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Keyed Up

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Album Review

Credit Väsen with the urge to keep their music fresh. This time around they entered the studio without much preparation, only brief rehearsals to familiarize themselves with the tunes — all originals for this outing. The arrangements they'd worked out were rudimentary at best. Instead, they chose to rely on spontaneity and an empathy built from years of playing to create an intricate sound. Recording live with just one or two takes for each tune, the group made a gamble that paid off in full. A single listen to a piece like "Glada Polsken" is evidence that they're all musicians of great technique and inspiration, able to weave lines around each other as if it had all been carefully worked out to the last note. And there's a palpable joy for them in walking this knife edge. It's evident, too, that their compositions have taken on a new maturity, a kind of deep chamber folk sound that's complex but still engaging enough to make you want to kick up your heels. As you'd expect from the band, there are plenty of danceable polskas, like "Flippen," with its fast-paced, filigreed lines. But there are also more meditative tunes, such as the delicate but lively "Antons Första" with its gorgeous melody. And the sense of humor that's always been a hallmark of the band is quite intact and firmly shown on "Appalachen/Polskejig," where Sweden meets the Appalachians and everyone goes home a winner. There might be no real change of direction for Väsen, but this new, more spontaneous spirit brings a wonderful energy to the record that serves it beautifully.


Formed: 1989 in Sweden

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Väsen is a group of four of Sweden's best musicians who have, between them, been featured with dozens of Swedish and international groups, ranging from nyckelharpa orchestras and Swedish traditional bands to the Kronos Quartet and the chart-topping folk-rock band Nordman. Väsen's music is a uniquely beautiful combination of the traditional sounds of the viola and nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle unique to Sweden), and the more modern sounds of alternatively tuned 12-string guitar and percussion ensemble....
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Keyed Up, Väsen
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