Edinburgh Folk Club, 2015

Tradfest Review · Rob Adams · The Herald · Folk & Jazz critic · 5 May, 2015

Väsen at Edinburgh Folk Club · 5 Stars

We may never know what happened between Väsen and the booking agent who inspired Kapten Kapsyl. It seems safe to venture that the Swedish trio’s relationship with the man they dubbed Captain Bottletop didn’t end harmoniously. Whether it reached such a brilliantly orchestrated, nay choreographed, coda as the tune named in the captain’s honour is another matter.

Väsen have made codas into an art form all by themselves: it’s one of the many, many pleasures to be had from listening to them. They’re not all as wayward and prolonged as Kapten Kapsyl’s. Some are deftly turned, brilliantly brief and quite tangential afterthoughts. Another did its damnedest to insinuate Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds into its otherwise very Scandinavian demeanour.

Such compositional attention to detail goes hand in hand with arrangements where viola and the Swedish keyed fiddle, the nyckelharpa dovetail so perfectly with a twelve-string guitar that can be piccolo sweet and Telecaster rockin’ within the same few bars of a polska. And the tunes are mostly polskas, each with a specific, identifiable character that grows and cavorts, be it with minute gracefulness, a slightly staggering metre or mighty celebration but always with fantastic precision.

The stylistic exceptions were minuets and waltzes, some emphasising the effortless stretch back to baroque times in Väsen’s music generally and one waltz in particular, delightfully named The Little Culture Support Waltz, illustrating the gorgeous elegance these men, none of whom are small, have at their long fingertips. A fantasia of pizzicato viola, nyckelharpa harmonics and twelve-string melodicism, this was quiet, shapely majesty in a set overflowing with magic, musicality, wit and whatever the Swedish might be for bonhomie.