Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik
20th April 2018 – ByNorse Music
03. Ni Døtre av Hav
04. Ni Mødre av Sol
07. Nytt Land
11. Um Heilage Fjell
When two people, both equally driven to creating their exact musical vision, come together as Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (Wardruna) have, you end up with a project that bears a massive amount of hype.
Bjørnson is fresh off new albums from both his main band, Enslaved, and a solo ambient project he released under the name Bardspec. Meanwhile, Selvik has been working on Wardruna. The pair last collaborated in 2016 with the commissioned piece Skuggsja, A Piece for Mind & Mirror album; a contemporary neofolk album that was commissioned for the bicentennial of the Norwegian constitution and was an international success, reaching ninth on the Billboard World Music Charts.
Now in 2018 they are set to release another piece, commission by the Bergen International Festival, this one focused on recounting Norwegian ideas, traditions, and musical influences from past to present, titled Hugsjá. The album makes use of modern instruments alongside traditional Norse ones.
This time around feels like a more cohesive whole. Skuggsja was a combination of the two bands (Enslaved and Wardruna) and Hugsjá has moved on from focusing on those sounds and creating something entirely new. There are still echoes of the members’ other bands here, but they are more downplayed.
With many artists, trying to make a folk record would feel forced. However, both Selvik and Bjorson are very serious and well-versed in the Norwegian folklore and tradition and this familiarity creates a truly authentic feel. They know what they’re doing and aren’t here to fuck around. The nuances are likely only clear to those who can understand the Norwegian lyrics, but for those that don’t the gist is more than enough.
Hugsjá, which means “to see in the mind”, is a journey through both the physical landscape of Norway: island-dotted coastlines and icy mountains, as well as the spiritual landscape. It is meditative and thought-provoking, drawing the listener in with a range of sounds and moods. Tracks such as “Nytt Land” display a gentler feeling and the “Nordvegen” feels uplifting and jaunty whereas “Fomjot” is darker and more tribal and the title track is a stormy, ritualistic journey into the depths of the mind.
The album, according to Bjørnson and Selvik themselves, is divided into three parts, although this isn’t marked on the track listing. The first part is meant to reflect the governing forces of the gods; the second part is about the settlement of the Norse lands; and the final part, as always, is death. The album moves through these parts with grace and ease.
The product is truly magnificent. The instruments are all well done and mixed clearly, and the vocals are incredibly clear. It sounds like a cloudy day with a hint of sunshine peeking through the cover. The layered vocals are a highlight of the mix, bringing forth a lot of emotion and passion.
Hugsjá is a truly excellent follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Skuggsja. It expands on the foundation laid down on the previous album and lets the two songwriters explore their influences and ideas in a much more liberating way. The music is entrancing, carrying you down streams of spirit. Give in to the majesty of Hugsjá and experience the endless pathways yourself.