Album Review of
För sola skin' på tak

Written by Joe Ross
March 12, 2023 - 10:51am EDT
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Featuring nine songs composed by Thomas Eriksson, this new Swedish-Norwegian super trio offers delicate, exciting, innovative contemporary acoustic music that showcases the masterful talents of Thomas Eriksson (guitar), Helga Myhr (Hardanger fiddle, vocal) and Anna Malmström (clarinet, bass clarinet). It’s their unique instrumentation that really set them apart. Opening with “För sola skin’ på tak” (For sun shine on the roof), bright Hardanger fiddle strings converse with the robust voice of the bass clarinet while the melodious guitar weaves its magical threads through the fabric.  We hear elements of improvisation, as well as voiced expression based on melody, descant, harmony and counterpoint lines. It makes for a very adventurous journey.

At track 5, Eriksson/Myhr/Malmström have a carefully-cultivated original “Halling” that is inspired from the distinctive Norwegian dance of the same name. With its two-beat rhythm moving seamlessly, I can only imagine an energetic solo male dancer leaping, kicking and improvising in an acrobatic fashion. Similarly, “Gangar” seems an invitation for a couple to walk and prance about in joyful playfulness. In “Askerby,” the triplets played by Eriksson on his guitar give the selection a Celtic-infused jig-like feeling.       

Thomas Eriksson has long been playing on the Swedish and Norwegian folk music scene in many different projects but is now finally seen with his own band. He does a splendid job highlighting the guitar as a melodic instrument and providing space for sounds and free improvisation. The guitar’s melodic and contrapuntal role adds a new nuance, and the Hardanger fiddle and clarinet go beyond their roles as melodic instruments with improvised soundscapes and accompaniment.

Thomas once stated, "I was looking for an instrumentation where ordinary melodic instruments could also add an exciting accompaniment when the guitar leads the melody. When I heard Helga Myhr's solo album which contains a lot of improvisation and soundscapes, I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for. I have always liked the the sound of Hardanger fiddle and bass clarinet together, and I wanted to be able to write a three-part arrangement with access to a deep bass. It was then a natural choice to ask Anna Malmström to join the project."

So, just who are these three musicians? Thomas Eriksson is a guitarist and composer who works mainly with Nordic folk music. After graduating from the University of Music and Drama in Gothenburg in 2016, he has worked as a theater musician in many productions at the renowned Västenå Theater and freelance with other projects, some which he has also composed the music for.

Hardanger fiddle player and singer Helga Myhr made her debut as a soloist with the 2019 album Natten veller seg ut. The album’s exploratory and free interpretations of folk music from Hallingdal received a nomination for the "Spellemannprisen.” Myhr also participates in other projects and is a permanent member of Kvedarkvintetten, Morgonrode, improduo together with Tanja Orning and Dei kjenslevare. In 2020, she composed the work "Andsyning" for the festival "Osafestivalen.” 

Clarinetist Anna Malmström is a folk musician sprung from the urban folk and world music scene in Sweden. With Nordic folk music close to her heart, she embraces Eastern European melodies, jazzy solos and poetic taksim improvisations with inspiration from Ottoman music culture. With Anna's great curiosity and rich timbres, she constantly finds new ways of expression. Since 2014, she has toured with bands such as Sallyswag, GKN5, World Band, Ale Möllers Zenomania, Erik Dahl Ensemble to name a few.

As their debut 32-minute album draws to too quickly a close, “Saltskär” seems to tell a poignant tale with its singing strings and woodwind sounds.  “Å lykton” is a stately air that closes the set with pomp, solemnity and a splendor that personifies their signature, earthy sound. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)