Kyrre Slind, originally from Norway, has been on a musical journey since in 2011, when he gave up his job at Lierne School of Culture and Music, climbed aboard his Vespa and set off from his homeland to Ireland. The journey actually started long before; with formal musical training at various French conservatoires that has included guitar, chamber music, composition and theory, renaissance lute, early music theory and even Gregorian chant. He’s also studied Indian Classical music in Basel and Calcutta. Following this period of intense classical training and teaching, his journey took him to Kinsale, Co Cork. There he spent three years absorbing Irish musical traditions before moving to the Scottish borders, where he continues to assimilate and reflect on the music he shares with classical, folk, jazz and rock musicians in the area. The remarkable result of these myriad influences is his independently released solo album Open Airs.
These musical meanderings were, however, no planned progression. Kyrre is a wanderer and his nomadic twists and turns have dictated his musical influences, rather than the other way round. Kyrre’s compositions for guitar, renaissance lute, banjo, mandolin and sitar have been informed and inspired by much more than the music he’s zealously gathered along the way. Landscapes and wildlife are just as important to him as every thread of folklore and every shared melody. He can be equally motivated by a remote mountain pass, a burst of birdsong or a spell of heavy weather.
Kyrre’s performances to date have been every bit as eclectic as his training and experiences. His one-man show, 1000 Years on 23 Strings, took enthralled audiences through a history of Western European music; in 2012 he performed alongside Joel Reed (violin) and Jimmi Canty (double bass), as Kyrre Slind and The Foreigners, to present an enchanting audio-visual performance Wild Side of Europe; which paired the work of European wildlife photographers with Kyrre’s atmospheric compositions (see video below).
It’s this intense love of landscapes and their inhabitants, more than anything, that fuels his passion for music. More recently he’s contributed lute and a delightful swing guitar to Gerda Stevenson’s album Night Touches Day.
In Open Airs Kyrre’s musical journey begins in Oysterhaven, where he spent a fruitful few years enjoying, and contributing to, the area’s trad music scene. It’s a lovely solo opening for the album – a lively, richly toned, percussive style on acoustic guitar seamlessly providing melody, rhythm and bass. Kyrre’s music takes on the tradition of sets of melodies, but doesn’t necessarily match them in the same way as you’d find in a typical trad setting. Oysterhaven‘s lively opening gives way to a more moderately paced melody that ebbs and flows like a mild Atlantic swell. Brimming with Kyrre’s ingenuity, it is, despite its gentle tempo, full of joy. It’s almost as if someone took Bert Jansch’s technique and slowed it down by a factor of three. A third phase comes across almost like a transatlantic response to the second. All in all it’s an enchanting start to the album that showcases the open-tuned guitar work Kyrre revels in.
Much of the music is evocative of landscapes, seasons and elements. A mountain pass in Norway is the inspiration for Gaupskaret, a short adventure on the lute where Kyrre vocalizes the melody to mesmerising effect. Gaupskaret introduces a mediaeval theme that’s apparent in much of the music. This is continued in Leska, named after another Norwegian location. While in a move to the dances of southern Europe, Sandra’s Melody, the lute directs a light-stepping, complex dance of strings, with a drone adding an element of mystery and an almost imperceptible memory of his eastern musical adventures.
Tunnsjø opens as a slow-stepping conversation between Kyrre’s nylon and steel-stringed guitars before they embark on a lighter outing. Rolling, tumbling, caught up in its own gentle inertia the track continues its hypnotic journey toward a more sedate outing to close.
Braien’s Melody is the first of two dedicated to friends of Kyrre’s. It has a more melancholy presence, perhaps soporific, as an understated drone moves into the background and we’re gently taken to Kevin’s Melody, altogether lighter and more modern. It’s a stroll down a country lane, filled with birdsong and tree-filtered sunlight that leads directly to Borders. Kyrre’s instinct for painting with his music is exemplified as the stroll takes us out of the lane and across the inviting and rolling Border hills towards a freshening shower of rain, falling lightly at first but with increasing intensity. Kyrre is joined on two tracks by bass player Rob MacNeacail (Miasma) with a fretless, six-string bass that lends an almost vocal quality to the music. In Remembering a rolling fingerstyle guitar accompanies a classically influenced melody. It’s subdued and mysterious to begin with but very soon takes on an additional, more plaintive tone. To close the album, Under Water presents a much darker prospect. Again, Kyrre evokes his environment and takes the listener directly there. In this case there’s a slightly oppressive tone, with the weight of the water above as lute, guitar and bass assume the characters of this aqueous location’s inhabitants, with Rob’s bass the siren-song; luring us ever deeper.
Throughout Kyrre’s European travels, music has been a friend, a constant companion; and has been at the heart of his experiences. From Norway’s magnificent lakes and fjords, to southern Ireland’s rugged coastline and the gentle rolling hills of Scotland’s border counties, he’s matched his distinctive playing style with his classical training, folk music influences and passion for nature to produce an album of unmatched splendour. Each composition is as eclectic as the album itself. With distinct passages of storm and calm, light and dark, exuberance and reflection; Open Airs can be soothing, deeply meditative or uplifting, depending on the listener’s mood. It’s hard to decide whether Kyrre’s greatest talent lies in his gift for composition, his proficiency as an instrumentalist, or capacity for translating the joy he finds in nature into music. Open Airs exhibits all three in abundance, woven together in a treasure trove of musical delights.
Review by: Neil McFadyen
November 15, 2015, 4:00pm, Carlops Church, Edinburgh, UK