescent wateriness about it, a rebirth perhaps? The simple melody line is beyond effective, heart-warmingly beautiful, ending with a basic piano pulse, like a heartbeat.
Tøkkin sees the return of Jákupsson’s voice, streaked with emotion in a simple prayer-like folk piece, punctuated by a mournful violin line:
The tears we shed decreased with the years and fell to the ground, dry from age and now lilies sprout from the rubble
The words we forgot in our haste, as the world took oﬀ still alive in the belief a wistful ray appears in the horizon
For a short while we see the world in colours awake we float around in tiny pieces
In a while we’ll glimpse the deep chasm and awake we bloom in a new shape
Awake we let go of what has passed for a while we rest in thankfulness and peace.”
It’s almost overwhelming, all floating on sedate piano that carries us into final track Eftirskjáltvin, but the aftershock it describes is a delicate one of blissful realisation, possibly that the woes of the world can be overcome with strength and integrity, in a swelling piece that slowly builds to a crescendo of voice, piano and orchestration, falling away again to the repeated 5-note piano pattern that the album began with, and then to nothing on an electronic pulse: “Fallen from the clouds, born again seldom saw a visage more lovely”. It finishes, I sit here in nothing short of awe.
Afenginn play dates in Germany and Russia in the coming months. I’d drop everything for the chance to experience this wonderful music live. I offer my complete and sincere gratitude to Kim Nyberg and everyone involved in putting this album together. This is truly music of another realm, beamed in to make the world as we know it a better place. It is life-enhancing, joy-bringing and uplifting in an other-worldly way that is rooted in tradition and the organic.
Just listen below and buy with complete confidence.
01. Skjálvtin (The Impact) (6:50)
02. Litirnir (The Colours) (4:25)
03. Himnakropparnir (Celestial Bodies) (3:41)
04. Ivin (The Doubt) (5:46)
05. Vitin (The Lighthouse) (6:25)
06. Skapanin (The Creation) (4:39)
07. Tøkkin (The Thanking) (3:55)
08. Eftirskjáltvin (The Aftershock) (7:14)
Total Time – 42:55
Dánjal á Neystabø – Piano, Additional Vocals (on Himnakropparnir)
Teitur Lassen – Piano, Additional Vocals (on Himnakropparnir)
Ólavur Jákupsson – Vocals
Mikael Blak – Synthbass, Bass Guitar
Niels Skovmand – Violin
Jakob Johansen – Trombone
Maggie Bjorklund – Pedal Steel Guitar
Knut Finsrud – Drums, Percussion
Ulrik Brohuus – Drums, Percussion
Danish String Quartet – Strings
Music composed and arranged by Kim Rafael Nyberg
Lyrics by Dánjal á Neystabø
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Denmark
Date of Release: 11th October 2019