In January 2019, at the invitation of fiddler Hans Kjorstad, Alasdair Roberts traveled from his home in Glasgow, Scotland to Oslo, Norway, where the two men convened with five additional Scandinavian musicians at Riksscenen, Oslo’s centre for Norwegian traditional arts and music. The group was named Völvur (The Seeresses), a reference to the ancient Icelandic apocalyptic text Völuspa (The Prophecy of the Seeress).
The musicians who make up Völvur — Marthe Lea, Fredrik Rasten, Andreas Hoem Røysum, Egil Kalman, Jan Martin Gismervik and the aforementioned initiator of the project, Hans Kjorstad — are a busy and artistically inquisitive group, involved in a diverse range of projects with a wide variety of musical interests, from folk and jazz to free music, modular synthesis, microtonality and beyond. They make an ideal pairing for such voyages in the alchemical world as Alasdair pursues in his own music.
In January 2020, Völvur visited England and Scotland, to perform with Alasdair Roberts at [Cecil Sharp House] London and at [Platform], Glasgow, [the latter as part of Celtic Connections festival.] The group had new material — freshly written songs by Alasdair and several traditional Norwegian songs sung by Marthe Lea — and over a couple days at Sam and Rachel’s Studio, [Hackney,] laid down the music which now flows forth as The Old Fabled River.
On The Old Fabled River, Alasdair Roberts og Völvur meld their worlds: fiddle and vocal styles formed in the Norwegian valleys blending now with exploratory clarinet, saxophone and metallic bowed guitar drones, now fashioned into baroque folk arrangements. In one case, instrumental accompaniment is laid aside, as three voices locate a questing fullness harmonizing together.
The first single, "The Green Chapel”, touches upon the ancient notion in Celtic culture of “the three noble strains” of music: geantraí, goltraí and suantraí (the strains of joy, lamentation and sleep). These are the three intertwining threads from which the fabric of a music is woven. In “The Green Chapel” the three knot together, like wind, wave and wood, to form a syncretically co-existing wholeness — a fulfilling distillation of the deep nature of collaboration among Alasdair Roberts og Völvur.
Watch the official music video for "The Green Chapel", featuring a solo performance by Alasdair. The Old Fabled River is out July 23rd.