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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 96 - 07/31/04

Bumble B
Flight of the Bumble B
Acony Bell

Until recently, I hadn't bought any vinyl albums in a very long time. A couple of days after receiving a copy of the Nick Nicely compilation Psychotropia on the nice Tenth Planet label, I found out it was to be released on CD soon, with even more tracks. Alas! (Anyways, Nick's single "Hilly Fields (1892)" is a neo-psychedelic classic from 1982, very well worth checking out in any format.) The plastic Psychotropia thing is a limited edition of 1,000 copies. Bumble B's solo debut LP is even more limited, only 400, so run for it!

Our BB is the female singer, fiddle- and violaplayer of The Smell Of Incense. Their latest offerings have been released by German September Gurls Records. The boss of September Gurls was fascinated by her voice and encouraged her to record an album centered around the voice. Acony Bell is a folk or acoustic psychedelia subsidiary label, I guess, of September Gurls. BB has an upbringing with traditional Norwegian folk music and she's chosen 19 of these songs for the album, plus an additional instrumental version of one of them. Originally, the intention was to keep the songs sparse, the voice alone or in combination with one intrument only. She's expanded the concept a bit. Some of the tracks have two or more instruments and here's even one full-blown folk-rocker with the entire The Smell Of Incense. It makes the album richer and more varied. The folk purists (there's still a few of them around) will probably object against the lack of respect, including unsuitable modern elements like electric guitars (oh my!) and electronic devices - even an unsuitable sitar. That's beyond the point. BB presents some beautiful melodies and keep the heritage alive. You migt put the 'folk-psychedelia'-tag on the album, if you so wish.

It's difficult to pick favourites among the 20 tracks. Being introduced to Norwegian folk by the folk-rock movement in the late 1970s and 80s, and being a great appreciator of the music of The Smell Of Incense, "Varulv" (Werewolf) featuring the band is the most obvious choice, though. I think the song might've gained somewhat had it been a bit rougher and rawer, but in company with the other songs here, the smoother edges fit nicely. "Signe Lita" (Little Signe) is the other electric song with relaxed vocals over a carpet of glissando and e-bow guitars. Gives me the shivers. The viking number, so to speak, "Ormen Lange" (The Long Serpent - name of the proud ship of the viking king Olav Tryggvason and his brave men) also stands out; quicker and more uplifting than the overall impression with dynamic hand drum and bells.

The set mainly concentrates on songs from Telemark, the county with probably the richest folk music traditions in Norway. The album includes several ballads and other beautiful songs: "Å - Vil Du Hava Meg Til Å Kveda?" (So - You Want Me To Sing?, only one voice), "Flanarormin" (The Sea-serpent, double voices), "Folkestadvisa" (Song From Folkestad, accompanied by acoustic guitar), "Liti Kjersti" (Little Kjersti, double voices and harmonium), "Langt Inn På Ville Heii" (In The Wild Mountains, harmonium and flute) and "Svend Svane" (maybe meaning The Swan Boy; fidde, flute and organ) to name but a few. The lyrics are in Norwegian, of course, mainly about forsaken love or mysterious incidents. They are not printed on the cover, but a nice sheet inside a nice paste-on sleeve gives a description of each song in English.

My only minor objection is that the pauses between some of the songs are too short. They give little time for reflection and afterthought. I guess the Flight... is not the best introduction to Norwegian folk music, and probably never was the intention. It's first and foremost a vocal album. BB's voice has similarities with Maddy Prior's of British Steeleye Span: pure, straight, no vibrato. Listening to the album and watching a crazy little kitten playing along on the floor leave me at ease and peace...

The vinyl version might be ordered via September Gurls. A limited quantity of CD-Rs of the album are available from Bumble B herself.

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