Acclaimed artist Elin Kåven just released her third album, Eamirtni/Rimeborn. This provides the perfect excuse to go back to the singer’s back catalogue and review this brand new album in context through a well-deserved retrospective.
Text: Lyonel Perabo
A Low-key Rise to the Top
Elin Kåven has been making music for more than a decade now, and her evolution as an artist over all these years is probably as fascinating as her actual musical output. Elin’s musical career became public in 2005 when she released her first songs in the form of a limited EP. Her style on this record was quite far-removed from what she’d later become known for: the EP was essentially an exercise in modern Sámi rock in which songs were very much structured and dominated by an electric guitar as well as a full backing band. After this first attempt, Elin waited a bit before unveiling any new music. Then, in 2008, she re-appeared, this time on the forefront of the Sámi music scene with a brand new song, Àibbas Jaska/All Still, which won this year’s prestigious Sámi grand-prix. This victory really kickstarted Elin’s musical career and she used the funds and the exposure gained following her victory to record her first full-length album.
Under the Arctic Spotlight
Her first album, Jiknon Musihkka/Frozen Music was conceived through a collaboration with well-known music producer and session-man extraordinaire Ole Jørn Myklebust who, incidentally enough, is known among other things for his work with Mari Boine, Elin’s musical idol. The album, released in late 2009 was received positively by the Sámi and North-Norwegian musical press. Jiknon Musihkka was at heart, a world-music album dominated by a mixture of folkloric instrumentation and more atmospheric electronic experimentation. A very contemplative album, Jiknon Musihkka delivered the goods and gave Elin’s music a greater exposure, which permitted her to start performing live on a more regular basis. During her shows, Elin, most often dressed in a intricate self-designer costume inspired by traditional Sámi crafts, spent just about as much time dancing as singing. Indeed, besides her musical activities, Elin is a trained belly-dancer who often has to travel quite a lot to perform both in Norway and in the rest of Europe.
Elin’s second album, Máizan/Thaw took some time to finally come out, in 2012, but the final product was well-worth the wait. Written and recorded in collaboration with the towering Finnish guitarist Juhani Silvola (previously a member of Adjágas), Elin’s second album was nothing short of a consecration. Taking her first album’s concept of a mixture of folk and electronics, this new release brought her artistic musical concept to the next level with even more melodic, atmospheric and dynamic songs leaving enormous breathing space both for the singer’s hauntingly eerie chants and a multitude of masterfully played instruments. The performance of Scottish fiddler Sarah-Jane Summers, who spiced the album with her energetic yet subtle style was especially commendable on a record which left very little to be desired. Following its release, Elin received more press than ever before, in part due to the single Vaimmu Cuovga/Heartlight that she performed live on national Tv and in front of panel including among other the Royal family at the occasion of the celebration of the centenary of the female suffrage in Norway.
Return of the Fairy
Following the critical acclaim of her second full-length, Elin worked hard to publicize her music both in Norway and abroad. In 2013 she signed with the German label Nordic Notes which re-released her Máizan/Thaw album and in November 2014, Elin performed on her first-ever German tour, playing in five different cities. In 2015, Elin and Juhani were already back at work on what would soon be known as Eamirtni/Rimeborn, the singer’s third album. Released as a stately digifile by Nordic Notes, the album distinguishes itself from its predecessors by taking a somewhat different direction. It is quite clear when listening a few time to Eamirtni/Rimeborn that Elin has matured her concept enough that she’s finally completely comfortable taking risks and experimenting: the singer masters classic joik melodies on Dohkká/Doll, creates wall of sound mixing vocals and fiddle on Muorat Dánsot/Trees dance and even sings a song she wrote about her (fluffy) cat, Lynxie, on track three! On the whole, the album feels more like an exploration of an expending artistic concept than a simple collection of songs. Indeed, no two tracks sound the same! From the slow, melancholic acoustic song Gárdin-Áhku/Grandmother Inga to the joyful, guitar-driven Friddja/Free, musical landscapes are crossed and mined for all they’re worth, and while as a result, Eamirtni/Rimeborn might not display the same solid homogeneity as its predecessor, it nevertheless establish itself as a dynamic witness to the ever-evolving artistry of Elin Kåven who arguably represents not only the best of what Sámi, Folk and World music has to offer today but also what it likely will be tomorrow as well. Thanks to Elin and her team of gifted band-members, it’s quite an exciting time for those of us who delight ourselves listening to music which is both ancient and new, unique and universal and most important of all, beautiful.