One of the country´s main players of the Hardanger fiddle, the heavily decorated and hand carved instrument is known for its overtones and has been the central instrument in Norwegian folk music since the 17th century, Økland has worked to open the instrument into territories other than folk. Despite working in classical composition and inviting jazz musicians and electronic improvisors onto his recordings, he still remains very much a part of the Norwegian folk music tradition. ”Bris” was composed for a play about the life of the 19th century Romantic painter and fellow West Country inhabitant Lars Hertervik, who was brutally incarcerated at a mental hospital and, in pure desperation, famously painted dramatic landscapes onto every object in his cell. While ”Bris” doesn´t venture far into rapturous Romanticism, it does have dramatic kettledrums and droning bowed bass between the graceful, puritan fiddle sweeps. These devastatingly beautiful compositions are devotional and spiritual in scope, while maintaining a dignified and understated earthiness.
The Wire (UK)
This starkly beautiful instrumental album by Norwegian fiddler Nils Økland is a real grower. It´s austere, evocative and very contemplative music, with minimal accompaniment on harmonium, double bass and atmospherically rumbling percussion that slowly builds to a climax near the close.
BBC Music Magazine (UK)
His music is simple, fragile and sad, but also very powerful, at times overwhelmingly so. The arrangements are straightforward and minimal, with subtle accompaniment on harmonium, double bass, and percussion. There's a ton of passion and drama in this album. It almost seems like it ought to be the score to some kind of epic nautical period film. Truly excellent.
Other Music (US)
”Bris” is an extremely delicate piece of work, handled with grace and dexterity by Økland and his ensemble. Unlike on previous records where he was partly using traditional pieces, Økland is responsible for writing the almost entire album. The twelve songs presented here demonstrate his truly respectful approach to both the instrument, and the music, which was born from the necessity to convey religious messages in the most remote corners of the land at a time when communication was mostly done either through spoken words or music. On ”Bris”, which translates as 'breeze', Økland creates some incredibly dense musical moments, allowing for melodies to emerge from sonic clouds, only to disappear again as mysteriously, creating an often unsettling, yet fascinating, feeling all the way through, from the intensity of tracks such as ”Gjennom” to the vast open spaces of ”Bønn” or ”Grålys”. This third album by Nils Økland further establishes him as one of the great folk musicians of his generation. Yet, the folk tag appears almost too restrictive to describe the scope of this record as ”Bris” references far wider influences and proves a superbly defined platform for Økland to develop his beautiful emotional soundscapes. 4,8/5.
Amazing third album from hardanger fiddle and all round violin and viola master Nils Okland. On ”Bris”, his second album for Rune Grammofon, all the music is self-penned, and this alone is something of a departure from the norm. Joined by long term musical companion Sigbjørn Apeland on harmonium, Mats Eilertsen of Food on double-bass and Per Oddvar Johansen and Håkon Stene on dual percussions - this record will surely delight, calm and lead you to reflect on how much better Rune's output can possibly become. Quite outstandingly beautiful - this is sensitive and lovely in all the right ways. Recommended.
Fiddler Nils Økland hangs on to folk music traditions while slowly changing them into new matter. ”Bris” requires a few rounds before it reveals its deep qualities. It´s challenging, but when you finally get there you have an experience you can trust. The respect with which he meets the musical heritage is just as distinct as the liberties he´s taking. This, his third album, is probably his most realised so far. 5/6.
From the first note you´ll hear that Nils Økland´s ”Bris”, the (Hardanger) fiddler´s third solo album, opens up a new sound and tone world that´s not common in any musical surrounding. The music floats along with great visual power: melancholy and mighty, wild and crazy, sensitive and lovely. 5/6.
Nils Økland´s third album ”Bris” is a manifestation of the free interpretation of traditional music where the Hardanger fiddle´s possibilities are challenged by a strong wish for renewal and fusion between genres. It has become a mix that challenges various forms of folkmusic in a meeting with other, often new, musical forms, resulting in subtle and beautiful rooms of vast dephts. 5/6.
Nils Økland is a master of several musical languages and manages to create a complete and personal expression from various impulses. Sounds and atmospheres are, if possible, even more focused here than on ”Straum”. This music breathes.
From the sonorously superb Norwegian label Rune Grammofon comes yet another release of deeply rewarding avant-garde music. Nils Økland is a master of the Hardanger fiddle, an ornate, hard-carved instrument with roots in Norwegian folk music dating back to the 17th century. On this album, his third overall and second with Rune Grammofon, he plays the roles of both folk preservationist and intrepid modernist by bringing the instrument onto the stage of contemporary art music. He welcomes and explores collaboration with jazz and electronic players without compromising its power as a lead voice or obscuring its rich timbres, and the moods conjured by its tones are those of resonant, desolate beauty.
But the focus throughout Bris is on økland's patient melodies, gorgeous string sound and immaculate sense of pacing. By alternating tone poems reminiscent of Maya Homburger and Barry Guy's explorations of baroque music, dark pure sound explorations and lilting fare that'd keep your average Väsen fan happy, he's come up with a record that transcends labels and rewards repeated listening.
Album of the week.
Klingan P2 (SE)
When Økland takes his country´s resonant and traditional instrument into an old church and dips it in a soundpool of contemporary art music and improvisation the music really vibrates. It´s enough just to listen. Dive into music brimming with nuances. Very impressive.
Økland is moving slowly out of folk music and towards contemporary art music, and what a record this has become! It´s a proud statement that stands rock solid on it´s own terms. The fiddle seduces and takes the listener along on twelve immensely beautiful and melancholic travels.
He moves effortlessly between classical, jazz and folk worlds and on ”Bris” he takes traditional Norwegian folk music and opens it up to ambient sounds and improvisation, composing new music for the Hardanger fiddle. The result is spacey ambient nu folk full of subtle textural manipulations and heartbreakingly beautiful melodies.
Time Out (UK)
It´s the kind of album that with its darker edge and unschooled approach, might reserve itself for specific times and moods. And yet, as austere as it can be, there's also a subtle beauty about it, a hidden lyricism that harkens to a simpler life, freed from the clutter that occupies the lives of most of its audience. Strangely distant yet completely engrossing, “Bris” is an album that, most importantly, continues to reveal new experiences with each listen.
All About Jazz (US)
A lot has been written about the distinctive mood found in Scandinavian music, but in this case mentioning the endless landscapes, cold weather, and melancholia-laced folk tunes would not be a bunch of clichés. Despite the fact that Økland moves away from folk music on this album (experimenting with low-friction arco playing and free forms, among other things), his pieces, especially his solos, remain firmly anchored in that heritage, and that's all for the better, as the result is delightfully draining emotionally.
All Music Guide (US)
While Økland's previous albums featured traditional pieces, ”Bris” is almost entirely composed by him. As a result, while some of it retains an ancient feel (a stately ballad like “Stor,” for example, could just as easily have been composed hundreds of years ago as today), pieces like “Bris,” “Flyt,” and “Gjennom” find Økland and company pursuing freer experimental directions. While it's unified by its sonic palette, ”Bris” offers no shortage of dynamic contrast; compare, for example, the heartbreaking string melodies of the mournful “Avminnast” to the rumbling drum storms and aggressive sawing in the thunderous “Gjennom.” To call ”Bris” folk isn't inaccurate yet it's also a criminally delimiting label for music of such graceful and hypnotic breadth.
Though all the compositions on ”Bris” are Økland originals, there is the sense that these pieces are indeed traditional Norwegian folk ballads. Furthermore, Økland's ability to convey a sense of expressionistic intimacy is remarkable. The pieces on the record elicit a powerful emotional response from the listener at times. One receives the impression that the Hardanger fiddle, for Økland, is a catalyst for transforming his vision of the Norwegian folk tradition into a contemporary form of musical expression. The melodies and tones on the album conjure up for the listener austere, wooded, snowy Norwegian landscapes that are positively teeming with life. ”Bris” is an astonishing piece of work, and Rune Grammofon is to be commended for the album, another in a long string of extraordinarily strong releases.
By turns firebreathing, tranceinducing and achingly lovely, ”Bris” is a breathtaking experience.
Signal To Noise (UK)