At one level, Short Stories by Slagr, the Oslo based trio, is an interpretation of the singular theme of On An Old Farmstead in Europe by Hans Herbjornsrud, namely the transience of life.
And viewed solely as a paean to the ephemeral, Short Stories achieves its goal: the mood throughout is cogitative, to be expected if, like the protagonist of Herbjornsrud’s shorty story, you happened upon a human skull in a field.
But, of course, there is much, much more to the wonderful Slagr than a faithful homage to On An Old Farmstead in Europe, and shearing the mortal coil. Short Stories, whose titles like Gamletun and Blinde-Margit reference aspects of Herbjornsrud’s story, is essentially putting flesh on the bones of time.
It could too be the soundtrack to the calving of an iceberg, or the passing of the Space Station from day into night, or mist creeping through a Nordic forest at dawn: Short Stories breathes atmosphere.
Undoubtedly, that forlorn skull in the field echoes the famous inscription in Latin at the exit of the Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome, ‘what you are, we used to be; what we are, you will be.’
Yet it would be short-sighted to reduce Short Stories to a mere mediation on the one subject which intoxicates artists: the brevity of life. The lyrical vision of Anne Hytta, Sigrun Eng and Amund Sjolie Sveen is too epic for that. For the eight tracks are serenely uplifting and almost independent of their creative alma mater, an abiding chemistry due to the less is more philosophy of Slagr.
There is a temptation, though ill advised, to categorise music like Short Stories as minimalist but the melodic figures therein are nor particularly short. Chimerical melodies often crash through the pulsating movements.
Short Stories is the magical unspooling of a thread which keeps giving, a sound that is familiar yet unique to these ears because the instruments are, wait for it, tuned glasses, vibraphone, cello and, completely new to me, a Hardanger fiddle, which has four playing strings, bowed in the normal way, plus four or five strings under the finger board.
Slagr gives time a sound, without condensing it.