Sarah-Jane Summers – Owerset

Album Review | Dell Daisy | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

Following on from 2018’s album Solo, a set of solo violin recordings which I absolutely loved, and an improv album earlier this year Sarah-Jane Summers releases twelve evocative atmospheric band recordings. Owerset, a Scottish word for translate, from the Norse oversette, is bourne out of a commission Sarah-Jane wrote for the 2016 Celtic Connections Festival. There is a definite link between the spirit of that festival and the way her music blends Scottish and Nordic traditions.

“Gall-Ghàidheil” opens with the evocative and savage twining of Sarah-Jane and Bridget Marsden’s fiddles. It is a noise of the edge of the world, of sea mist and the brutal beauty of cliffs. Guitar, accordion, double bass and trumpet swell the sound to a mighty roar behind those emotional fiddles. The doubling of the bowed bass and accordion sounds like a mighty archaic wind instrument. “Flit” features the very ECM nimble guitar of Scandinavian Juhani Silvola, his chiming notes ringing over the rest of the band in full flight. “Fitakaleerie” is a word describing a dance performed in a seated position while clutching beer. The music is suitably spirited and dexterous, part wheezing dance music with a great fiddle and accordion melody, part showcase for the lyrical trumpet of Hayden Powell. Like the best of Andrew Cronshaw’s recent genre ignoring music, “Gate” opens with a real whatthefuckisthat moment. Gate as in Brigate comes from Norse gata meaning street. Which is just a well as I’d not want to venture through a gateway described by this track. What I am assuming is Hayden’s trumpet spends the first the first minute, venturing even further out than Jon Hassell or Nils Petter Molver, in the spirit of Arve Henriksen, sounding like glimpses of another world. Breathy, hypnotic and compelling Hayden is joined by plaintive fiddle and guitar harmonics on a track that is enthralling and terrifying before resolving into a beautiful spirited melody. “Rowk” again features sublimely inventive playing and arranging with bent guitar notes behind accordion, stunning trumpet and fiddle playing as ethereal and captivating as the sea mist this track is named for. These stunning tracks I could listen to on repeat all night.

The title track is a two part Polka, played in both Swedish and a more Scottish style. As with the rest of the album the playing is heavenly, with lots of space for Morten Kvam’s Double Bass to shine. “The Handfasting” also opens with a wonderful passage of guitar and bass and some fine fiddle throughout, especially at the end. “Sgieg” is very Hipster Gaelic for beard, part furious dance music part contemplative acoustic guitar and fiddle. “Greet” Scottish for cry, is a final pared back beautiful melody shared between Sarah-Jane and Bridget’s fiddles, slowly building to a brooding piece that falls back to solo fiddle at the end.

This is a beautiful album, absolutely bursting with inventive and engaging playing and arranging. Juhani Silvola’s production means everything sounds perfect and dances for your ears. Slow and stirring or blood warming and spirited, fire and ice its all here.