New album, "SÁLA", out on May 24th!
Βy Jonathan Selzer
If the most profound treasures are often the most deeply buried, the journey to uncover them is a vital process of discovery. Five years after the 15-minute single 'Blodbylgje' signaled the birth of a new, more primordial, and immersive vision after the dissolution of her band L.E.A.F., Nordic dark folk artist Kati Rán has expanded on its oceanic theme for her long-awaited full-length album, SÁLA. Embarking on a far-reaching musical and personal travelogue, it's a reawakening of both the feminine narratives submerged and fragmented within Norse mythology, and the enduring, healing powers held within.
Named after the Old Norse word for 'soul' and 'sea', SÁLA is an act of 'soul retrieval', the shamanic art of trauma recovery, be it illness, death, heartbreak or loss, and the reintegration of a splintered self. Across its 13, wide-ranging, elegantly unfolding tracks, the album is an embodiment of different feminine voices and perspectives – from the Norse nine daughters of the sea, or 'billow maidens', through various historical and fictional figures to the late-night voices we hear in our most liminal states – all with tales to tell, riddles to solve, challenges to be accepted and guidance to offer. It's a multiplicity that, like the ocean itself, belongs to a vast, restless dynamic: a matrix of mysteries, unfathomable depths and ever-shifting currents, accumulating into an elemental, regenerative source of power.
Recorded in a barn in Húsafell, Iceland – home to glacier ice caves and a rare lava stone marimba rediscovered for the track 'Stone Pillars' – as well as Finland, Norway and at home in Kati's native Netherlands, SÁLA is as much chronicle of Kati's own perspective-shifting recording process as it as a pilgrimage through different viewpoints and internal states. That itinerant urge is also reflected in the use of different languages, ranging across Norwegian, Old Norse, Icelandic, and, for the first time, English, her combination of ancient texts, historical reimagining's and unguarded personal reflection backed up by deep research into the most resonant recesses of Nordic lore.
Spun throughout every thread of SÁLA is a sense of communion - with the power of stories to offer moral guidance and the thrill of the unknown; with the element of water, recreated across the album both in field recordings and the agelessly organic nature of the music itself; with the archetypes whose qualities we are called upon to embody at our most critical moments; and with the internal hidden realms forever whispering at us from the far edges of our consciousness.
Appropriately, it's a collaborative venture too. As well as working closely together with Finnish producer Jaani Peuhu, there are contributions from across the musical spectrum, including extreme metal vocalist extraordinaire Gaahl, the Icelandic female choir Umbra Ensemble, renowned Norwegian jazz musician Karl Seglem, Björk and Brian Eno contrabassist Borgar Magnason, members of pagan folk acts Völuspá, Gealdýr, Heilung and Theodor Bastard and even Napalm Death's Mitch Harris on vocals.
For all the many sources SÁLA draws from, the result is a singular, intimately transformative rite of passage, and a returning of the heart to the reverent continuity of the sacred. It will take you from the opening title track's chest-pounding rhythmic pulse emerging from a traditional Norwegian bukkehorn (recorded by Karl Seglem), a galloping horse-rider and Kati's glacial, velveteen chant, through "Kólga's" recounting of female persecution through the ages borne on the most gossamer-light yet unbreakable of timbres and "Stone Pillar's" gently percolating, deep wells of abandonment and incantations to recovery. SÁLA closes with the track 'Sátta' - Old Norse for 'peace' and 'reconciliation' – ending the album as it began with the bukkehorn, as it weaves rich drones and experience-stamped poems and prayers, Kati's vocals the most sensitively tuned of emotional barometers. An album made in dedication, and in thrall to, its own sense of destiny, SÁLA is, as all quests must ultimately be, a homecoming.