Afenginn, which means ‘intoxication and strength’ in old Norse, is a unique neo-folk artist. Returning with his new album ‘Klingra’, his mixture of symphonic post-classical arrangements and old folk musings sound like a musical all of their own. It’s a fascinating new discovery for me that I simply cannot get enough of!
The album opens with ‘Skjalvtin (The Impact)’. Sweeping strings weep and swell over increasingly more urgent drum loops that have so much depth they could be used for a war cry. Over the top Afenginn (Kim Rafael Nyberg) reads poetry in Faroese. I’ve not a clue what is being said but the gravitas of the reflective spoken word sounds epic. Also present is Ólavur Jákupsson. He provides warbling vocals that feel deeply rooted in the past. It sets you up for such an almighty journey.
Klingra is an album where tracks bleed into each other. ‘Litirnir (the Colours)’ follows has a trickle of piano and the string quartet. In contrast to the previous track, this feels like an elegant music box transposed to piano, string and percussion. There is a constant throughout the album that lets the instruments often sound like a ticking clock or cogs in a machine. Each track moves the dial slightly and the machine of time changes speed. ‘Himnakropparnir (Celestial Beings)’ moves the dial faster and two drummers, dramatic vocals and brass arrangements burst in. It is such a fantastic piece that just builds up and up to its cinematic conclusion.
‘Ivin (the Doubt)’ moves the album into its most reflective section. Here Afenginn moves into the post-classical section as the string quartet, piano and drummers gently brush their way through a subtle churning of cogs. That percussion largely falls away from ‘Vitinn (the Lighthouse)’ as a solitary guitar steps in to support the strings as they call out as a beacon of light for those in need. After the rush of the first half the album, the beauty of this duo back to back really resets your mind.
After that breath, Afenginn begins to ramp up the tension and drama again. ‘Skapanin (the Creation)’ is the most cinematic track on the album as instrument after instrument begins to ramp up from the strings, synths, percussion and piano to an almighty bang. I love how the percussion and strings seem to wash out with metallic edges here. Is it a reenactment of the big bang perhaps? Either way ‘Tokkin (the Thanking)’ see’s the return to Ólvaur’s vocals. His voice sounds so naturally ancient against the lush piano and string arrangement, you can help but be transported back in time or to another place. This all leads to the epic finale of ‘Eftirskjalvtin (the Aftershock)’. At just over seven minutes, its a track broken into two halves – much like the album. The first few minutes are a gentle cycle of piano and string pickings with longing vocals. The music then moves from its symphonic new jazz stylings across to its post-classical-folk merger as the drums kick-off and the other instruments gain momentum again. Just like ‘The Creation’ – this track is building towards a huge singular note but this time it signals the end of the album. As that note buzzes and fades away the piano riff that opened the album is undercovered to be hidden underneath. It blurs across our ears over a 90-second fade out and if you go back to the first track again it cycles perfectly in time to restart the album again.
‘Klingra’ is all about cycles – or as the title means in Faroese – circles. Of life, melody, percussion, pace, intention, timings – even genre. This is my first album from Afenginn that I have heard and I have immediately fallen in love with it and will be snapping up his back catalogue if this is anything to go by. I have no idea what is being sung throughout but I can feel every word and ride every emotion. This is truly one of the stand out albums of the year. Perfection.
Recommended track: Himnakropparnir (Celestial Bodies)
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