Marlbank Sinikka Langeland, The Half-Finished Heaven, ECM ***1/2

The Norwegian singer/kantele player Sinikka Langeland has a substantial track record on ECM dating back nine years, her music straddling the traditional folk side of the label’s output and the non-aligned swathes of improvised music the label has put out since 1969.

Langeland’s previous albums left little footprint on my own personal interior soundtrack I must confess. But this one has made much more of an impact on me, perhaps it will on you too. Naturalistic impulses underpin Langeland’s artistic outlook and here she sets texts of the great Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer to music on three tracks also finding some space to incorporate some of her older music dating back to the 1970s. Recording with a small ensemble in Oslo’s Rainbow studio – that’s violist Lars Anders Tomter, The Source’s Trygve Seim, tenor saxophone, and Markku Ounaskari on percussion – on the title track Langeland uses the remarkable 39-string kantele, the Finnish dulcimer.

Opening with ‘Hare rune’ Eastern sounding, like an instrumental chant, ‘The Light Streams In’ following has a beautifully sad vocal from Langeland ancient sounding on the Tranströmer poem. Seim leads the plangent melody of ‘The White Burden’ into a comfortable space for the ensemble and one of the nice things about the album is its sparseness but also its revelatory qualities, and the title track certainly has a limpid stately grace to it, a quality many of the tracks here share. Stephen Graham

Out now. You can listen to a sampling of the album here  

Sinikka Langeland, above. Photo: Dag Alveng/ECM

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