Nanna Barslev is a Danish singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist. From 1998 she was lead vocalist and drummer in Gny, and in 2003 joined Asjnje as the singer, composer and lyricist before fronting the band Huldre between 2006 to 2019. Here she offers us her debut solo venture, Lysbærer, released on By Norse Music.
The title translates to “Carrier of Light”, a reference, I believe, to the sun and moon lighting up the dark and changing the seasons. All the songs were composed by Nanna with production handled by Fieke van Der Hurk at Dearworldstudio in the Netherlands, the duo handling the arrangements together. The album was mastered by Iver Sandøy. Lysbærer comes with a 20-page booklet containing the lyrics with their English translations plus photos, which were taken by Nanna. Unfortunately I have not had a chance to view this as it was not included with the review download, but if the same care and attention went into creating the booklet as Nanna has taken with the music, it will be a very worthy addition to the album.
The album has a dark Nordic folk feel, although there are lots of moments of brightness and feelings of hope in the nine songs, ranging from three to seven minutes. Nanna has this to say about it: “Through the process of making this album, I’ve been diving into the melancholic roots and energies with a fire torch in my hand, searching in the dark for what could be healed”.
Nanna’s music has been described as alternative Nordic folk and medieval pagan, the use of older traditional instruments helping with the overall feel, in fact really enhancing it, along with her interpretation of Nordic folklore and mythology which often forms the themes of her songs. Listening to the album it is clear there is a firm musical connection to the past, with moments within the drum patterns that are reminiscent, to me, of the Viking era. That said, this album is so much more, maybe akin to the music used by story tellers of days gone by for their sagas. These thoughts are what I feel from listening to this music, but where the album really succeeds is that it is sure to appeal in different ways to each listener, allowing them to form their own judgement, and surely that’s a good thing.
Opening track Skjoldmø, which I believe translates to ‘Shield Maiden’, is so well constructed it gets across the mysteries, awe and skills associated with these famous historical women. The Nordic tribal feel is atmospheric from the start with the occasional sounds of crows cawing, leading us to a change of drum patterns at around 2-minutes in, upping the tension, coupled with Nanna’s wonderful and ethereal voice. This is a pattern which unfolds throughout the album, each song carefully constructed, instruments chosen the enhance the feel and direction and all coupled with Nanna’s wonderful voice, it makes for a great experience.
This is ably demonstrated on the title track, Lysbærer. The mood and atmosphere gradually builds throughout the song, with careful selection of instrumentation to accompany Nanna’s vocals, each giving the other room to breathe and be heard. All of this comes together to give us a song of beauty and positivity.
Throughout all the tracks, nothing feels cluttered. It is a well balanced sound with each instruments clear, Nanna’s wonderfully ethereal voice soaring above. She has great clarity and an amazing range, nowhere more clear than on the track Askr, a spellbinding vocal delivery that holds your attention for all of its six-minutes.
This is an excellent debut album from Nanna. She has managed to weave her musical tales in a spellbinding fashion, the Nordic and tribal leanings giving rise to some historical sounds and moments of beauty, whilst maintaining a current and modern feel. A fascinating release with lots to enjoy, with hidden depths which make repeated plays a must.
01. Skjoldmø (6:57)
02. Runebundet (4:28)
03. Mod Vrede (5:41)
04. Askr (6:01)
05. Lysbærer (3:45)
06. Rhimfaxe (5:09)
07. Jagtmarker (7:05)
08. Sunna Sol (4:04)
09. Sten (3:06)
Total Time – 46:19
Nanna Barslev – Moraharpa, Islandsk Langspil, Borden, Flute, Target Harpa
Lies Sommer – Hurdy Gurdy, Harp
Record Label: By Norse Music
Country of Origin: Denmark
Date of Release: 18th March 2022