Stórsveit Nix Noltes- Royal Family – Divorce

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Stórsveit Nix Noltes- Royal Family- Divorce

Stórsveit means ‘big band’ in Icelandic.  I haven’t found out what Nix Noltes means yet, and there are even fewer clues as to why this ten-track instrumental set is entitled Royal Family – Divorce in English.  What I can tell you is that Stórsveit Nix Noltes are an Icelandic supergroup of sorts, including within their ranks members of several prominent Icelandic bands, at least one of whom has worked with Sígur Ros, although the tracks on this album are very far removed from the aery ambiences that Icelandic music is so often associated with.

The first Stórsveit Nix Noltes line-up formed in 2004 around an improvisation class given at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts where eight of the then nine members were composition students. Promptly told by the college authorities to turn down the volume and make a bit less of a scene of things, the Stórsveits promptly went on to consolidate their own reputations around the winter barn dance gig circuit, which rapidly led to european and US tours, alongside Emiliana Torrini and Benni Hemm Hemm. So much for academic criticism then, as not only are Stórsveit Nix Noltes highly competent musicians, their abilities as arrangers and their choice of material make this, their second album, a lively and unpredictably entertaining listen.

Each of the ten tracks is a transcription and reinterpretation of eastern european folk songs, with titles such as “Cetvorno Horo”, “Pajdusko” and “Elenska Rachenitsa”. The sources for these are quoted as Bulgarian and Balkan, although I’m reasonably certain several of the tracks here are the result of ensemble improvisations which only took their folk sources as a starting point. The results sound a lot like energetic good time folk-punk dance music whose erratic time signatures and flailing rhythms are the stuff of midsummer euphoria, or just a successful grain harvest. Easily the best new Icelandic music I’ve heard for some considerable time.