[ni:d] (Academus AB, 2006)

[ni:d] (pronounced "need") are a Swedish folk/jazz trio consisting of Mia Gustafsson on fiddle, Hanna Wiskari on saxophone, and Petter Berndalen (also of the more well-known band Gjallarhorn) on percussion. For their self-titled debut CD, produced by Väsen's Mikael Marin, [ni:d] combine traditional and self-composed folk tunes with free-form improvisation. The tunes here definitely do not follow steady rhythms or tempos in a way that would work for folk dances. The band members do possess a fresh and creative take on arranging folk music, though, and their set at this year's Nordic Roots Festival in Minneapolis was one of the highlights of the weekend.

For whatever reason, not enough of the spark and vibrance they had in concert comes across on this CD. The album does possess a definite highlight in "Blackberry Blossom," a sharp upbeat piece they learned from the American fiddler Bruce Molsky, but that was the only tune that really captured the same spirit as their live show. By contrast, my favorites among the remaining tunes on the album are the more subdued ones like "Benjamins Vals," which Wiskari composed and performs solo. Another track worth a few listens is the extended set of tunes called "Svängräven." The piece opens with two very similar melodies played simultaneously, one of which is a traditional Swedish tune and the other of which is "Morning Has Broken." The rest of the album is decent enough, but nothing else really grabbed me as much as I expected.

It's not unusual for instrumental folk acts, Scandinavian or otherwise, to make a bigger impression live than they do on record. The contrast between [ni:d]'s performance in Minneapolis and their debut CD is even sharper than what is typical, though. I can't quite put my finger on what, but something just seemed to be missing from the recording.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott


digitaldoc said...

I think that some groups just have a much better live presence. I'm still amazed at how Jimmy Buffet sounds so much better in concert than on any of his CD's.

DCNofer said...

I agree with Jonas's point. And some groups that sound awesome on vinyl/tape/CD sound lackluster in concert. Is [ni:d]'s "Morning Has Broken" a remake of someone else's song?