Solveig Slettahjell Domestic Songs Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Home-made ruminations from the Norwegian singer...

Martin Longley 2007

Norwegian singer Solveig Slettahjell's previous albums have featured the Slow Motion Quintet, but this one's credited to her alone, even though those players are still in evidence, lurking around here and there. It's an impression of intimate closeness that she's trying to paint, and certainly Solveig is succeeding. The core of this disc was laid down at home, as Slettahjell delicately brushed the keys of her Steinway piano, acquired with the prize money from the Kongsberg Jazz Festival's Vital-Pris, which she won in 2005.

Most of the songs here are voice-and-piano ruminations, dusted with an attractive melancholy, delivered with breathy lowness. When Slettahjell's colleagues do appear, it's to thread a careful trumpet line, or chime a fragile glockenspiel, creating the sound of a deeply restrained village street band. If this maybe recalls a Tom Waits arrangement, his "Time" happens to be covered here, along with John Lennon's "Because". Slettahjell, her trumpeter Sjur Miljeteig or multi-instrumentalist Peder Kjellsby are responsible for the majority of songs, though, and they're all imbued with a quiet strength, co-existing with a kind of moody resignation.

These songs are miniatures. They come, and then they pass. Enchanting as the solo or near-solo pieces are, though, it's the small ensemble arrangements that probably have the most arresting constructions. Their palette is unusually restrained. "One Of These Days" has a faintly rocking motion that's just kinetic enough, whilst "Leave Me Here" benefits by an almost complete isolation that's just broken by the late appearance of a crisp trumpet solo. "Oh, Sweetly" has a twinned vocal harmony with a guesting Olav Slettahjell, proving that such extremely subtle interventions can add to the solitude, strangely heightening this feeling of sensual late night loneliness.

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