Mari Samuelsen: Nordic Noir
Mari Samuelsen is joined by her cellist brother Håkon and the Trondheim Soloists for an album which hangs off the coat tails of the Nordic noir screen drama phenomenon but which, despite the title and an investigative booklet note, sounds a good deal more inoffensive and laid back than any Nordic thriller I’ve seen (and I’m afraid I’ve seen them all).
Alongside concert works by Geirr Tveitt and Arvo Pärt, at the heart of the album are new three-movement suites developed by Samuelsen with Frans Bak and Uno Helmersen, who scored the Danish series The Killing and The Bridge respectively. Bak’s work disappoints because his music for the TV series achieves far more in terms of both texture and tension. The Mist has one foot in the swampy woodland of series 1 of The Killing’s crime scene but feels compromised by the need to accommodate a soloist and could do more with its material (that tune gets irritating very quickly). The lone violin lines in Helmersen’s Study in Rituals work far better: free and a touch contrary, like a cue that tells you not to trust the picture.
The additional Prelude composed as an add-on with Johan Söderqvist (of Let the Right One In fame) gets stretch and strain from its minimal material while that composer’s own Love & Rage skilfully deploys the little sonic niggles that are a stock-in-trade of this particular school and could show Ólafur Arnalds a thing or two about how to write arpeggio patterns without resorting to commercial cliché. My ambivalence towards the latter composer is only increased by his naff Near Light and his elegant Words of Amber.
Samuelsen can play, finding imposing confidence and delicate lightness from the ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ Strad, and the Trondheim Soloists’ string sound is as seductive as we know it can be. There is nuance in the interpretations of Pärt’s Darf ich and of Tveitt’s Vél komne med æra (despite Simon Hale’s syrupy arrangement) but quite a lot of misty knob-twisting in the studio, too. But that’s the name of the game in this aesthetic.