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CD Feature/ Streif: "Nordic Winter"

img  Tobias

We all know that too much love will kill you and the same goes for beauty. With a coverpicture of snow-covered firs glowing in the evening sun, an album title promising dreamy pictures of lands in white and the line-up typical of a folk band, one expects “Nordic Winter” to be one of those smooth but uneventful affairs free of surprises, which may work fine for a song or two but fail to capture your attention for all too long. A decidedly wrong impression, as already the opener indicates.

In the six and a half minutes of “Estland Vuggevise”, a parisian accordeon joins frosty marimbas, before the harmonies tighten and dark clouds unexpectedly lead into a meeting between acoustic drones and a fluid electric guitar. Something like Pink Floyd in Antarctica, this is a swelling and decongesting atmosphere of an impressive intensity. The following pieces are of a more traditional nature, but even here the slow rock moods of the epic “Saktmodig Brudemarsj” are arranged in such a stretched-out fashion that it never touches the banale and the way the ensemble manages to turn the loping clarinet lines of the only three minute short “Jenta I Naeset” into a dark and barren landscape is more than just skillfull. An acoustic fourpiece, Streif are made up of experienced musicians who all have various projects running alongside this one. The resulting laid-back atmosphere of not having to proove anything to anyone anymore is essential, as it allows the project to tread otherwhise forbidden territory and walk the intersection between Rock, Folk, Ambient and Classical music. Against all odds, it is a potent cocktail which borders in almost danceable sections as well as in moments when time comes to a stand. Cleverly arranged, the album takes a short break from the monumental in its middle section, slackening the reins only to end with two spacey between-the-stools excursions. Suddenly, a pushing drum and bass motive fades in from underneath the radar, the tension builds to the point of total collapse and the electric guitar wheeps and cringes in agony and high hopes.

Without the shadow of a doubt, this is music to be enjoyed live, when the thrill of the concert situation allows for even more dangerous tightrope acts. It can only be guessed at where these pieces could go from their already daring outset. Which is a small-scale sensation considering my initial expectations. But then again, maybe that has to do with sitting in comfortable Germany, instead of having to face the roughness and brutal mood swings of the real “Nordic Winter”.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ozella Music

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