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World Music CD Reviews Europe

VÄSEN

By Robert Kaye
Published June 27, 2006

Live In Japan
Northside

Acoustic Swedish music can kick butt. Groups like Bazar Blå and the 16-year veteran ensemble, Väsen, prove it. For this in-concert project, Väsen drew heavily from its latest two studio albums, Trio and Keyed Up, much to the delight of their Tokyo fans. Featuring nyckelharpa (a 600-year-old Swedish instrument; contemporary chromatic versions have 16 strings), viola and guitar, the three string players expertly balance each other throughout the course of the concert, stepping forward to solo, moving towards the middle to harmonize, or providing a rhythmic backdrop atop which the others can shine. There is a surprising amount of verve and depth in Väsen’s all-acoustic music; chalk it up to expert musicianship as well as their ability to complement each other’s talents. Numerous standout tracks include concert opener “Björkbergspolskan,” the slightly pensive “Pedalpolksa,” “Flippen,” with its ever-shifting major/minor melody/harmonies and concert finale “Kapten Kapsyl.” Many listeners may be unable to pronounce these songs’ titles, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying them. The special package also includes a “homemade” DVD, with interviews, band-shot video clips and exclusive in-concert performances.